Moorestown’s Delaney Lawler wants field hockey revenge against her aunt at Eastern
Danyle Heilig, one of the most well-respected high school field hockey coaches in the country, is Lawler's aunt — and nemesis.
Delaney Lawler was with her aunt, Danyle Heilig, the morning before her Moorestown field hockey team's nighttime showdown with Heilig's Eastern on Oct. 13.
The two were watching Heilig's son play football. There wasn't much talk of field hockey that morning, just family hanging out.
In fact, Lawler said, for all the support her aunt gives her — Heilig is one of the most respected high school field hockey coaches in the country — their talk rarely veers to the budding rivalry between Moorestown and Eastern.
"That part of it always stays whistle to whistle," Lawler said.
Eastern edged Moorestown, 2-1, that night, the Quakers' only loss of the regular season. And after the game, there was, as usual, nothing but support among the family. They took photos on the sideline. They chatted and joked with each other.
But Lawler did have one message for her aunt when it came to the rivalry:
"I told her that hopefully, this isn't the last time we see them this year."
“Let’s push ourselves to the limit and see how far it takes us.” — Delaney Lawler
It's sort of a mantra for Moorestown entering the postseason. The road to the ultimate state title generally travels through Eastern, and it's a trip the Quakers expect to take.
"It's our mentality this year," said Lawler, a senior leader with 12 goals and eight assists for a Moorestown team that is set to embark on the Central Group 3 tournament. "Losing doesn't even enter into our vocabulary. Even at practice. It starts there. It's knowing the difference between cocky and confidence and knowing what we're capable of."
Simply competing with Eastern — an elusive feat for so many teams around the state for so many years — isn't good enough for Moorestown.
Moorestown expects to win.
The Quakers won last year's Group 3 state championship before falling to the Vikings in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions.
They returned a roster with talent all over the field. More than that, most of the team has been playing together since before high school, and has won at every level.
"I remember in eighth grade we didn't get scored on at all that year, and there was a little article in the town paper about it," Lawler said. "They asked one of the players, 'What would be even better than this?' And somebody said, 'Winning the TOC.' "
Lawler, for her part, is determined to make the most of her last run at the state's ultimate crown. It's something she's dreamed about since she was a toddler, on the sideline watching her aunt's team win T of Cs at will.
Lawler grew up in the sport, and her blend of intelligence and skill have placed her among the state's elite athletes.
"Her love for field hockey is so intense," said Quakers coach Ali Collins, whose team has a 16-1-1 record and has allowed just 11 goals. "In addition to her love and her support for her teammates, she just eats and sleeps and breathes the game. She's a great competitor, has a great work ethic, and is a tremendous leader."
Lawler, an Ohio State recruit, is more than talented enough to have earned a scholarship in her other favorite sport, lacrosse. She was an integral part of last year's Quakers lacrosse team that won the Tournament of Champions.
Field hockey, she said, has just always been her biggest love.
"Hockey always stayed fun. It never felt like a job to me," Lawler said. "And I think that's so important for any athlete."
Part of that, she said, is due to the support of her family regardless of how competitive it might be.
Family gatherings, she said, can be intense.
"Even board games can get super competitive," she said. "But the key is knowing how to contain that intensity, how to never stop loving what you're doing."
It's part of why she is so excited about this postseason. It's a chance to reach for a goal she's dreamed of, with the teammates she loves. It's an opportunity to see her aunt's team one more time, and this time, maybe even change the ending.
Said Lawler: "Our mindset this year is, 'Let's push ourselves to the limit and see how far it takes us.' "