2023 Gazette Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year: Ella Laliberte, Granby
|Published: 07-27-2023 7:53 PM
With just seconds left in her final high school lacrosse game, Granby’s Ella Laliberte was one tally away from hitting 300 career goals.
Everyone on her team knew, including Laliberte, and they quickly came up with a simple but effective plan of attack – get Ella the ball, at all costs. Usually, Laliberte can score goals as easy as breathing – she often made the impossible look effortless. But for whatever reason, the 300-goal milestone continued to elude her as she fired shot after shot at the net.
“They got it to me four times in a row and I missed four times,” Laliberte said ruefully. “But then I was at the bottom of the goal, on the side of it around the crease. One of my teammates had the ball and I wasn’t even ready for it. I didn’t think they were going to pass it and all of a sudden they were at the top of the 12 (meter fan line) and passing me the ball, this beautiful pass. I just shot it and it went in and it was the best feeling ever... it was such a relief.”
That feat was made even more impressive by the fact that earlier in the season, Laliberte had already hit another pair of milestones – 200 career goals and 300 career points. Against all odds, Laliberte notched an unbelievable 110 goals and 21 assists during the 2023 season for 131 points, often while being double and tripled teamed by her opponents. She finished her high school career with 300 goals and 56 assists. For that effort, Laliberte was selected as the 2023 Daily Hampshire Gazette Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.
Laliberte is a natural athlete, playing both soccer and basketball in addition to lacrosse. She grew up playing soccer, never touching a lacrosse stick until she joined Granby’s lacrosse program as a seventh grader. There were some similarities to soccer, but she still had a lot to learn in terms of game play.
“I’m used to playing soccer and that’s (using) my feet and stuff, and then going to playing lacrosse and having to use my eye-hand coordination and learn how to cradle the ball was definitely a big learning curve,” Laliberte said. “I just started to enjoy it way more than basketball. I’ve played soccer since I can’t even remember, so picking up a new sport, I definitely had more of an enjoyment of practicing and learning different things.”
Laliberte was coached by Allie Roy for most of her career, beginning her second year as an eighth grader up until her junior season. The two became close during their time as coach and player, and Roy knew she had someone special during one game in particular back in Laliberte’s eighth-grade season.
“We were playing against Westfield, who is an absolutely great team… I just remember that was when I was like, ‘this girl is different, she’s something different,’” said Roy. “We only lost by one or two goals and it shouldn’t have even been a close game… and Ella went out and scored six goals as an eighth-grader. I was speechless. Everybody was like ‘who is this girl?’ and I’m like ‘She’s gonna be great’ and she was.”
Laliberte’s coach this year, Gary O’Grady, knew he was getting a player that was electric on the field. But what he loved most about Laliberte was how she was also a good person and leader. O’Grady knows lacrosse, but having a senior like Laliberte on the team who could help out with the younger players and also keep practices fun and light was an invaluable addition during his first year with the Rams.
“She made my job a lot easier… she was helpful to everybody,” O’Grady said. “She had the knack of making things fun, not taking things too seriously and being able to laugh at the team or at herself when maybe she made a mistake or someone made a bad play. She had the knack of lightening things up.”
Besides her leadership abilities, O’Grady praised Laliberte’s hustle above all else. Rarely can anyone catch her on the field when she gets going, and it’s how she usually puts herself in the most dangerous scoring positions. That, along with her determination, was what allowed her to reach 300 goals in her final contest.
It’s a moment that Laliberte will cherish for a long time. Even though her team was behind, even though it would mean the end of the season and her high school lacrosse career, Laliberte and her teammates celebrated like none of that mattered when her 300th goal found the back of the net. All season, Laliberte said, she and her teammates have wanted to see each other succeed and accomplish their goals. In that moment, everyone was happy for their captain to have gotten one more milestone to cap off an extraordinary career.
“In that moment, I think we all forgot that it was our last game, that we had seconds left in this game, and they all ran over to me and we all hugged and they all celebrated with me for that accomplishment which was really nice,” Laliberte said. “That’s exactly what I was looking for out of the season.”
FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS
Jordyn Balint, sophomore, South Hadley
Silvia Bastek, senior, Hampshire
Cedar Conrad, junior, Amherst
Chloe Denhart, senior, Northampton
Evie Gingras, junior, South Hadley
Ella Laliberte, senior, Granby
Madysen Lepage, junior, Belchertown
Paige Magner, junior, Belchertown
Samantha Moran, senior, Hampshire
Samantha Pacunas, senior, Belchertown
Anna Puttick, junior, Hampshire
Talia Sadiq, junior, Amherst
April Schilling, senior, Amherst
Katherine Vallee, senior, Granby
Margaret Watkins, sophomore, South Hadley
Michelle Zaluga, senior, Belchertown
SECOND TEAM ALL-STARS
Ava Asselin, sophomore South Hadley
Eliana Britton, South Hadley
Jaylidelh Caraballo, senior, Amherst
Abi Como, junior, Amherst
Olivia Corbin, junior, Belchertown
Jill Crosby, junior, Amherst
Kelly-Lynne Kennedy, sophomore, Granby
Raquel Losty, sophomore, South Hadley
Eloise Ruberti, senior, Northampton
Ava Saunders, sophomore, Granby
Francesca Sloan, junior, Amherst
Adrien Wise, senior, Belchertown
Abby Hennessy, junior, Hampshire
Lydia Kicza, sophomore, Granby
Mylin Laliberte, freshman, Granby
Ava-Elizabeth Loughman, freshman, Granby
Brenna Moreno, eighth grade, Granby
Hailey Raffa, senior, Hampshire
Jenna Schilling, senior, Amherst
Mary Thibault, sophomore, Hampshire
Kalli White, eighth grade, Granby
Molly Zumbrowski, sophomore, Granby