Latest Lalli is another scorer

Katie scores six in Knights’ win

By: Justin Feil
   At the end of every season, the West Windsor-Plainboro High North girls’ lacrosse team brings up some of its most promising freshmen.
   "We do it more than anything for the experience," said North head coach Beth Mitchell.
   Last year, Katie Lalli was one of the freshmen brought up by the Knights. The experience helped show her what sort of steps she had to make to prepare for her first year of full-time varsity.
   "She pulled up five freshmen last year," recalled the Knights sophomore. "None of us got in any games, but it was good experience to work at practice with them."
   "All the seniors were really good," she added. "They all had good stick skills. Watching them play made me want to practice more to be good for next year."
   Next year is now, and Lalli hasn’t missed a beat while stepping into the starting lineup on attack. Lalli scored six goals and added a pair of assists as the Knights improved to 3-0 with a 20-10 win over West Windsor-Plainsboro South on Thursday.
   "It was only my third game," Lalli said. "I haven’t scored that much. It was exciting. It felt really good to do it against South."
   Goal-scoring is almost synonymous in Lalli’s family. Her older brother, Matt, returns for his senior year as the leading points-scorer for the Knight boys’ lacrosse team. In three games this season, Matt leads his team with 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points..
   "He helps me a lot," Katie said. "I also have two cousins who play."
   The North Lalli’s cousins are Princeton High graduates and both playing collegiately now. Brian Lalli is a senior for the Stevens Tech men’s lacrosse team, where he is tied for second in scoring. Brian’s brother, Chris, is a freshman at Washington and Lee, and the only Lalli not on offense. He’s a goalie.
   "He lets us shoot on him," Katie said. "We do it when we get together, mostly for the holidays."
   The extra work with the family, on top of the high-level summer camps that she attends in the summer, have paid off in making her a skilled offensive player. WW-P North needed it after a slow first half had them narrowly ahead, 8-6, at halftime against WW-P South, which hosts Hun 4 p.m. today.
   "We started playing sloppy and then it became bad defense," said Mitchell. "We finally settled down in the second half. Katie Lalli looked good. I always knew she had good stick skills, but I didn’t expect this. It’s tough to come in and play well right away, especially since we have a good team. I was psyched to see it."
   North, which was led by Valerie Depelteau’s seven goals, would like to see more of that outstanding play by Lalli in coming games. The Knights, who were scheduled to face Hopewell on Monday, host Lawrence 4 p.m. Wednesday. With each successive game, Lalli’s confidence is growing and she’s looking less and less like a first-year varsity player.
   "The amazing thing about Kate is she takes initiative," Mitchell said. "It can be intimidating to be on the field with all juniors and seniors. I’ve never seen that with Kate.
   "She’s strong. She cuts to the cage strong. She knows how to find the ball and put it in."
   Lalli is a good athlete. She played soccer and basketball, and plays volleyball for the Knights in the fall. But lacrosse is her main focus, what she puts the most energy into.
   Since the preseason, she has been demonstrating the skill that’s helped her find a spot on the field quickly. But she’s surprised to be getting so much playing time. Starting for the varsity games has been the biggest surprise.
   "That was really unexpected," she said. "A bunch of seniors went away for the senior trip, and she started playing me more. Then when the games came around, I started playing a lot."
   So far, everything has gone just the way that Lalli designed it in her preseason goals.
   "We had to write down on a piece of paper our team goals," she said. "I wanted to get far in states, and I wanted to become better as a team. And I wanted more varsity playing time."
   The Knights showed signs of improvement in a convincing 12-4 advantage over South in the second half Thursday. More impressive, many of the Knights’ goals came off assists as they worked together on attack to open a big cushion.
   That was after a dramatically different first half when WW-PN looked like a team rusty from having just a few days of indoor practice leading up to the game.
   "At first, we couldn’t pick up any ground balls," Lalli said. "Early on was sloppy and it hurt our transition to offense. After our halftime talk, we came out fired up."
   Mitchell was surprised that it took a little urging. The bus ride left her thinking that the Knights were ready to face their rival sister school, but in the first half, it didn’t look that way.
   "I don’t know if it was overconfidence," said Mitchell, whose team dropped WW-P South to 3-2. "I was really thinking we were ready, but that feeling you get wasn’t there when the game started. It was a very sloppy game."
   The Knights will work to correct that in coming practices. It’s part of Lalli’s goal of continuing to improve in hopes of getting farther in the state tournament.
   "After this game," Lalli said, "ground balls will be a huge thing in practice. And throwing and catching, we still need to improve a little more on that."
   Just three games into the season, however, there is plenty to build on for the Knights. For one, there are young players like Katie Lalli who are just beginning to realize how good they can be for the WW-P North girls’ lacrosse team.
   "She always tells me to have more confidence," Lalli said of Mitchell. "We all get along so well. We don’t have any problems with the team at all."