South Jersey High School Girls Lacrosse
A Look at
the South Jersey Group 4 Sectional
Championships Won by Eastern Regional in
the 2017 and 2019 Seasons . . .
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This story was written after the Vikings captured the 2017 sectional championship.
By Mike Monostra
“When I walked into the locker room before the game, we were all sitting and
thought, ‘we’re not nervous for this game,’”
“We really wanted that game, more than anything out of my four years here,” senior Jenna Carnival said.
After trailing, 6–4, at halftime, Eastern came from behind to tie the game at 11 at the end of regulation. In overtime, senior
Kaela Sierra scored the game-winning goal to give the Vikings their first-ever sectional title.
Geis said the Vikings learned a lot from their past games against Lenape and did a ton of film study leading up to the win.
“I knew so much about that team that I could tell you the color of the girls’ eyes,” Geis said. “We knew everything about
them, and I think that was a huge factor in us winning.”
Eastern went on to beat Central Jersey Group IV champion Rancocas Valley Regional High School in the state semifinals
before the Vikings’ season came to a close with a 16–4 loss in the Group IV state championship game against Bridgewater
-Raritan High School.
Head coach Katie Lee talked of the importance of winning a title for the program’s long-term future. She feels the 2017
team’s success will have a positive impact on the team for many years ahead.
“This is just setting the tone in Voorhees and saying lacrosse can be as good as any other program in this town,” Lee
said. “For a long time, I think people underestimated what we could do and what our potential was.”
Geis and the other seniors are thrilled to set a new high for Eastern girls lacrosse. Geis talks of how the team always tried
to top the program’s previous best season in 2013, where the team went 18–2, but lost in the South Jersey Group IV
Now, future Eastern players will try to match the accomplishment of the 2017 team.
“It’s such a humbling feeling that girls in sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade and girls who aren’t even born yet will
look at our team as literally setting school records,” Geis said.
This story was written after Eastern topped Cherokee, 14-4, in the 2019 South Jersey
Group 4 semifnal . . .
By Phil Anastasia
Halfway through Tuesday’s sectional semifinal, Tori Accardo sensed something wasn’t quite right with the Eastern
girls’ lacrosse team.
“We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win,” Accardo said. “We were like, ‘We have to dig deep, let’s go.’
We needed to look at ourselves and go out and play the way we know we can play.”
The second half was a different story, as top-seeded Eastern outscored Cherokee 10-1 en route to a 14-4 victory that
sent the Vikings into Friday’s South Jersey Group 4 final against second-seeded Lenape.
But what wasn’t different was Accardo’s prominent role in setting the tone for a team on a mission to make amends
for last season’s heartbreaking finish.
“She’s such a huge leader on and off the field,” Eastern coach Gretchen Kiep said of Accardo. “She’s extremely
positive and she plays with such energy. She’s just a special player.”
Accardo, a University of Cincinnati recruit, leads the Vikings with 54 goals. She scored three against Cherokee and
four in a quarterfinal win over Washington Township.
Kiep said the 5-foot-4 Accardo specializes in outmaneuvering defenders in tight spaces.
“Her cuts in the eight-meter [zone] are some of the fastest I’ve seen at the high school level,” Kiep said.
Beyond her physical skills and goal production, Accardo’s biggest contributions to the Vikings’ cause might be her
experience and leadership.
On a team loaded with talented underclassmen, with a first-year coach in Kiep, Accardo along with midfielder Dani
Mlkvy and a handful of other seniors have kept the Vikings humming along at a high level. They have a chance to
capture both the Olympic American and South Jersey Group 4 titles in the same season for the first time in program
“We have a lot of young players and Tori was always reaching out to them, making sure they felt comfortable,
making sure everybody was on the same page,” Kiep said. “She and some of the other seniors, they’ve made the
transition easy for me. They’ve been like mini-coaches.”
