4-foot-11 freshman is coming up big

Posted: May 31, 2012

Neither play was designed for Gianna Bowe to be the hero.

An unassuming, 4-foot-11 freshman in command of the two biggest moments in her team's history - that's not typically how it's drawn up.

But here was Bowe, twice improvising off a botched play, scoring the winning goal in the sectional Group 4 semifinals against Lenape and in overtime of the championship game against Washington Township - marking the Clearview girls' lacrosse team's first sectional title in its nine-year history.

"She remained totally poised and confident," Clearview coach Megan Conklin said. "I couldn't ask for anything more from her."

That's pretty much the theme of this season for Clearview.

"Our freshmen play like seniors," said Conklin, whose Pioneers (17-4) will play for the state Group 4 title Thursday at Robbinsville against two-time defending Tournament of Champions winner Ridgewood (21-2).

"I think our seniors enable that mind-set. The leadership we have this year is just amazing. They encourage anybody to step up."

Since the program began in 2004, Clearview has steadily established itself as one of the premier girls' lacrosse programs in South Jersey.

That players such as Bowe have transitioned seamlessly to varsity lacrosse - on the heels of one of Clearview's biggest offseason turnovers - is further evidence that the Pioneers' formula for success is working.

"Everyone definitely accepted me from my first day on the team," Bowe said. "The seniors don't take on the freshmen - it's like we're all in the same grade. They give me the confidence to do well. They've helped me achieve every one of my goals this season."

Of course, Bowe, whom Conklin described as a "tremendously hard worker," has helped herself just as much.

Beyond scoring big goals, the tenacious and scrappy Bowe has established herself as one of South Jersey's top draw controllers.

Her 116 draw controls are a Clearview single-season record. The previous mark, 102, was set by Michelle Tumolo, now starring at Syracuse.

"I don't think people really realize just how good she is at controlling the draw ball," Conklin said. "Number one, she's extremely quick. And number two, she's lefthanded.

"Most girls do a lefthanded draw. So Gianna has the ability to react quickly with her dominant hand, whereas most girls are reacting with their nondominant hand. And she has great timing."

Said Bowe: "I've been taking draws since I was in sixth grade. But a lot of people just don't put the shortest girl on the team on the draw. I just try to get as low as I can and try to use my height as an advantage, because they can't come over top of me."

Her explanation alone displays a savvy not generally seen in freshmen. But her confidence might be the biggest reason that she has emerged as a postseason hero.

It's an attitude harnessed and embraced by her team, and one her teammates will lean on against Ridgewood.

"I believe in myself," Bowe said. "If I can do it in practice, I can do it in a game. I guess those two goals I scored just came down to me trying to do what I do best."

Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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