Two years ago, five freshmen at Pinkerton found their way onto a girls lacrosse team that was setting out to defend its third Division 1 state championship in four seasons.
The new Astros admitted they were a bit awestruck, even timid, looking at the talented players ahead of them when it all started. Now, though, the seasoned veterans have a much different vantage point.
Prior to the start of their junior campaign, each one committed to play college lacrosse, with four headed to the Division 1 level and the fifth headed to a Division 2 program ranked in the top 25. With their futures sorted, their focus is on getting Pinkerton back to the top.
Lauren Lisauskas, Madison Daziel, Zoe Howe, Hailey Peredna and Lily Auger are on a mission.
“Everyone wants a state championship,” Lisauskas said. “Our group, the people I’ve been playing with since I was little, we want to do that. A lot.”
Pinkerton head coach Rob Daziel has been coaching the girls in some capacity since they were six or seven years old, he estimates. Many of them joined forces with Derry youth lacrosse by that time, and they were all playing club for the NH Tomahawks by the fifth or sixth grade.
Coining the group as “the deepest class I’ve had of freshmen,” the coach knew the level of talent he had right from the jump.
“All five came in with a right and left hand and good lax IQ,” Rob Daziel said. “It took a little while to get ready for the high school game, but halfway through the season, they were strong high school players.”
Howe recalled the “overwhelming” feeling of becoming a part of the Astros so early. But, as time goes on, she and her teammates have forgotten the players that had to do tasks like clean up the field after practice. Things are much different now.
“As a freshman, I was super nervous,” Peredna said. “When I got on the field, I just felt nervous in my head. Now I feel confident. As a junior class, we feel like we’re leaders and we don’t have as many nerves as we used to.”
FUTURES ARE BRIGHT
That’s become clear, as all five of those juniors have played their way to college offers. Madison Daziel committed first, while on a September visit at Winthrop University. Lisauskas pledged her future to Georgetown University while visiting on Halloween.
In December, Auger committed to Bryant, followed by Peredna’s decision to head to UMass Lowell in January. Finally, Howe elected to head to the University of Mount Olive in February.
All five made their college decisions ahead of their junior campaigns, and they’ve already felt it pay off in many ways.
“It was really stressful, going through all that,” Auger said. “Now that I know where I’m going, I’m happy about it. You have more confidence on the field, too.”
Rob Daziel said the players have realized the caliber at which they can perform, thanks in large part to the attention they’ve drawn from the next level.
In other ways, though, the players can feel the slight burden that comes with committing to play at the next level.
“It’s a weight lifted, but it kind of also gives you another weight in the sense that you kind of have to live up to the name,” Lisauskas said. “I can feel the pressure, but it’s cool because the five girls are all commits, too...we’re strong players and that puts pressure on all of us and our team to live up to what we’re headed toward.”
Combine the five juniors with three seniors that are committed to play in college as well, along with a fourth that Rob Daziel said may snatch a walk-on spot somewhere, too. Dani Martineau (Sacred Heart University), Kiley Davis (Coastal Carolina University) and Sydney Dery (Southern New Hampshire University), along with Emily Wong, comprise a practically equally loaded senior class.
Those seniors were freshmen when Pinkerton won the 2016 state championship. In the two years since, the Astros have only made it as far as the state semifinals.
Madison Daziel said she’s been fortunate enough to be on talented Pinkerton teams in her few years there, but this year’s edition is “one of the better teams” she’s played on.
Her father, Rob, echoed that sentiment, saying it’s “definitely one of the best teams, talent-wise” he’s coached, and one of the deepest, too. The players are aware of that, and know what they’re after.
“That’s the first thing we talked about this year, what we want,” Peredna said. “Every one of us said a state championship.”
The team has a common goal, and it’s loaded with talent and a deep-seated hunger. The five juniors all agreed that playing for Pinkerton brings something different from their club experiences.
Gunning for a state title is a lot different than trying to impress college coaches, which is something those Astros don’t have to worry about as much anymore.
“Club is more for yourself,” Howe said. “At Pinkerton, we all love each other, know our strengths and weaknesses and want to win for each other. It makes us team players.”
TEAMMATES AND FRIENDS
The chemistry has been there for the five juniors since they played youth lacrosse and club lacrosse years ago, and it extends all over the field.
Rob Daziel said that camaraderie has been there long, and the philosophies of him and his staff don’t change. The players know what is expected of them and are able to slot in and do their jobs.
Those jobs have changed a lot over the past few years for the once-wide-eyed freshmen, turned junior leaders. Hailed as potential impact players coming onto the scene as newcomers, they proved to be just that, and then some, in their first two seasons.
The group of “best friends” is now ready to lead Pinkerton to the pinnacle.
“It all started with us just being friends and wanting to play together and it built into something we want to do for our futures,” Lisauskas said. “It’s really special, and I hope we can make something out of it.”
When Lily Auger arrives at Bryant in 2020, she’ll join her brother, Ryan, who is a standout senior for the Pinkerton boys lacrosse team. She said the family ties played a large part in her decision, choosing Bryant over Quinnipiac University and UMass Lowell.
Zoe Howe will become the fourth Pinkerton player to head to the University of Mount Olive, which she selected over UMass Lowell. Howe follows Riann Daziel (Class of 2012), Nola Wesche (2016) and Meaghan Michaud (2018) at Mount Olive.
Hailey Peredna will get shoulder surgery after the season and won’t be able to play club lacrosse this summer, so she’s extra grateful that she was able to commit to UMass Lowell, with offers from Sacred Heart University and Bryant as well. If she wasn’t committed now, she said her chances would have slimmed without the chance to play this summer.
Madison Daziel will head to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, passing up options like Campbell University and Coastal Carolina University. Her sister lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and she decided that having family nearby, combined with warm weather, would create the best spot for her.
Lauren Lisauskas selected Georgetown over a host of high-level schools. Stanford University, University of Notre Dame, Duke University and Stony Brook University were her top options, but the moment she stepped on campus at Georgetown, “it felt like home.”