Quakers star midfielder Lawler ready for family rivalry game

Ohio State-bound Delaney Lawler, one of the top players in the state, and Moorestown square off with her aunt’s team, national power Eastern, this week

Moorestown High School senior Delaney Lawler winds up for a shot in a recent game against Rancocas Valley. Lawler scored a goal and collected an assist in the 4–0 win. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

Moorestown High School senior Delaney Lawler has already checked a lot of important items off her field hockey to-do list.

She won a state championship with the Quakers last fall. Although she doesn’t play for personal accomplishments, she was also named First Team All-State as a junior, too.

She’s also got the opportunity to play the sport with her sister, Margaret, a sophomore on Moorestown’s undefeated (as of Oct. 7) team. Delaney also took care of her college decision a while ago: she knew she was going to accept a scholarship offer to play field hockey at Ohio State during the summer after her sophomore year.

There is one item that would be fun to check off that to-do list, though. Lawler would like to beat Eastern.

Eastern Regional High School’s field hockey prowess is pretty well known.

They’ve been regularly ranked among the nation’s top teams, let alone the state, during the last dozen or so years. The Vikings have won 19 consecutive Group 4 state championships under coach Danyle Heilig.

Or Aunt Danyle, as Lawler calls her.

Lawler, one of the best field hockey players in the state, happens to be the niece of the most accomplished coach in the state and their teams do battle on Saturday (Oct. 13) at 6 p.m., under the lights at McAleer Stadium in Voorhees.

“It’s been a season of ‘lasts’ but I’m hoping Saturday isn’t the last time we’re playing my aunt, I’m hoping to see them in T of C,” Lawler said, referring to the Tourney of Champions, the annual event when all of New Jersey’s state champs square off before Thanksgiving to determine a №1 overall top team. “But that game is something special and I know I won’t get to experience something like that ever again. They’re a powerhouse. It’s an awesome opportunity to not only play against my aunt, but against this phenomenal team. Saturday night game, primetime. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Moorestown High School senior Delaney Lawler has the Quakers primed for another state title run this fall. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

Moorestown’s field hockey team, a storied program in its own right with 17 state championships overall (only Eastern, with 21, has more), is at the very least in position to give the Vikings a scare (and perhaps pull off an upset) with Lawler leading the way. The four-year starter has been a difference-maker since stepping onto the field three years ago and has only grown more each season as an all-around player and leader since.

“She’s got the complete package of skills offensively and defensively and her work ethic is unparalleled,” said Moorestown coach Ali Collins. “I’ve never had anyone who loves and is as committed to the game of field hockey as she is, she breathes it, eats it, sleeps it, 24–7. She’s watching film, watching college games, she’s doing everything related to the game, she lives in the training room. That level of passion lends itself to leadership, naturally. And she’s got drive. She just loves the game, loves her team. A great kid.”

Moorestown High School junior Alivia Labetti fires a shot on goal as teammates Madison Sever (42), Catherine Dare (9) and Kayla Frank (36) watch. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

Can she help her team take down her aunt’s team? One player obviously can’t do everything by herself, and surely Moorestown’s senior laden team is deep with talent.

And Moorestown gave the Vikings a scare last year: the Quakers held a 2–1 lead at halftime before losing 3–2.

“We were up at halftime and let it get away from us,” Collins said. “I don’t think we were physically or mentally ready for that at that point. And then we saw them again in the T of C. We played a great game, we had them, and then they had that extra level that we had never experienced at that level of the playoffs before.

“Those are good learning moments for us. I anticipate that based on how focused and motivated we are, it’s going to be a great game of field hockey. We’re excited to be a part of it and see how it goes.”

Surely text messages will fly back and forth between family members this week. Lawler’s mom is Danyle Heilig’s sister, so which side of the bleachers will their parents sit?

“It’s great, especially in South Jersey where field hockey is a family thing,” Collins said. “It’s cool. Some added pressure, but so be it, we’ll take it.”

(RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

In addition to trying to beat her aunt for the first time, Lawler probably wouldn’t mind scoring a win over a lot of her friends, too. She’s played on a club team with “virtually their entire team” since she was 11 years old.

But Lawler’s greatest strength is probably her mental approach to the game. She’s not as concerned with family rivalries as she is with the goals of her own team.

A win over Eastern would be nice for a lot of reasons, but most of all how it could springboard Moorestown to greater heights as the regular season gives way to the postseason.

“Not only could that put us on the map, but it could be a season-booster,” Lawler said. “Kind of what we had that in a negative way last year. We lost to Haddonfield in October and then (later that week) beat West Essex when they were №1 in the state. This year, it could work the same way. It wouldn’t be the climax, we could just keep rising. It would be a lot of fun.”

Moorestown High School senior Delaney Lawler in control with Brianna Snowden (15) and Carly Fordham (2) in pursuit (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)