For the very last drill of a grueling hour at Lax On, Hannah Musilli stood in the goal and faced so many shots. Almost all the other players were firing balls at the diminutive 13-year-old, seemingly simultaneously.
Afterward, Madison Musilli, Hannah’s twin sister said, “Don’t let her size fool you. She’s tough!”
Lax On opened on July 1 with two sessions of skill-building for young female lacrosse players, and games for college students and alumni. With only two girls – 8-year-old Anna Auerbach of Montville and 11-year-old Lili Targonski – available for the inaugural hour, they got one-on-one training with Pequannock coach Lindsay Lafferman and her former goalkeeper and current rising Liberty University sophomore, Jenny Soriero.
“She (Soriero) gave me good hints, and they’re really helpful,” said Hannah Musilli, who has participated in a Montville rec league since third grade. “She taught me where to position myself, how to stop balls, and where to put my stick.”
This is the seventh year of Lax On, which Lafferman says “really focuses on growing the game, skill development, stick work, developing their lacrosse IQ. It’s helping players to have a better sense of the game as a whole, and being able to apply it on the field.” Stephanie Sibilia, a 13-year-old from Morris Plains who is in her second season with the Parsippany Phoenix, liked Lafferman’s “cool comparisons,” like the McDonald’s arches for an incorrectly thrown pass – too high, like an arch, rather than straight and hard to a teammate’s stick.
The weekly program at Central Park of Morris County is open to girls from third through eighth grades.
Denville dad Ahmed Seyam highlighted how the level of the drills is targeted at the different players’ abilities. His daughter, 12-year-old Aleena, started with the Rock/Den Renegades in kindergarten and is now part of a Building Blocks Lacrosse team. She focuses on lacrosse nearly every day, with practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and out-of-state tournaments almost every weekend. Aleena Seyam also plays pickup games with the Denville town team on Wednesdays.
“We needed to put another day of lacrosse in, because every day is not enough,” joked Ahmed Seyam, who is on the board of the Jersey Girls Lacrosse Association and the group’s liaison to U.S. Lacrosse.
“A stick in hand is always a good thing. If she’s not here, she’s in the backyard on her own. … (Lafferman) adjusts to each girl’s level. I know my daughter is getting something out of it.”
For Dawn Faranetta of Randolph, an administrator for Bayada Home Health Care, Lax On is a rare opportunity for women to continue to play lacrosse. She identified only two leagues, one in summer and one in winter.
Players from eight different towns formed four teams at the first Lax On, though Faranetta noted the signups had grown exponentially the night before the opening session. A handful of recent Glen Rock graduates posed for a group photo before heading out to the field. Caldwell midfielder Brittany Costigan had invited some of her Montclair State teammates, like rising sophomore Haley Doran of Mahwah.
“They schooled me last year for sure,” said Faranetta, a Lax On returnee who thought she was probably the oldest player at the session. “It’s still fun. It’s very relaxed. You just go out there and ask, ‘Who wants to play attack? Who wants to play defense?’ You end up playing a little of everything.”
Added Lafferman, “I love when the young lacrosse players get to see the older girls loving the game, and see the level, and how it looks so different when you’re more advanced. It’s really important for the little kids to see lacrosse at the higher level, and not everyone gets to go see a college game.”
For Kim Auerbach, Anna’s mom and a former NCAA Division III lacrosse player herself, it’s all about exposure. This is Anna Auerbach’s second year at Lax On, but she also plays softball, and tried rec soccer, as well as family ski trips in the winter.
“She wants to try a bunch of different sports,” Kim Auerbach said. “It’s getting your hands on a stick again. The more you get your hands on a stick, the better.”