Haddonfield girls lacrosse finishes dominant season with first ever state title

The Bulldawgs won the Group II state championship on June 2 with a win over Sparta High School, capping off a historic 21–2 season for the program.

Haddonfield Memorial High School girls lacrosse never had a season quite like 2018.

After years of gradually improving results, the Bulldawgs broke out as one of New Jersey’s top teams this season. Haddonfield won the program’s first ever-state championship when it defeated Sparta High School, 18–11, in the South Jersey Group II championship game.

The way Haddonfield got to the state championship was impressive. The team won 21 of its 23 games. The Bulldawgs’ offense was potent, scoring at least 15 goals in 18 of the 23 games. In 16 of their games, Haddonfield won by 10 or more goals.

Senior goalkeeper Olivia Conquest believed this year’s team had a lot more confidence than in past years. The Bulldawgs graduated just two seniors from 2017.

“Last year, we were unaware of how far we could get,” Conquest said. “We were underestimating how far we could go.”

“Our chemistry was there,” junior Gabi Connor added. “We all work together really well so that really helped us.”

Haddonfield established itself as a team to beat early on, winnings its first 14 games of the year and doing so against some tough Group III and Group IV programs. To toughen the schedule this season, Haddonfield played teams such as 2018 South Jersey Group IV champion Clearview Regional High School, 2017 South Jersey Group III finalist Seneca High School and Cherokee High School. The Bulldawgs beat all three of those teams.

Haddonfield’s offense led the charge for most of the year. The Bulldawgs put up huge scoring numbers, scoring 18 times against Clearview, 19 times against Seneca and a season-best 23 times at Cherokee.

Leading the charge was a new face, freshman McKenzie Blake, the daughter of Haddonfield head coach Jessica Blake. McKenzie led the team with 85 goals, tied for third most in South Jersey. Only Kira Sides of Middle Township High School and Cassidy Spilis of Seneca High School scored more goals in 2018.

McKenzie said she felt right at home from the first day of practice with the team and gelled with the offense instantly.

“I felt growing up and watching them play, I would mesh with them really well,” she said.

“On the field, I’d forget McKenzie was a freshman because she was up to skill with all of us and she didn’t act timid or shy on the field,” junior Caroline Beckett said.

McKenzie wasn’t the only goal scorer for Haddonfield. Beckett and senior Jaimie McCormick also scored more than 50 goals, and Connor scored 46 times.

“On our team, we’re seven strong,” McCormick said about the offense, “and we incorporated a lot of plays that included a lot of players.”

Haddonfield’s dominance continued in the playoffs. In the South Jersey Group II tournament, the Bulldawgs easily repeated as sectional champions, outscoring the opposition 56–14 in three games. Against one of the state’s toughest teams, Rumson-Fair Haven High School, in the state semifinals, Haddonfield led the entire game and came away with a 12–9 win.

Last season, the Bulldawgs fell short in the Group II state championship game, losing by 10 goals to Bernards High School. This year, the result was completely different, as Haddonfield led the entire game and defeated Sparta, 18–11, to bring home a state championship. Conquest felt the win was a testament to how far girls lacrosse had come in Haddonfield.

“I feel like it wasn’t a win just for the girls on the field or the girls on the sideline or for the program,” she said. “I feel like it was a win for the community because they’ve been building this program up from the bottom.”

Haddonfield lost to just one team all season. Moorestown High School, the 2018 Tournament of Champions winner, handed Haddonfield its only regular season loss in early May and beat the Bulldawgs again in the TOC semifinals.

If anything, the losses to the Quakers give Haddonfield a new goal to shoot for. The Bulldawgs now want to be New Jersey’s №1 team.

“We want to be the best team in the state,” Connor said. “I think we can do that and if we set our mind to that, we can do anything.”