Olivia Manghisi joined the Howell High School girls’ lacrosse program in the spring of 2016.

Even during her first tryout, Manghisi’s talent stood out in the eyes of Howell coach Christina Pienkowski.

The freshman could place the ball wherever she wanted and move the goalie with her stick gyrations. She also had the confidence to charge straight at defenders and dictate the action.

“I always said, ‘Olivia is going to break school records,'” Pienkowski said.

Two years later in 2018, Manghisi made good on her coach’s prediction. The junior set school records for goals (76), assists (41) and points (117).

“Stats don’t matter to me unless they translate to wins,” Manghisi said. 

But she also led the Rebels to a first-round victory, 15-5, over Marlboro High School in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament this past spring. Howell fell to Freehold Township High School, 20-11, in the state sectional quarterfinal round, the deepest postseason run in school history.

With Manghisi back for her senior campaign, and surrounded by a roster of upperclassmen, Pienkowski expects the Rebels to advance deeper in the 2019 postseason. Howell will open its season with a road game on March 27 at Jackson Liberty High School.

“We have a phenomenal group,” the coach said. “If we stay positive, we’ll be unstoppable.”

“I feel like we can go far,” Manghisi added.

In previous years, Manghisi led by example. She practiced hard, played hard and developed from just a scorer into a possession creator, too. But with older girls on the team, she was hesitant to take on a vocal leadership role.

This year though, Manghisi is Howell’s vocal leader. She is huddling her teammates before and after practices. She is also encouraging them during drills and scrimmages.

“She’s saying things like, ‘Let’s go girls, we can do this,'” said Pienkowski. “You have to believe, and she does.”

The senior has every reason to believe in her teammates. They are an experienced and talented group.

Seniors Danielle Crimeni and Jilian Dee scored 43 and 22 goals in 2018, respectively.

Senior Brielle Ebner is a “very good feeder,” Pienkowski said. Juniors Molly Askin and Molly Minnick also “have very good feeds and takes,” Pienkowski added.

Last year, Manghisi faced double and triple teams, and passed out of them with great success. She should be able to do the same this season.

“It’s a very strong offense that Olivia can lead,” Pienkowski said.

In 2017, Manghisi’s sophomore year, the Rebels also reached the Central Jersey, Group 4 state quarterfinals and lost to Freehold Township, 11-8. So in each of the last two spring seasons, Howell has made the deepest run in school history. But each time, the Rebels fell three victories short of winning the state sectional championship.

Manghisi and her teammates do not just want to advance further this year. They want to win it all.

“These girls have the mentality, desire and work ethic,” Pienkowski said. “It’s about making it come together on the field.”

For that to happen, Manghisi will have to build on her record breaking season, which is no easy feat. But she is ready to handle the expectations like she handles a triple team.

“To achieve a state title, she has to step up her game as a player and motivational wise,” Pienkowski said. “She knows that.” 

“I have total faith in our offense,” Manghisi said. “And I like to speak in front of people.”

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