2003 Girls’ Lacrosse Team (L to R): Front Row: Katherine Peetz, Emily Palilonis, Sarah Masland, Whitney Douthett, Laura Giusto, Erin Donohue, Brittany Besler. Middle Row: Laura Cenker, Shirah Hamor, Andrea Duggan, Abigail Pillitteri, Portia Formento. Back Row: Coach Alli Warner (Treese),
Nicole Yesalavage, Abby Uzupis, Najah Woodby, Alexandra Feiner, Anastasia Sokol, Kathryn Hurley, Coach Jan Pittas
There is something very special about being the first. The Peddie girls’ lacrosse program began in 1975, but 28 seasons would go by before a Peddie team would win its first Prep A State Championship.
In the years leading up to the 2003 season, the Peddie girls were already knocking at the door. Many had played several seasons together. Their defense was solidly in place. But despite the steady growth in depth and experience, they still hadn’t been able to advance beyond the State semi-finals. 2003 was destined to be different. Under the guidance of coaches Alli Warner (Treese) and Jan Pittas, this team was determined to make history. Their potent offense was led by “lethal goal scorer” Whitney Douthett who was acclaimed in the press as “the best female athlete in the county.” Junior Kat Peetz was considered one of the “county’s best playmakers.” And the “clamping defense” of Brittany Besler, Laura Giusto and Emily Palilonis was credited as being key to Peddie’s undefeated success at mid-season.
The only loss in the team’s 15-1 record came in a 14-13 overtime defeat at the hands of archrival Lawrenceville in what the Trenton Times called the game of the year. But vengeance came swiftly just one week later with the Gold and Blue, in Coach Warner’s words, “totally dominating” their Big Red rivals during a 10-6 drubbing that wasn’t nearly as close as the score might suggest.
In the Prep A final, the Falcons left it all on the field, just as they had all year. Hosting the game at home, Peddie outplayed a stubborn Oak Knoll team to win 7-5. Unable to open up a commanding early lead, the team relied on what had worked all along: a stingy defense that kept the opposition from getting good looks at the goal. “This was definitely our year to do it,” Kat Peetz declared after the game. “This is a big deal!”
She was right. At season’s end, Douthett, Peetz and Shirah Hamor ranked among the top area scorers. Goalie Besler and co-defenders Giusto and Palilonis posted the region’s lowest goals-against average. Six Peddie players were selected for first or second team All-State honors. And the major New Jersey newspapers named Douthett and Warner as Player and Coach of the Year.
Perhaps equally impressive is that among the 16 players on this team, six had never played lacrosse before learning at Peddie, 13 lettered (repeatedly) in at least one other varsity sport, and nine went on to play collegiate athletics, five at the Division I level. Ranked seventh in the state, the 2003 Peddie Girls Lacrosse Team was a big deal indeed. And they had Peddie’s first-ever Prep A State Championship to prove it!