Clearview is among several South Jersey girls’ lacrosse programs with an enviable profile. The Pioneers have been a consistent, winning program since debuting on the varsity level in 2005, with top teams and numerous players continuing their careers in college.
More of the same is expected this year for the Pioneers, who opened their season Wednesday with a 17-3 victory over Washington Township.
Clearview, among many contenders for a South Jersey Group 4 championship, is led by three seniors who will take their talents to Division I programs: Camryn Pennypacker (East Carolina), Alyssa DeAngelo (Hofstra) and Dani Paterno (Vermont).
The Pioneers won their lone South Jersey championship in 2012 when they beat Washington Township, 7-6, in double overtime in Group 4. There is a feeling that this year’s team could seriously contend again in what is expected to be another loaded Group 4 field.
Coach Megan Conklin doesn’t want to talk about potential championships. As with most coaches, she is just looking to find a way to win the next game.
This season, she should find plenty of ways.
In addition to the three senior standouts, the Pioneers have freshman Hailey Russo, who didn’t look too overwhelmed at facing varsity competition in that opening win: She scored five goals, providing an already formidable attack some added firepower.
“She is amazing,” Pennypacker said about Russo. “I think she is a great asset to our seven attackers, and it is something we needed to grow from last year.”
Russo isn’t the only newcomer. Another is Paterno, although it comes with an asterisk. Last April 1, she suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, ending her junior season.
Paterno wasn’t cleared to return until the second week of February. In Clearview’s opener, Paterno didn’t waste time making her mark, scoring the first goal and adding two more. The only sign that she had been injured was the bulky brace on her right knee, but her play suggested that she will be a major factor this year.
“I thought it went well,” she said, understating things ever so slightly.
If the team grows much more, a championship could be in its grasp. Last year, Clearview went 11-7 and advanced to the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals before losing to Eastern.
It was the Pioneers’ first year in the Olympic Conference American Division for lacrosse. The American is an unforgiving division, where the likely Group 4 champion will reside. It means two games each in the regular season against division opponents Cherokee, Eastern, Shawnee, Lenape and Washington Township. In short, winning the American Division is likely as challenging as earning a sectional title.
“We just go game by game and focus on the present,” said Conklin, not willing to even give a thought to be playing in late May or even early June, when the state finals take place.
While going game to game is the best method, the Pioneers have been impressive year to year. Clearview beat another quality team, Seneca, 13-9, Thursday. Counting the opening two wins, Clearview is 72-34 since the 2013 season.
Conklin has been the head coach since the program’s varsity inception in 2005, and the Pioneers were winners from the start. It helped that Michelle Tumolo, among the most decorated players in South Jersey history, was a freshman that first season. Tumolo is now an assistant coach at the University of Oregon, In the summer, Tumolo was part of the U.S. championship team in the World Cup.
Tumolo set an early tone of excellence at Clearview, and thanks to a strong feeder program, a proven coach in Conklin and some talented players, the Pioneers have remained consistent winners, a label that doesn’t look to fade any time soon.