When the Madison girls lacrosse players tried to build team unity, they first had to put down their phones. Instead of relating to each other through screens, the Dodgers got their hands dirty.
They joined more than 1,000 other volunteers at the Rotary Club of Madison’s annual End Hunger campaign. Senior Lauren Kaye thought the players would be bagging up cans and prepackaged meals. Instead, they were carefully measuring out ingredients, like dried beans and rice.
Of course, the Dodgers turned it into a competition. Their two tables tried to make packages more quickly than the others, scooping and weighing, sealing and labeling in an assembly line.
Madison accounted for 720 of the more than 2,000 meals Rotary volunteers packed on March 9 at Drew University’s Simon Forum. They will be distributed to families throughout New Jersey.
“Everyone’s surrounded by social media, and we can see all the stuff everyone has. Nowadays, we don’t see what people don’t have,” said Kaye, who signed a National Letter of Intent with Boston University in November.
“The girls on the team realized how lucky we really are. We know we live in an affluent area where we don’t want for a lot of things. To be packaging rice and beans for people who are hungry, things we wouldn’t think about, we can make a difference.”
Team-building activities were at the heart of Madison’s preseason, with players interviewing each other and then introducing teammates to the group – and sometimes having breakfast after 7 a.m. Saturday sessions.
When the Dodgers open the season Thursday at New Providence, they will rely on a large group of sophomores, most of whom got varsity experience last spring. Defender Kerrianne McClay, a part of three Morris County Tournament field hockey titles, is returning for her senior lacrosse season.
The current seniors came into the program alongside head coach Toni-Anne Cavallo.
Jula Tully, a senior goalkeeper, is working her way back into shape after getting a concussion on the second day of preseason. Kaye, the Dodgers’ leading scorer with 63 goals and 17 assists last spring, is coming back after straining an iliotibial band.
Madison shares a single-minded goal: Win the NJSIAA North 2 Group II title — and possibly the school’s first girls lacrosse Group II trophy. The Dodgers lost to Bernards in that game a year ago.
“We’re looking for redemption this year,” said senior midfielder Leah Rutland, who has signed a National Letter of Intent with Bucknell.
“Our goal is to be better than last year, and make it as far as we can. We were all pretty upset when we lost in the final. We’re looking to come back stronger and make it farther.”