Delaney Lawler still remembers the day she found out Deanna Knobloch was stepping down as head coach of the Moorestown girls’ lacrosse team.
It was during a team meeting in October. The Quakers are already deep into their formal preparations for the spring season by October.
“To us, that actually feels pretty close to the start of the season,” she said.
There were a lot of emotions that day pouring from most people involved. One thing stayed with Lawler throughout this season:
”[Knobloch] told us one of the reasons she felt comfortable stepping down before this season was because the 2019 senior class was here to help lead the way,” Lawler said. “And I think through all of the injuries and the losses — that’s what we remember. There was confidence in us. …
“At the end of the day, we knew we had all the support we needed, and we had leadership coming from all over the place.”
In the first year of a new era, Lawler — this year’s Inquirer Player of the Year in South Jersey girls’ lacrosse — was instrumental in helping to uphold a standard built during Knobloch’s sensational 27 years at the school.
No, Moorestown did not successfully defend its Tournament of Champions title, as it is accustomed to doing. The team fell just short in the T of C final in a 10-8 loss to Oak Knoll.
But, yes, it was a memorable season for all the right reasons.
Under new coach Colleen Hancox, the Quakers finished 19-5, stormed through the Group 3 playoffs and won a state championship in convincing fashion over Mendham.
They overcame injuries and adversity and sent a message to the state that, even with the retirement of their legendary coach, they’re still a force.
“Yes, it stinks that we went out on a loss,” Lawler said. “But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that we did win a state title, and it was a great season.”
Lawler, a senior defender, was a vocal leader and arguably one of the state’s best at her position. She stood out on a star-studded defense anchored by Logan Lillie, who many regard as the state’s most talented goalie this season.
Lillie, though, missed a portion of this season with an injury, as did star midfielder Kayla Frank.
Lawler served as a steadying presence during that time, helping to keep the standard of play high on the field, and helping to keep the team’s famously strong culture alive off the field.
“I’ve had three years under some fantastic leaders before me,” Lawler said. “I was able to see different styles of leadership. … And I was able to kind of find not only what I take to, but different styles that other people take to. … We were extremely vocal as senior leaders. We held people accountable. … That ‘come with me’ style was our style on defense this year. We looked at the younger girls and said: ‘You’re not great at this right now but, guess what, you’re going to be by the end of the season.’”
In the fall, Lawler is a prolific scorer for the Moorestown field hockey team. And she’ll continue her athletic career in field hockey at Ohio State.
An overall phenomenal athlete who comes from a family of athletes — notably, she is the niece of legendary Eastern field hockey coach Danyle Heilig — Lawler said she takes aspects of other sports and applies them to lacrosse.
There are things she takes from her love of basketball, a sport that mirrors many of lacrosse’s movements and formations.
And there things she takes from being an offensive player in field hockey.
“Just the ability to shift and move and, [playing offense] helps you realize that, as a defender, it’s not your job to react, it’s your job to dictate the play,” Lawler said. “I definitely take that from my hockey background.”
Lacrosse has always held a special place in Lawler’s heart.
And now that her career as a player is over, she was quick to point out how much she appreciated experiencing that sport at Moorestown.