It’s always a significant milestone when a girls lacrosse player scores her 100th career goal.
Players typically reach that coveted plateau after two or three seasons.
Kira Sides is different.
For the second consecutive season, the Middle Township junior finished with 100-plus goals — a rare achievement.
Sides scored 105 goals and led the Panthers to the Cape-Atlantic League National Division title and the South Jersey Group II semifinals this spring. She also had 37 assists and 21 ground balls. Sides finished with a CAL-leading 142 points.
Sides is The Press Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.
“It’s definitely a great accomplishment,” said Sides, 17, of Cape May Court House. “But I couldn’t have done it without the support of my teammates and my coaches. It’s such a great program, and the girls are so nice. I love my teammates.”
Sides, a team captain, has scored 290 goals and added 115 assists for 405 points during her three-year career. Last season, she led the state with 129 goals and had 57 assist for a state-leading 186 points.
“Having a great passer like Maddie Barber (who had 69 assists this season) only highlights Kira,” Middle coach Tina Prickett said. “But if you were to look at her goals and see the ones that were unassisted, it speaks volumes.
“I’ve been coaching for the past 13 years (at the collegiate and high school level), and I think Kira Sides is one of the most dynamic players I ever coached. She makes it very difficult to play defense on her.”
Sides scored the winning-goal in overtime against West Deptford in the S.J. Group II quarterfinals. The Panthers then lost 9-8 to Camden Catholic in the semifinals.
Last season, Middle lost 12-6 to the Irish in the semifinals.
“Overall, I think our season was pretty good,” Sides said. “Last year, Camden Catholic beat us easily, and this year it was closer. Hopefully, we keep getting better and get further into the playoffs.”
Sides also plays soccer and basketball for Middle. She has been playing lacrosse since fourth grade.
Prickett said Sides is double-teamed at practice, which helps Sides and the defense prepare for more intense competition.
“I just want a state championship for these kids,” the second-year coach said. “It stinks we didn’t get it this year, but that is always our goal and the goals they set for themselves.
“And I know I’m getting 100 percent from Kira. She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.”
Sides helped the Panthers win their first 11 games this season and remain undefeated against CAL National Division opponents. Middle finished 15-3.
And her motivation to score 100-plus goals again next season?
“Just playing well and having fun,” Sides said. “Usually when I don’t have a good game, I’m kind of upset and down on myself. So, just having a good time with my friends and playing well, it’s just the best feeling.”
Team and Coach of the Year
Ocean City coach Alyssa Morrison was confident this season would be successful.
That’s because the Red Raiders featured a strong, experienced senior class.
“I knew going into the season that the talent wasn’t going to be lacking,” Morrison said. “But they definitely had to prove that their leadership skills were present.”
And the seniors proved that from the start.
Ocean City captured the CAL American Division title and advanced to the S.J. Group III finals for the second consecutive season. The Red Raiders finished 19-3 and were the 11th-ranked team in the state, as ranked by NJ.com.
Ocean City is The Press Team of the Year, and Morrison is Coach of the Year.
“As a coach, this was my most enjoyable season,” Morrison said. “I had so much fun with them. They were so good at balancing hard work, dedication and being effect at practice, but also had a lot of fun and made each other laugh.
“This season was so great.”
Danielle Donoghue, one of the best players in the state, led the team with 66 goals and added 55 assists. The senior had 162 draw controls and 42 ground balls. She finished her Red Raiders career with 505 draw controls and 171 assists, both program records.
Donoghue, who will attend NCAA Division I Mount St. Mary’s University next year, had 185 career goals and 234 ground balls.
Senior atack Emily DiMarino scored 58 goals and 16 assists. She finished second in school history with 252 career goals. Anna Devlin had 45 goals and 26 assists, while Ashley Devlin had 39 goals and 24 assists.
The defense was led by senior Reese Bloomstead, junior Molly Reardon and junior goaltender Abbey Fenton.
“I’m really proud of this senior class,” Morrison said. “We had great seasons in the past, but I feel this was our breakout season.”
The Red Raiders owned wins against talented out-of-conference teams, including Red Bank Catholic, Eastern Regional, Central Regional, Seneca and Lancaster (New York). They were undefeated against CAL opponents, including an overtime thriller against Middle Township.
“I think this year proved we can handle anything South Jersey throws at us. And we won some good games out of state. We’re not just a CAL team anymore, we are a South Jersey team.”