When it comes to goodwill, the Notre Dame High girls soccer team is savvy at spreading its services around. Some players are involved in Catholic Athletes For Christ, others are members of Joey’s Little Angels, which raises money for children seeking medical treatment, and a third group is connected with Morgan’s Message, which deals with mental health of student athletes.
Once they don the Irish uniform, however, the goal becomes singular.
“They not only have that mentality and faith off the field, but bring it on the field as well in terms of staying together as a group and playing as a team,” coach Lauren Diaz said.
Senior Magdelena Madjor moved from center back to midfield and has responded with a team-high 15 goals and seven assists for Notre Dame. Courtesy photo
That cohesiveness, mixed with experience, has led Notre Dame, Lawrenceville, to a 13-3-1 record and No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A tournament. The Irish open on Oct. 31, against the Oct. 27 winner of the Union Catholic-St. John Vianney, Holmdel game.
ND suffered through some growing pains in 2022, finishing 7-8-2 and exiting the states after one game. But only three starters graduated, and that one season of experience has worked wonders for the returnees.
“Last year was their first time on varsity, so I think that transitioned to this year and it’s really paying off in terms of understanding the level of competition in every game, keeping your composure,” Diaz said. “I had a lot of freshmen last year that are now sophomores.”
Defensively, ND has allowed 18 goals and posted five shutouts. It starts with sophomore goalie Leah Zeidman, who started as a ninth grader.
“Coming in as a freshman and being asked to step on the varsity field, let alone in the goalie position, is a big ask; it’s a big transition,” Diaz said. “She’s shown immense growth in her composure and her confidence.”
The back four features seniors Colleen Conroy and Brynn Fitzpatrick on the outside and sophomores Isabella Daley and Ashton Robbins in the center.
“It’s a really good core group,” Diaz said. “The center backs play really well together, and the leadership comes from the outside. It’s a good balance.”
One of the most productive adjustments came in the midfield, where Magdelena Madjor was inserted on the wing after playing center back. The senior has responded with team-highs in goals (15) and assists (7).
“I think she really focused on learning different aspects of the game in terms of being able to make that jump,” Diaz said. “She has a desire to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Senior Cam Beetel has returned to the midfield after missing last year with an injury, and the coach said, “We really missed her in terms of leadership, and she’s the one that can get from the 18 to 18 for us.” The central midfielders are juniors Isabella Lynch (2 goals, 5 assists) and Molly Snee, who have developed a good chemistry with their outside partners.
Excelling up front is junior Reagan O’Mara (9 goals, 4 assists), “who has found her rhythm in terms of putting the ball in the back of the net.” Also contributing are juniors Emily Javick (3 assists), who’s just returning from injury, Riley Cunningham (6 goals, 2 assists), who’s playing her first year of varsity, and Savannah Bryant (6 goals, 2 assists), who was hurt most of last year. Sophomore Anna Guido (5 goals, 3 assists) “has really come into her own this year as an outside attacker,” according to Diaz.
The result has been 52 goals, a healthy increase from last season’s 36.
Junior Reagan O'Mara has found her rhythm up front this year and is second on the Irish with nine goals. Courtesy photo
“I think that’s due to making a big jump, understanding the role and learning the desire to put the ball in the back of the net,” Diaz said. “We have a lot of girls contributing and that makes it hard for teams to defend us because we have so many individuals that can score goals.”
Those individuals will be put to the test in the states where, despite being the No. 6 seed, Haddonfield’s Paul VI High School is favored after reaching last year’s SJ Non-Public A final.
“When you’re the number one seed it really puts a target on your back but I think this group has really grown in terms of the composure and understanding that you have that target now,” Diaz said. “They’re excited for the challenge. They know the top eight in our bracket anybody can win. We have to come ready to play every game. Regardless of our seeding, we have to continue to hold ourselves to the standard we set this year.”
The bracket’s second-seed is Red Bank Catholic, which also gets a bye and will face the Immaculata, Somerville-St. Thomas Aquinas, Edison winner. No. 12 seed Donovan Catholic, Toms River, visits Princeton Day School Oct. 27.
In Non-Public B, 10th Seeded St. Rose, Belmar visits Timothy Christian, Piscataway, also on Oct. 27. Fifth-seeded Holy Cross hosts Moorestown Friends Oct. 31.