When Ava Robalino prays before a lacrosse contest, she doesn’t forget anyone.

“Coach Rick (Meana) leads us in prayer before every game,” said the senior in Donovan Catholic, Toms River. “I pray that we have no injuries and that we take what we learn in practice and put it all on the field. I pray for every one of my teammates to push themselves to do what they really can – to succeed mentally and be proud of themselves and smile and be happy.”

They have certainly been happy with Robalino’s play. After her sophomore season as a defender, the Lacey resident moved to midfield last year and led DC in goals (28), points (40) and draw controls (65).

She credits her scoring to working with a personal trainer in the off-season.

“I was shooting hard, getting faster and running with agility,” said Robalino, who plays both midfield and attack equally well.

The member of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, began playing rec lacrosse in fifth grade and quickly advanced to the T3 Elite and Team 91 travel teams. She made the Griffins’ varsity her freshman year before COVID-19 canceled the season, and was named Donovan’s Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.  

Meana moved Robalino to midfield last year in order to take advantage of her offensive skills.

“It’s all about her power and intensity,” the coach said. “She demands an awful lot from herself and her teammates. Rolling to the crease she’s big time, she has a big shot from eight meters. She’s got a good vision and a good lacrosse IQ. She’s been well coached.”

Robalino thinks a hard shot is her best attribute as a scorer; and feels after working with her trainer it has gotten more effective as she is strong with both hands.

“I can get a hard shot to goal,” she said. “I also am a crease roller and a driver from the middle. I am quick on my feet and know how to run an attack when it comes to feeding my other teammates.”

Meana has Ava playing more attack this year to position her behind the net and distribute more. And she will continue to use good wrist control and quick stick skills to win draw controls.

“I love taking the draw because it shows how far I have come from only being a defensive player,” she said. “Now I can say I play every position on the field.”

Ava committed to play at the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) next year, saying the coaches liked “the way I approach an attacker but also that I am quick to get rid of the ball in my stick.”  

Meana feels Robalino just needs to lighten her intensity a bit; and she agrees.

“Sometimes when I feel like I can do better but I make mistakes, I take it out on myself and it affects my play,” she said. “I am working on my self-confidence this year and to just have fun.”