Lacrosse wins mean more than records to Cherokee's Gab Bodine

Cherokee’s Gab Bodine (left) running with the ball against Eastern last month.

When asked what made her happier, breaking the record or getting the win, Gab Bodine didn’t hesitate:

“The win,” she said. “Every chance we get to bump up our win total is important to us. The record was great. But I wanted that win.”

For the Cherokee girls’ lacrosse team, every win is big. Every game is huge. Every opponent is strong.

On April 26, against Hunterdon Central — one of the top programs in the state — Bodine netted 5 goals, giving her 223 for her career, establishing a Cherokee career record and passing the old mark of 218 that was set by Melissa Arthur.

Camera icon JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Bodine (center) shooting the ball against Eastern on April 30. Bodine said that playing quality opponents helped her improve her own game.

And it was fitting that the record was broken on the road against a non-conference North Jersey team that is arguably among the top 10 in the state.

This is what it’s like to play for Cherokee.

The Chiefs play in the Olympic Conference American Division, easily the toughest in South Jersey. But added to that is a relentless non-conference schedule filled with state powers such as Moorestown, Haddonfield and Hunterdon Central.

Bodine, of course, like most great scorers, sees exotic defensive looks from nearly every opponent. She is face-guarded. She is double-teamed. She is triple-teamed  — all by the best defenders in the state. Game after game.

And she’s still dominating.

“She’s just an exceptional scorer,” said coach Jeff Niederberger. “She does get a lot of defensive attention. … But she’s able to just keep scoring largely just by how hard she works.”

Camera icon ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Her coach calls Bodine a natural scorer who can produce goals all over the field but especially right in front of the goal.

As for his team’s non-conference schedule, Niederberger said, “We try to schedule good teams. That’s how we get better. Our Division and our Group is tough. We try to be use those non-conference games to prepare for our ultimate goal, and that’s to get to the Group 4 South championship.”

Bodine, as her numbers indicate, doesn’t shy away from the strength of schedule. For her, it’s a way to build resiliency.

Cherokee’s record after 11 games was just 6-5. But the team has already shown how tough its is. The Chiefs beat Hunterdon Central on the heels of a 1-4 stretch that included losses to state-ranked Moorestown, Clearview, Seneca and Eastern.

“There are no easy games. Every game is intense,” Bodine said. “And after that four-game losing streak, we all just came together. This schedule taught how good we can be when we play together. When we play together we know we can play with anyone.”

For her part, Bodine, a Butler recruit, had already recorded 39 goals through those 11 games.

She is a phenomenal overall talent. She has size, speed and strength that most teams can’t match.

“She can definitely take opposing teams’ best shot,” Niederberger said. “She’s definitely one of the best I’ve ever had at catching the ball in that crease area and delivering. She scores at a high rate with a lot of pressure on her.”

Camera icon ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Bodine is expected to play at Butler next season.

Bodine said she never expected, when she first came to Cherokee, that she’d be in a position to break the school record. But she welcomes her reputation as a top scorer and the defensive attention that comes with it.

Being shadowed all over the field, in some ways, has made Bodine a more polished player.

It’s forced her to be sharper and craftier off the ball, and it’s helped her develop chemistry with her teammates.

Bodine talks about how strong the team’s fast break is, how well they work together, and how much she’s looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the postseason.

“You have to try to handle whatever gets thrown at you,” Bodine said. “And it’s a good feeling to break the record. But at the same time, I know I couldn’t do it without my teammates. I’m pretty sure about 90 percent of my goals are assisted.”

“This team,” she added, “when we’re on our game, we can beat anyone.”