Central Regional’s Lewis Displays Athletic, Academic Prowess

Hannah Lewis advances the ball toward the goal for the Central Regional High School Golden Eagles. (Photo courtesy Mike Franco)

  BERKELEY – Put a lacrosse stick in Hannah Lewis’ hands and there’s excellence.

  Put a soccer ball at her feet and there’s excellence.

  Put a football in her hands and there’s excellence.

  Put a textbook in front of her and there’s excellence.

  Put a computer in front of her and there’s excellence.

  By now, you probably get the idea – the recent Central Regional High School graduate is excellent in all that she does.

  Take lacrosse for example.

  All the attack did was turn the Golden Eagles’ record book into her biography, setting school records in career points (353), single-season points (123), career goals (320), single-season goals (110), single-season ground balls (98), career ground balls (260), single-season draw controls (108) and career draw controls (289).

  As a senior, she added 13 assists, 87 ground balls, 90 draw controls and 39 forced turnovers. Lewis, whose freshman season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, played three varsity seasons.  

  She capped her career with Shore Conference Class A South Player of the Year, first-team All-Ocean County, first-team All-Shore and third-team All-Group IV honors.   

  Take soccer for another example.

Hannah Lewis (7) was one of the Shore Conference’s top soccer players for the Central Regional Golden Eagles. (Photo courtesy Mike Franco)

  She erupted for a Shore Conference high 23 goals and added three assists as a senior. She was named the Class A South Player of the Year, the Ocean County Player of the Year, first-team All-Shore, first-team Class A South, first-team All-Ocean County, third-team All-Group IV and among the top 20 players in the Central Region of New Jersey. And she was honored as the Golden Eagles’ Most Valuable Player.

 And for yet another example, she earned All-Shore honors, starring at quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back as a member of her school’s first-year club flag football team. She tossed three touchdown passes, caught eight touchdown passes and made four interceptions. Lewis excelled in lacrosse and flag football although the sports were played simultaneously during the spring.   

  Despite keeping a pace that would exhaust an Olympic marathon champion, Lewis starred in the classroom as she was a member of the National Honor Society, the Math Honor Society, the Science Honor Society, the English Honor Society and the History Honor Society as a sophomore, junior and senior.

  During her senior year, Lewis was enrolled in Advanced Placement psychology, Advanced Placement literature, Honors calculus, Honors anatomy and Honors physiology, physical education, nutrition and sports performance and history through sports. She was a volunteer at the New Beginnings Church as an eighth-grader and freshman, working with children ages 3-12.        

  “I managed to do well both in the classroom and on the field by maintaining a healthy balance between my studies and training,” Lewis said. “I take school very seriously and always put academics first. However, my constant drive to complete assignments without procrastination allowed me to have more time and freedom to train and also focus on athletics. Doing well in the classroom and on the field was definitely tough, but staying focused and constantly working hard helped me see success in both areas.”

  Lewis began her day around 4:30 a.m.

  “I managed my time by waking up early so that I could get in the gym each day before school,” she said. “I was always super busy after school with practices, games and homework. I got my lifts and runs in during early mornings. I developed a lot of strength in the gym. I am mentally tough when it comes to sports.

  “My drive to reach my fullest potential has been a huge motivator for me to do well in sports and  academics. I yearn to excel and succeed in everything I do and work extremely hard in order to fulfill that.”

  Lewis lives by the slogan, “Prove all wrong.” One of her coaches, Lauren Koenig, provided her with the words, which adorn a bracelet she wears. Koenig presented Lewis with the bracelet as a graduation gift. 

Hannah Lewis competes in flag football at the club level for Central Regional. (Photo courtesy Mike Franco)

  “It has played a big role in all of my success,” Lewis said. “I wish I had the bracelet with me for my whole career. It’s a good reminder to have – to never let others bring me down. She never let me doubt myself. She always gave me confidence. She always had my back.”

  Central lacrosse coach Cayla Linfante is impressed with Lewis’ mental makeup.

  “Hannah is so successful because she is determined and works hard toward achieving her goals,” Linfante said. “She sees either a challenge or an obstacle and rises to the challenge. She continues to perfect her craft and works hard during the offseason.”

  “I am never scared to take on a challenge,” Lewis said. “I don’t let obstacles hold me back. No matter the deficit, I always have a positive attitude and a positive mindset.”  

  Lewis brings several athletic gifts to lacrosse.

  “Her natural athletic ability is a huge advantage,” Linfante said. “She brings skill, speed, quick footwork and vision for the next play and goal.”

  “My strength is the way I read the field,” Lewis said. “I am always thinking. I try to be creative. I work hard at ripping the ball from the outside to the eight-meter line. I usually put it in the net. I also work hard on dodging. Lacrosse is my favorite sport. I love the game and the people around me. It’s a good environment.”  

  The 5-foot-11 Lewis puts her height to good use.

  “Her length creates opportunities and puts her in a good position to attack on the field from either the draw or on defense,” Linfante said. “Her long extension forced many turnovers and draw controls throughout her career.”

  A 150-pounder, Lewis attracted plenty of company from defenders.

  “She faced many double teams,” Linfante said. “She was also face guarded. Hannah took it as a challenge and kept fighting for the ball and a shot on goal.”

  While serving as an opposing coach. Linfante saw Lewis play for the first time during her sophomore season.

  “I noticed how greatly skilled, athletic and knowledgeable she was of lacrosse,” Linfante said. “Since I have known Hannah, she has grown into a blossoming young woman and athlete. Her desire to always want to be better and improve her game and herself is the growth you want to see in a high school athlete. She took charge during her senior year and paved the way for her teammates.”

  Lewis displayed strong leadership.

