By MERT OKUR
New year, new team, same goal — that has been the mindset for the Egg Harbor Township girls lacrosse team in the 2017 season. Coming off a stellar season in which they finished with a record of 14-5, the Eagles are seeking another solid regular season and potentially a run in the state playoffs.
With most of the pieces from last year still in place, the Eagles’ chances are looking pretty good. One thing the team has going for it is a group of tenacious seniors who, last year, were the key component to the team’s success.
One senior in particular is Jess Sheffer, who this year is leading her team in goals (27), assists (16), and points (43). For Sheffer, lacrosse is something that runs in the family and something she fell in love with instantly. Her father played in college and also created the recreational programs in Egg Harbor Township, so it was difficult for her not to get involved with the sport.
Beginning her career in fourth grade, Sheffer automatically realized lacrosse would be a full-time passion, and the same could still be said about her now. She plays attack for the varsity squad and has her reasons why she loves the position so much.
“I love to shoot, plus it’s fun to try and beat the opponent’s defense with my teammates,” Sheffer said.
The position was the perfect fit for Sheffer, coming off a season in which she was in the top three on her team in points, assists and goals. This year, she leads the team in all those categories. Her performance has helped the Eagles build a 5-7 record through their first 12 games, and with a few games left before the state playoff cutoff date, EHT should have good enough resume to get into the tournament.
With several ups and downs during the season, the team isn’t dwelling on the negatives or their record, but instead is focusing on making the playoffs. After a playoff loss last year to Monroe Township, the team is poised to make a return and avenge that loss.
For Sheffer, it’s key for the team to make the playoffs, but it’s also necessary to have fun doing it.
“It would be nice to get into the playoffs and extend our season because it’s a little bittersweet that it’s winding down to an end. We’re such a close group of girls and I think they’d all agree with me in that our main goal is to finish strong and have fun playing the sport we love with each other.”
While Sheffer is trying to help her team accomplish its ultimate goal, she’s also trying to achieve her own goals and help others do the same. One of her personal goals is to score her 100th career goal before the last game of the season, which she’s completely capable of doing based off her performance this season. Another goal of hers is to see her teammate, Nicole Jandras, score her 100th goal, and Sheffer said she would love to assist in making that goal a reality.
“I really want to assist her 100th goal. We’ve been friends and have been playing together for eight years, so I think that’s would be such a cool moment,” stated Sheffer.
Sheffer and the rest of the seniors on the team realize this is their final chance to capitalize on their opportunity before it’s over for good. Coming into the second week of May, the Eagles had three games remaining in the regular season.
Sheffer said she has a specific routine to prepare before every game.
“Before a game, I usually talk to my teammates about what we want to do in that game and talk about things we should work on, and I have a catch with Nicole, too.”
Sheffer also has a superstition about what to wear before each game.
“I am always superstitious about what socks I wear and what hair tie I use,” Sheffer said with a laugh.
Sheffer most certainly completed her routine traditions prior to a recent game against Our Lady of Mercy Academy on May 11.
“I’m looking forward to our game against OLMA because that’s potentially my last game with the girls I’ve played with for so long. That might be a super emotional moment,” she said, referring to this past week’s 16-4 win over the Villagers.
Even if the circumstance isn’t what the team expected, they can trust each other to make the most of it. For Sheffer and her teammates, if they don’t reach the playoffs it won’t mean that the season was a failure because they have something more valuable than a championship: unforgettable memories and moments with one another.
Through her four years at Egg Harbor Township High School, Sheffer said she has had her fair share of lasting memories, but there’s one that stands out to her the most.
“I’ll always remember this one practice that was miserable because it was cold and rainy. I think I started singing the national anthem and the whole team joined right in the middle of the drill, and by the end of the song we were all just standing there and singing it. It was such a hilarious moment and it cracks us up when we bring it up,” she said. “I know I’ll remember becoming a captain because I really didn’t expect it, and it felt great to be one along with three of my close friends.”
All good things come to an end sooner or later, sometimes sooner than we would hope for. For Sheffer, the end of her storied career at Egg Harbor Township is coming to an end, and it’s a difficult reality for her to face, she said.
“That thought chokes me up a little, I’ll miss the feeling of being on a team that’s this close-knit. We’re all sisters and I love all of them so much,” Sheffer said.
The breaking up of a team due to graduation is always a strenuous process for any team, but Sheffer and her teammates are focused and locked in for playoff contention and are hoping they’ll have one last chance to make some noise in the postseason.
By MERT OKUR