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Expectations high at Hewlett

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Jackie Hughes has already helped Hewlett girls’ lacrosse exceed its win total from last year’s 3-12 season that ended with a first-round playoff defeat.

The program’s new head coach, though, wants to take a higher road to the postseason this spring. “Our goals is definitely to earn the right to make the playoffs,” said Hughes of her new team, which entered the week at 4-3 and 2-2 in Conference III.

Hughes severed as an assistant coach for the women’s lacrosse team at Molloy College since graduating from Stony Brook in 2012. She has recruited Jess Romano, her teammate on the Seawolves’ women’s lacrosse team, as her assistant. The duo wants to motivate their players to embrace hard work and a dedication to winning.

They recognize senior captain Margo Vershleiser, a midfielder and attackman, already possess these virtues. Vershleiser scored on a free-position shot with two seconds left in overtime to defeat MacArthur, 9-8, at home on March 28. She also generated five goals and four assists in a 16-9 win against Hicksville last Saturday. Vershleiser has a team-leading 28 goals, 12 assists and 40 points.

“Margo has a very high lacrosse IQ, a very good stick and a well-placed shot, she handles adversity and pressure very well and she elevates everyone around her,” Hughes said.

Vershleiser took sophomore Mia Perkell, another smart, hardworking attackman, under her wing last season and the two have since jelled on the field. Perkell notched four goals versus Hicksville.

The offense is also motored by three midfielders in sophomores Alexandra Borsellino and Rebecca Ziarno and junior Eileen Pincus, who shows abilities on both sides of the field. Pincus scored four goals against Hicksville; Pincus had three.

Pincus has spearheaded a new high-pressure zone defensive scheme, using her experience with basketball-style defenses to help lead the charge. Senior captains Samantha Panzarella, Nicole Herrera and Jordyn Zeidman and sophomore Katie Beyda are a defensive quartet dedicated to dominating their opponents, not individually but as a unit, and want to protect their young goalkeeper, Hughes said.

Eighth-grader Ava Giugliano, who played on the JV and in a summer league in 2018, is defending the net after last season’s starting goalie decided not to rejoin the team. Hughes is unfazed by starting a goalie so young she lost a baby tooth in a 16-9 victory at Carey on March 22.

“Ava is a very positionally sound goalie,” she said. “She’s doing a great job, and she’s really working to start controlling the defense.”

One sign Hughes believes her team can earn a playoff berth with a winning record actually came in a 9-8 loss to conference rival Calhoun, the league’s pre-season top seed. The No. 10 and last seeded Lady Bulldogs were competitive and kept the game tight throughout their home opener against the Lady Colts on March 25.

“I don’t like moral victories,” she said. “But I told our girls that it showed we can play with anyone in the conference.”