“The Hannah” turns Demarest into a winner by Sean Farrell of The Record
They call it “The Hannah” in Demarest.
One move has the Norsewomen moving up the ranks in Bergen County.
One play has made Hannah Schwartz among the hardest scorers to stop.
It’s a simple stutter step – just as she would use on the basketball court – that’s allowed her to find space even with two or three players in her path.
About half of her 35 goals this season came that way.
“Nobody can stop it,” coach Alexandra Champ said. “That’s her signature move. She’ll use it to such a huge advantage. She’ll go right at you, then back up like she’s not going to go. As soon as you get on your heels, she’s past you.”
Schwartz is part of a growing lacrosse culture at NV/Demarest.
The Norsewomen (4-2) are off to their best start in years.
They are beating opponents they once lost to. Their offense is young and talented, led mostly by juniors or sophomores like Jamie Cottrell, Samantha Gordon and Ally Maisel.
There’s even a feeder program that Champ recently started to sustain that success.
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People are starting to take notice.
“In school, people are like ‘I love this girls lacrosse takeover,’” said Schwartz, a junior midfielder/attack.
“No one used to recognize us or talk about us. Now people in the school are realizing that we’re actually a good team. It’s completely different.”
The program has taken a 180 over the last 12 months.
Simple skills like throwing and catching didn’t come easy when Champ took over last season.
The team played what she called “amoeba ball”, with everyone forming a huddle following the action.
“It was a big free-for-all,” Champ said. “The whole first month was spent learning the basics.”
Name tags were the only way the coach could identify players at first.
But Schwartz stood out immediately. She was part of a small group who came with lacrosse experience, having played in the Old Tappan recreation program after picking up the game in fourth grade.
“She’s quiet, but you can see that she just has this determined look,” Champ said. “She’s thinks ‘I’m going to change this around right now’. And she can change the whole momentum of a game. She has that power.”
Schwartz makes the game look so easy that it often doesn’t seem like she’s trying.
It doesn’t matter that the defenders are draped around her. She can always pull out “The Hannah” and take over a game.
That’s what happened in Monday’s 16-8 win over Passaic Tech, when she scored five of her eight goals in the second half.
“Every day when I’m playing lacrosse, I realize how much basketball is similar,” said Schwartz, who’s at 110 career goals. “Playing both helps. I’ve learned things in basketball that I can use in lacrosse, and I’ve learned things in lacrosse that I can use in basketball.”
Even her teammates, who know what’s coming in practice, don’t have an answer.
“She’s so fast,” sophomore defender Gabi Cammalleri said. “I hate playing on Hannah. Sometimes, I do [stop her]. But usually no.”
Schwartz doesn’t know yet if college lacrosse is in her future. The focus is finding a good pre-med program and becoming a doctor, just like her parents. A 4.6 GPA should give her some good options.
For now, she’s just happy to be the girl with that move that’s confusing defenders and infusing a once-downtrodden program with hope.
“The energy is so different,” Schwartz said. “Everyone is so excited to be here. We’re starting to realize that we’re good. That there’s something here.”