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South Jersey lacrosse notes

For Haddonfield girls' lacrosse midfielder Maddie Kiep, this season is about looking at the big picture.

For Haddonfield girls' lacrosse midfielder Maddie Kiep, this season is about looking at the big picture.

In just its third season as a varsity program, Haddonfield (16-1) earned a No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group 1 tournament and is the clear favorite to earn its first sectional title.

Expectations continue to grow for the Bulldogs. But for Kiep, parts of those expectations have already been met.

In three short years, the junior has been a major part of a core group of players that established a tradition and foundation that should carry Haddonfield for years to come.

"It's great because I know younger girls [from Haddonfield] who play lacrosse," said Kiep, a midfielder who leads the Bulldogs with 32 goals. "And I know those girls look up to us. And I know that in coming years, kids behind us are going to see that we were the first group, that we were able to start this tradition.

"And that's an awesome feeling."

Bulldogs coach Jess Blake points to balance and unselfishness as the team's greatest strengths and the biggest reasons why the program took off as fast as it did.

"Everybody on this team is just out there for each other," Blake said. "It's amazing, actually, to watch.

"We're very balanced from our goalie on up, and that's very nice because if we have some players who are a little bit off on a given night, somebody else is always there to pick up the slack."

Though a sectional title is certainly an attainable goal, the South Jersey Group 1 tournament isn't going to be a walk in the park.

The Bulldogs will be tested Thursday against ninth-seeded Delran, one of the hottest teams in the area, whose only loss in its last seven games was to Moorestown.

If Haddonfield beats Delran, it would enter a semifinal match against the winner of No. 4 Bishop Eustace and No. 5 Camden Catholic - each a division foe that Haddonfield has already beaten twice this season.

But, according to Blake, "one of the hardest things in sports is to beat a team three times in one season. But we just need to try to keep doing what we do well and keep playing our game."

While Blake points to her team's desire to win this year, she is just as quick to point out how impressive the first three years of Haddonfield lacrosse have been.

"These girls just really work hard. They do everything that we ask," Blake said. "They play hard. They practice hard. They love the game, and they just have such a desire to succeed and I think they're excited to start that tradition at Haddonfield."

For Kiep, a sectional title would be "indescribable." But the junior, also, continues to see the season in perspective.

"Our first year, we didn't even make the state tournament," Kiep said. "But we're the No. 1 seed now. So I think we're all just really, really excited, and we really want to get going in the state tournament."

Boys' tournament. It was a dress rehearsal that both teams considered a success.

After Shawnee, ranked No. 2 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, edged No. 3 Washington Township, 10-9, on Monday, both coaches walked away with confidence that their teams are ready for next week's state tournament.

Both teams earned byes in the tournament. Shawnee, the No. 3 seed in the Group 3 tournament, is set to play Tuesday against the winner of No. 19 Roxbury and No. 14 Wall.

Washington Township is seeded fourth in the Group 4 tournament and will play Tuesday against the winner of No. 13 North Hunterdon and No. 20 Freehold Township.

"It was good to see our guys come up big when the game was on the line," Shawnee coach Tim Gushue said after his team erased a two-goal, fourth-quarter deficit. "And this is the type of game where, hopefully, we can take this kind of momentum with us into the playoffs."

Added Minutemen coach Steve Arata: "I think Shawnee should do pretty well, and I think we should do well, too.

"Shawnee is one of the best teams in the state. And it just shows that we can run with anybody when we bring our 'A' game."

Both teams have one more regular-season game, and with a weeklong layoff before the postseason, both said they'll look to add one more game before the tournament.

"In this sport, you need to keep playing," Gushue said.

Other notable seedings. Moorestown also earned a bye in the Group 3 tournament, earning the No. 5 seed in the 22-team bracket, which was released Tuesday.

St. Augustine, No. 1 in The Inquirer rankings, earned the No. 2 seed in the 11-team Non-Public A bracket.

St. Augustine will play May 26 against the winner of No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 10 Red Bank.

The Hermits are vying for the program's first state title after falling in the championship game last season.