In a whirlwind freshman season, during warm-ups of a storied girls' lacrosse matchup, Shawnee goalie Lily Argyle stopped for a moment to take it all in.
The season hasn't offered the freshman much time for reflection. But that Saturday morning, it seemed to hit her all at once.
"It was a weird feeling," she said of being on the field for the Renegades' matchup last Saturday at archrival Moorestown. "I was used to being on the sideline, watching that game as a middle-schooler. To actually be warming up, to be on the field with all of the players, it was pretty amazing."
For Argyle, this season has been something of a dream come true. She grew up watching Shawnee lacrosse, imagining what it would be like one day to add to a tradition of great Renegades goalkeepers, which most recently included Alex Zaugra, now starting in goal as a freshman at the University of Delaware.
Argyle is relishing her chance to add to that legacy.
"It's a cool feeling to have this opportunity," she said. "I just try to make the best of it. I try to go out there and act like I'm not a freshman and try to play as well as I can."
That Argyle is still only a freshman is also striking to Renegades coach Marisa McCormick. Argyle stepped into Shawnee's starting lineup in the second game of the season and has allowed double-digit goals just twice in seven games for the 7-1 Renegades, ranked second in South Jersey by The Inquirer. The team's only loss in that span was a 16-8 defeat to No. 1 Moorestown.
"I thought Lily had an amazing game against Moorestown," McCormick said. "If you think about it, she was in middle school last year. Now, she's going up against Moorestown, and she handled herself very well and played very well."
Shawnee has solid senior leadership but is mostly young. With Argyle poised to be in goal for the next three seasons, the future, as usual, looks bright for the Renegades.
"We're still getting used to playing with each other and learning our strengths and weaknesses," McCormick said. "But we have great captains, we have talented younger players, and we're getting better every game."
Holding it together. There isn't much more that Damon Legato could have asked for in his first eight games as Haddonfield boys' coach.
The Bulldogs are 8-0, have shown a remarkably balanced offense, and have yet to allow more than seven goals in a game.
The intangibles and discipline of a polished team also have been on full display, most evident in a recent 7-6 overtime victory over Shawnee.
"So far, we've pretty much done everything that we've been looking to do," Legato said. "The guys have been working hard. We're getting better each time we get out on the field.
"But we're not satisfied. Being 8-0 is fun, but there's definitely still room for improvement."
A gauge of just how far the Bulldogs have come is right around the corner. In the next two weeks, No. 3 Haddonfield will have showdowns with No. 1 St. Augustine (Thursday) and No. 2 Moorestown (May 7).
"Those games are opportunities for us," Legato said. "We're thankful that we get to play these teams and test our mettle against them. At the beginning of the season, it was important for us to get these games because one of our goals was to compete in the playoffs this year. So having this level of competition will only make us better going forward."
Clear progress. It's sports' version of the classic glass-half-full, glass-half-empty viewpoint:
On the heels of being steamrolled by graduation, coaches generally will say their team is "rebuilding" or "reloading."
The latter was the optimistic stance adopted by Clearview girls' coach Megan Conklin this offseason. It's a viewpoint her team has vindicated.
The Pioneers entered this season having to replace eight starters from arguably the most talented team Clearview has had.
But after dropping its first two games to No. 8 Haddonfield and No. 3 Lenape, Clearview has won six of seven, losing only to No. 2 Shawnee and beating teams including No. 4 Washington Township and No. 10 Cherokee.
"We're playing well," Conklin said of her sixth-ranked Pioneers. "And it's all about keeping expectations high. Having young players has never been an excuse for us."
Much of Clearview's quick turnaround comes because of its feeder program, fast becoming one of the area's strongest. Conklin said her coaching staff is heavily involved in that program.
The Pioneers are led by senior attack and Wagner recruit Kim Tumolo, senior Julie Sutton (Alvernia), and senior goalie Lexi Lomanno (Hofstra).
"We don't really have a best player this year," Conklin said. "They all just play really well together."