IHA LACROSSE AUTISM AWARENESS DAY IS A WIN-WIN
Record - 4/22/2018
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP -- The cause is too important to let go. The message is too important to forget.
Autism Awareness Day is something the Immaculate Heart lacrosse team looks forward to every spring. The weather always seems to cooperate and the Blue Eagles are usually at their best.
This year was no different.
IHA earned a resounding 11-4 home win over Montclair on Friday with Lexi Edmonds pouring in five goals and the defense continuing to stand out. It was the sixth year of the event started by Samantha Marmo, a former player whose sister has autism.
The poster of painted hand-prints of children and the colorful baskets raffled off behind the field made it clear what everyone was playing for. During warmups, both teams wore shirts with a puzzle piece logo. After the game was over, they came together for a midfield photo.
"It's so important for the girls to understand that there's more than just being able to come and play lacrosse," IHA coach Sue Montegari said. "It's a luxury for us. There are so many people out there who are wheelchair-bound or autistic. To be able to come out here and play for them allows the girls to realize that. There's something bigger than just us."
The day was particularly meaningful for Montegari's sister and assistant, Lexi Haarmann. The Blue Eagles' defensive coordinator is a physical education teacher for kids with special needs at The Children's Therapy Center. She was drawn to the line of work in high school while playing for a Ridgewood basketball team that held weekly clinics for in-town for kids with disabilities.
"It's amazing," said Haarmann, of Friday's fundraiser. "It's a passion of mine so it's fun that it combines those two things."
Seeing another big day from her defense wasn't bad, either.
The Blue Eagles were a work in progress when the season began, fielding a first-year starting goalie and a back line without a senior. After a shaky start, that group has become a strength with only 12 goals allowed over the past four games.
Montclair even went scoreless for more than 17 minutes to start the game. By then, IHA had an 8-0 lead.
"They started to understand that if they play our defense together as a unit, they can make mistakes and still have teammates to help them," Montegari said. "They're more able to take those risks knowing that they've got a team defense rather than an individual. That's made them click and showed them how successful they can really be."
Edmonds built up the lead with her shooting touch and by going 10-of-16 on the draw. Brooke Marotti and MaryPat Sayre also scored twice in a game that fittingly ended when a Maggie Cooney turnover set up a goal as time expired.
"We're just a very young team,"
Columbia-bound junior Alessandra Priolo said.
"It took some time getting used to with the younger girls and taking them under our wing and helping them out. The chemistry is really strong so we're able to talk to each other bluntly. We're all just honest with each other so I think that's helped us get better each time."
Montegari said her goal was to raise between $2,000 and $3,000 through the event with proceeds going to The Epic School in Paramus.
"Winning makes us a lot more proud because of this day," said goalie Charlotte Davidson, who stopped 11 shots. "It commemorates what we stand for."