Eliza O’Connor couldn’t have asked for a better career as a member of the North Haven girls’ lacrosse team. Eliza excelled at the offensive end of the field for the Nighthawks and savored every second she led the team as a senior captain that year, helping North Haven increase its overall wins beginning in the 2021 season.
Eliza’s lacrosse career began shortly before she joined the Nighthawks. Eliza grew up playing club lacrosse on Team 203 and also participated in the Nor’Easter Lacrosse program while in high school. These experiences increased Eliza’s chances of success when she signed on for North Haven.
“I think it helped me a lot because we play in SCC and a lot of the best girls in SCC play for Nor’easter. It was great to be able to play with them,” says Eliza. “It’s helped me learn the pace of the game a lot better, and I feel like it’s helped my lacrosse IQ a bit just to be able to play at a pretty high level with girls.”
When she picked up her first lacrosse stick in 2nd grade and started improving, Eliza knew it was meant to be. Eliza played other sports growing up, but lacrosse was the one she was most passionate about. Eliza wanted to pass her passion for the game on to the North Haven team and she did just that.
Eliza’s passion for lacrosse is complemented by the love she has for her teammates.
Eliza grew closer to her teammates as her career progressed, particularly the group of seniors she competed with each season. Eliza got to know every player on the North Haven roster, which made her time on the program very enjoyable. Eliza knew how important each member of the club was in executing the Nighthawks’ game plan.
“We were always in a good mood and looked forward to playing together. When someone makes a big play in defence, midfield or offense, or our goalkeeper makes a stop, it only makes you more motivated,” says Eliza. “You want to do your part because you know how hard this person works and how hard they worked to make this game.”
After a slow start to her senior season, Eliza broke out big when North Haven took on Berlin on April 30. The Nighthawks won a close fight by a 14-13 score with Eliza scoring 5 goals in the win. The emotion and intensity of this game was a major highlight of Eliza’s farewell campaign.
“They had a lot of chances to come back but we held them back. For me personally, it was something of a breakout moment,” says Eliza. “I started the season a bit slowly, so that kind of helped me and strengthened me in the second half of the season. I think that was one of our best team performances because we didn’t give up and in the end we went through with a win.”
Head coach Bernie Pellegrino was happy to have a player of Eliza’s skill patrolling the offensive end of the field for the Nighthawks. Playing mostly behind the net as a member of North Haven’s attack, Eliza proved a strong offense that year, scoring 29 goals, which was the second-most on the team. Coach Pellegrino describes Eliza as an integral part of the Nighthawks offense and also admires the leadership qualities she brought to the team as a senior captain.
“Your contribution was quite significant. More importantly, as one of our captains, Eliza has been a great leader,” says Pellegrino. “Your management style is a kind of role model. She’s not a big hooter or howler, but she leads quietly by doing everything she’s supposed to do. Eliza was just a tireless worker and I think the other girls followed suit in that regard.”
Eliza has set different goals for her senior season than she has in previous years. She wanted to become a better all-around player while still making her mark on the scoreboard. Eliza was hungry early in the season and her all-around performance certainly reflected that attitude.
“I didn’t just want to be a goalscorer. Of course scoring goals is great and I love scoring goals, but I wanted to have more assists this year and create turnover with our attacking driving style,” says Eliza. “I wanted to be able to make plays that aren’t always on the scorer list. If there is a ground ball, I wanted it. I wanted to be a braver player this year.”
Eliza’s contributions helped the Nighthawks improve their overall wins by four wins this year compared to the 2021 campaign. As the offensive leader, Eliza held her teammates accountable and did whatever it took to put them in the best position for success. The bonds Eliza has formed with her lacrosse peers will be close to her heart for the rest of her life. Competing for North Haven, Eliza was also inspired to play for her late mother, Alicia, who died in 2016.
“For me, family is really big.
My mom died when I was in middle school,” says Eliza. “She loved going to all the games and of course she’s gone so I play for her when I can. I try to play for them and that will motivate me.”
After dedicating herself to the advancement of North Haven’s girls’ lacrosse program, Eliza will ditch her cleated shoes when she arrives at the College of Holy Cross campus in Worcester, Massachusetts this fall. Eliza considers studying either English or Political Science at school.
Eliza’s career with the Nighthawks has helped her grow into a young adult ready to face the challenges of the next chapter in her life. While her lacrosse career may come to an end, Eliza will forever cherish the bonds she forged with her teammates and the memories they created together on the field.
“It’s been great to be a part of it every year. With our program, I feel like everyone is so happy to be a part of it. We might not have had the best records or greatest success over the years, but everyone was dying to be there and liked each other. It was a lot of fun and we worked hard every day. I will just miss those connections and just exercise with my friends every day.”
Eliza O’Connor proved an outstanding leader and reliable goalscorer when she served as senior captain of the North Haven girls’ lacrosse team during the 2022 season. Photo courtesy of Eliza O’Connor