Title Town: What’s the secret to Moorestown High School’s success?

Winning at Moorestown isn’t new, but after a banner year in 2018-19, when nine different programs raised trophies, including six state titles. The Quakers athletic program is regularly the most consistent big school winner in South Jersey.

Moorestown established itself as the premiere high school sports program in South Jersey last year when it won six state championship and nine sectional titles. From left to right are seniors Grace Leese (tennis), Grace Hurren (soccer), Joseph Delconte (soccer), Adam Robinson (football) and junior Margaret Lawler (field hockey). (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Summer was still in session and the opening of school was three weeks away, but Moorestown High School was buzzing during the second full week of August.

After back-to-back rainy mornings, the football team was taking advantage of the weather to run through its third practice of the preseason. Across the parking lot, 45 girls dotted the courts for the first week of tennis practice. The Quakers popular program had so many students come out that it will likely need to make cuts.

On another field on campus, a group of a few dozen girls formed two separate lines to create a running lane for freshman soccer player Zoe Lam. When the ninth-grader completed the half field of suicide sprints in under 30 seconds (she did it in 28, to be exact) the girls soccer team broke out into claps and cheers. Lam’s run ended practice early, saving everyone extra running.

The camaraderie across all of the fields and courts was palpable in the attitude and energy of the students.

“I just think that the school as a whole is like a second family,” said senior soccer player Abby McNulty, who moved into town from Tennessee last year. “All of the sports teams come together. Basically it’s one big family and having people push you, even if they don’t play the same sport as you but push you to be your best self. … I think that’s what makes it great.”

Dedication, determination, and drive, with some fun sprinkled in. Moorestown athletics are back in session.

Kayla Frank shows off the Quakers new hardware after Moorestown field hockey collected its 28th sectional title since 1976 last fall. The team also won it’s second straight state title in 2018, the 18th in program history. Only one team in the state, Eastern Regional (22) has more. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

During the last 12 months, Moorestown High School took an already strong reputation and raised it with a remarkable run that saw six programs win state championships (boys basketball, girls and boys lacrosse, girls swimming, field hockey, and boys golf) and three other programs collect South Jersey titles (girls soccer, and both tennis teams). 

“It was awesome,” said athletic director Shawn Counard. “We need to get a couple more trophy cases, but it was absolutely awesome. The kids were great, the fans were great, the coaches were great. The school’s support for all of the teams was awesome. … Seeing that, I’m hoping we can continue to build upon that for this year.”

The success across programs allowed some returning Quakers to achieve a rare feat: Hayden Greer and Margaret Lawler were among the half dozen students who were able to be a part of two state championship teams. The fact that Lawler, only a junior, has a very realistic opportunity to do that in all four of her high school seasons (she’s been a part of state title teams in field hockey and lacrosse in each of her first two years) speaks volumes about the school.

“I couldn’t imagine going to a different school, just with the relationships I’ve made with the girls and the coaches, it’s just been an honor,” Lawler said. “After all the success that’s gone on in Moorestown and what’s to come, I’m truly grateful for it.”

Moorestown High School’s boys basketball team poses with the Group 3 state championship trophy in March. The Quakers beat Ramapo for their first state championship in 60 years. (Special to South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Lawler’s older sister, Delaney, entering her first year at Ohio State University, was a part of a decorated senior class that also included Nick Cartwright-Atkins, Kayla Frank, Akhil Giri – a formidable group of student athletes who led two different teams to state titles last year.

“It was a talented group,” Moorestown football coach Beau Sherry said. “So to repeat that? I don’t know if you’re going to do that every year but … it’s something to shoot for. To be a part of that, to know what it takes to get there, for kids to experience that is always valuable.”

The leadership of strong seniors is crucial, but several programs at the school (including lacrosse and field hockey) are winning regularly, regardless of roster turnover. So what is the secret to the Quakers’ program-wide success?

“I think it’s a combination of things,” Sherry said. “Feeder programs absolutely have something to do with it. I think the parents, having supportive parents, has a lot to do with it. And I think it ultimately comes down to the dedicated kids who want to work hard. And we have a good school here with support from our administration. So when you have all of those things coming together, usually you have success.”

Moorestown High School’s girls lacrosse team has a standard of excellence few programs in the state, in any sport, can match. The Quakers gathered around the program’s 23rd state championship (and 16th in the last 20 seasons) earlier this month. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Moorestown’s determination to be the best doesn’t end when the final buzzer sounds. The school also has a stellar academic profile. According to many of the students, the success on and off the field is no coincidence.

“I feel like everyone at Moorestown just has a really great work ethic, even in school it’s really competitive, everyone is always taking AP and honors classes,” said senior tennis player Grace Leese. “And then that just carries into sports and daily lives.”

“I think the environment at our school is really intense and everyone is really competitive, whether it’s academics, whether it’s sports, clubs, activities,” added senior soccer player Grace Curren, who is attending Columbia University next fall. “Everyone is super intense and really cares about what they’re doing and wants to see the best from themselves. … In the classroom, we push each other. On the field, everyone pushes each other. I think our athletic community also has such a tight-knit group that we’re all cheering each other on, we all go to each other’s games and we want to see the best from each other.”

Caroline Tone and Lindsay Valilla of Moorestown High School battle for possession during the first week of soccer practice. The Quakers girls soccer team was one of nine programs in the school to win sectional championships during the 2018-19 school year. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

The work ethic it takes to be successful in the classroom bleeds into the time and dedication it takes to be a winning player in athletics. The same ethos carries over to other clubs and activities at the school, too.

“Everyone does really well in everything here,” Leese said with a laugh. “Teachers are awesome, the coaches are great, too. And we have 12th period, where we can stay after school to get the help you need, whether it’s from coaches, guidance counselors, so there is always someone around if you need the help.”

A support system is crucial. Whether it’s teachers, coaches, administrators, and, of course, dedicated parents, Moorestown’s athletic family is clearly a yearlong team effort. 

Moorestown assistant coach Bill Donoghue speaks with players during a recent practice. The Quakers are eyeing their own run at adding a banner to the gym this fall after winning four of their last five games in 2018. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)

And that passion has a trickle down effect, too. 

Steve Dickerson watched his son, Ryan, grow as a player under legendary Moorestown tennis coach Bill Kingston and cherished the opportunity to pay that passion and knowledge forward. After working under Kingston, Dickerson now coaches the girls tennis team.

Colleen Hancox, a decorated lacrosse player who graduated Moorestown in ‘02, returned to the school last winter to take over the girls lacrosse program’s coaching reins from Deanna Knobloch, her former coach who had a 580-46-4 record with 16 state titles. 

Naturally, Hancox led her alma mater to a state title last spring.

“I think the biggest factor in the success of Moorestown athletics is the history and tradition of excellence,” said field hockey coach Ali Collins. “We have amazing athletes who are willing, driven, and extremely motivated to put in the time and work to be top athletes in the state, not to mention that bloodlines in this town run deep. Families live here, send their kids to school where they find great success, and then the students (and student athletes) want to come back to such a wonderful place to settle with their families so the next generation can experience the amazing history and traditions. … When we repeated last season, we talked about that a lot along the way. What is our legacy? How do we fit into the grand tradition of Moorestown sports?”

Moorestown’s Janey Galski celebrates one of her 39 goals during the 2019 season during a thrilling win over Haddonfield. (RYAN LAWRENCE, South Jersey Sports Weekly)