Duo spearheading Northern Burlington rise

Posted: May 03, 2013

Nick Hammell describes himself as a "shake and bake" guy.

"I rely a lot on athleticism. I do whatever I have to do to get by defenders, whatever comes natural," he said.

Pat Carver is more of a bulldog.

"I'm fearless," he said. "I'll put my head down, try to grind it out, and go to the net. And I'm always fighting to create my own opportunities off the ball - stay on the backside, always expect the ball, cut when no one's looking."

Aside from the fact that the two aren't particularly conventional, there aren't many similarities in the styles of Hammell and Carver.

But they've produced strikingly similar results.

Hammell, a senior, and Carver, a junior, are midfielders on the Northern Burlington boys' lacrosse team. And they are among the state's leading scorers.

Hammell is South Jersey's leading scorer with 53 goals. Carver is second in the area with 44.

The two have led the Greyhounds to an 8-5 record. Those eight wins are more than double the number that Northern Burlington totaled in the previous two seasons combined.

"We've been focusing on the basics, getting the simple stuff down," said Hammell, who, in Tuesday's loss to West Windsor-Plainsboro South, became the first Northern Burlington lacrosse player to reach 100 career goals.

"That's what it's all about. We've been trying to lay that groundwork and foundation, and it's been paying off."

Building a solid foundation happens to be the specialty of Northern Burlington's second-year coach, Chris Keleher.

Asked for a rundown of his coaching resumé, Keleher widened his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Let's see," he said. "I've coached at Father Judge [in Philadelphia]. I started the program at Camden Catholic. I started the program at Cherry Hill West. I started the program at Haddonfield. And this is my 15th year as a head coach."

Allowing players to capitalize on their strengths is part of what Keleher has tried to accomplish this season, and it has been the key to the success of Hammell and Carver.

"You have to remember that this is high school lacrosse," Keleher said. "If you come in with a system, you may not have the kids to run your system. You have to figure out what your team does well and play to your strengths, stay away from your weaknesses, and you have to be able to adapt."

The Greyhounds aren't the most polished team, but they play with energy and a type of fearless abandon that often leads to postseason success.

"We're not going to be one of the top-seeded teams," Carver said. "But we think we can compete with anyone. I want to see us upset some teams and just keep building for next year."

Signature win. Even before Saturday's victory, the West Deptford girls' lacrosse team was having a nice season by most standards.

The Eagles were 8-2, with convincing wins over several solid programs.

"But [Saturday] was the real marquee win we've been looking for," coach Julie Catrambone said of a 13-10 victory over Haddonfield, at the time the No. 7 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings.

"Haddonfield is a great team and a great program. And we've been working so hard to build toward a win like that."

The well-rounded Eagles (10-2) are led by senior Rachel Krott, among South Jersey's leading scorers with 47 goals, and goalie Alyssa Sorentino, who was particularly strong in the win over Haddonfield (6-3).

With a 6-0 record in their division, the Eagles already have clinched at least a share of the Olympic Conference National title. Collingswood, which West Deptford has already beaten twice, is a distant second at 4-2.

"Our first team goal was to get that headline win, and our other team goal is to win the division," said Catrambone, in her fourth year coaching West Deptford. "It's just been a really nice season for us so far, and it's because of the hard work the players have put in."

Contact Chris Melchiorre

at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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