Accardo and Mlkvy (45 goals, 128 face-off wins) are seasoned veterans. But the Vikings feature top non-seniors
such as junior Kara Heck (51 goals, 37 assists), sophomore Jenna Casole (40 goals, 51 assists), and freshman
Ryleigh Heck (42 goals).
Accardo is a four-year varsity player. She was a starter in 2017 for the team that upset Lenape on the Indians’
field for the South Jersey Group 4 title.
And she was a starter in 2018 for the team that lost at home in the sectional final to Clearview. She calls that the
toughest setback of her high school career.
“We had beaten them twice in the regular season, but they were both close games,” Accardo said. “We knew it
would be a tough game. To lose that game on our field, it was really hard for us.
“From the first day of practice, we said our goal was to be home on Friday [for the sectional final]." Kiep said
memories of last season’s finish have fueled the Vikings, especially the seniors.
“That’s something they’ve talked about all season,” Kiep said. “That’s been their motivation.”
Playoff Recaps . . .
SOUTH JERSEY PLAYOFFS
Eastern 19, Kingsway 5: The Vikings slapped together quite the double avalanche, opening the first half
AND the second with seven goals apiece. Overall, frosh Kara Heck led the way with five goals and three assists,
Kaela Sierra added four goals and Jess Kinser/Kelli McGroarty notched two apiece.
Eastern 10, Clearview 5: Kara Heck collected four goals while soph Dani Mlkvy and Kaela Sierra added two
apiece. Mlkvy dished three assists and Cooper Cowdin posted five saves. The Vikes led at halftime, 7-4.
Eastern 12, Lenape 11 (OT): Kaela Sierra pumped a short shot into the left side of the goal with 58.7
seconds remaining in the extra session. Lenape had created a 11-11 tie with 0:54 left in regulation. Kara Heck
(four) and Savannah Slack (three, also two assists) led the goal parade, Dani Mlkvy and Kelli McGroarty
earned two assists apiece, and Cooper Cowdin scrambled for 11 saves.
Eastearn 11, Rancocas Valley 5: Kaela Sierra fired home four goals while support came from Kara Heck
and Tori Accardo (two apiece). Heck also had four assists. Cooper Cowdin totaled five saves.
Bridgewater-Raritan 16, Eastern 4: The Vikings were down, 8-1, by halftime. Kara Heck had one goal
and one assist.
SOUTH JERSEY PLAYOFFS
Eastern 16, Washington Twp. 9: Tori Accardo, Ryleigh Heck and Jenna Casole racked up four goals
apiece and the latter distributed seven assists for the Vikings, who stormed to a 12-3 halftime lead.
Camryn Silvestro added two scores while Heck notched seven draw controls and Kelli McGroarty made
Eastern 14, Cherokee 4: The Vikings exploded after gaining only a 4-3 lead by halftime. Dani Mlkvy
was triply impressive with three apiece of goals/assists and six draw controls. Ryleigh Heck also starred
ith five scores and seven DCs. Tori Accardo managed a hat trick.
Eastern 15, Lenape 5: Domination was visible by halftime, thanks to a 9-1 score. A quartet of Vikings
could be found in Club Hat Trick -- Tori Accardo (also two assists), Jenna Casole (likewise), Ryleigh
Heck and Dan Mlkvy (nine draw controls). Kelli McGroarty made seven stops.
Eastern 9, Princeton 8: After making one of her seven saves, Kelli McGroarty found Jenna Casole for
what turned out to be a mad dash to the winning goal with 7 1/2 minutes remaining. The Vikings won the
draw and ran out the clock from there. Dani Mlkvy (three goals) and Ryleigh Heck (two) halved eight
Ridgewood 9, Eastern 4: With 22 1/2 minutes remaining, the Vikings experienced quite the lucky
break as a forward, straight-out-front pass from Kelsea Barratt was not caught by a teammate. The ball
was also missed by the goalie, nestled into the top of the net and gave Eastern a 4-3 lead. Alas,
Ridgewood ruled the roost from there.