Recent Central Regional High School graduate Hannah Lewis signs her National Letter of Intent to play women’s lacrosse at James Madison University. Observing from left to right are her dad, Allan Lewis; brother, Addison Lewis; and mother, Jennifer Lewis. (Photo courtesy Central Regional School District)

  “She is competitive by nature,” Linfante said. “She is a natural leader and athlete who is always looking to improve her game and herself. Her competitive spirit does not interfere with the compassionate and supportive nature she brings to the people around her. She always looks to go above and beyond to be nice to her teammates and peers and be a role model. She is always looking to give pointers to her younger, learning teammates. She helps direct and put her teammates in good positions to be successful.”

  Lewis will be missed.

  “The legacy she leaves is her love of the sport, her desire to be great and the support of her teammates,” Linfante said. “Her leadership, compassion and drive will be greatly missed on and off the field.”

  “I am glad I was able to bring a good name to Central lacrosse,” Lewis said. “I am glad I was able to inspire other girls to try playing it. There is no feeder program here. I am sure there are a ton of girls who will love it if they try playing it.”       

  The Golden Eagles won a program record 16 games and lost four during Lewis’ senior season. Lewis, senior middie Riley Coltenback and senior goalie Evelyn Rauscher captained the team, second in Class A South at 6-1 in 2022.

  “It’s the record that I am most proud of,” Lewis said. “It shows that our work paid off. We all played for each other. We all worked for the same goal – to put Central on the map. There was a ton of chaos. A lot of us were not big lacrosse players but we all contributed in our own ways. At times, it was a little bit messy, but it all worked out.”      

  “Hannah’s drive to win really pushed her teammates to want the same outcome as well,” Linfante said.

  Lewis said she enjoyed playing for Linfante.

  “I loved playing for her,” Lewis said. “She is a very intense and very driven coach. She had our best interests in mind. We butted heads quite a bit, but she taught me how to persevere and stay determined. She constantly wanted us working hard. If we did not play our ‘A’ game, she told us to wake up. If not for her telling us to work hard, I don’t feel we would have had the success that we had.”         

  Recruited as an attack, Lewis will continue her career at James Madison University, winner of the NCAA Division I Tournament in 2018. She chose the Dukes over Rutgers University, the University of Connecticut, Boston University, Stanford University and Hofstra University.

  “Prior to the recruiting process, I had no idea what JMU was,” said Lewis, who will study kinesiology. “The recruiting process began during my junior year and I noticed that the coach (Shelley Klaes, who guided the Dukes to the national title), had a ton of energy. I spoke to the coaching staff and the team and visited the campus (in Harrisonburg,Va.) and fell in love with it.

 “Signing my National Letter of Intent was crazy. It was such a feeling of accomplishment as I knew that all of my hard work paid off. Everything fell into place after years of hard work. It was a really great feeling.”     

  The collegiate game features a 90-second shot clock.

  “I have to get used to the college level and speed of play,” Lewis said. “The college game is way faster than the high school game because of the shot clock. In high school, there is no shot clock. You can hold the ball for five minutes if you want to before shooting it at the goal.”

  Lewis was one of 10 JMU signees. She’s the lone signee from New Jersey.

 “A crafty lefty that wants to score, Hannah uses her length to make big plays,” Klaes said on the Dukes’ website. “She is passionate about the sport and wants to compete at the highest level.”  

  Lewis exploded for four hat tricks and seven multi-goal matches during her senior season on the soccer field last fall.

 “The key to my success during my senior year was the positive, family-like atmosphere that my coaches (head coach Marykate Sullivan and assistant coach Carly Setaro) created,” Lewis said. “I received support from my family and teammates and constant encouragement and motivation from my coaches. They never let me put my head down. They always supported and pushed me.

Hannah Lewis advances the ball toward the goal for the Central Regional High School Golden Eagles. (Photo courtesy Mike Franco)

  “I really have to thank my teammates, family and coaches for helping me reach my fullest potential this past season. I just genuinely had the most fun high school sports season ever,” she said.

  Lewis was chosen the Ocean County Player of the Year by a unanimous vote of the Shore Conference Soccer Coaches Association. She netted three goals as a junior and two goals and two assists as a sophomore.

  “It was super crazy leading the Shore Conference in goals because I definitely hadn’t had an established soccer career going into my senior season,” she said. “And this season was so special because I just let myself have fun and in doing so put up some awesome numbers. I helped my team have an incredibly successful season, which was most important to me.

  “Everyone on the team was so close with one another. We did psyches before every game and took part in pasta parties before every game. We just all had each other’s backs.”

  Sullivan was impressed with Lewis’ play during her senior year.         

  “She earned this honor as she had an incredible breakout season,” Sullivan said. “She always demonstrated good sportsmanship and was extremely humble, which made her a perfect candidate for this honor.”

  Sullivan said Lewis brought “many” strong points to the field.

  “Her overall ability to finish (score) was her strongest,” Sullivan said. “She could strike a ball like no other. The power and accuracy of her shot was something I had never seen before. Even our goalies hated being in the net when she was shooting during practice. She had the ability to slip off defenders, which is extremely difficult to teach. I think lacrosse helped her with that. She was able to slip off defenders to create space for herself and our midfielders were very good at finding her.

  “All she needed was a split second to put the ball in the back of the net. She also was a lefty, which made her dangerous as most defenders are taught to force players to the left since the majority are righty. Aside from finishing, she is also very fast and very strong.”

  Lewis used her length to best many a defender.

  “Her athleticism shined on the soccer field,” Sullivan said. “Her height always gave her an advantage against her defenders. Using her speed, she created many dangerous scoring opportunities and capitalized on the majority of them. She could finish with either foot.”

  Lewis, a forward, senior forward Christina Jimenez, junior defender Lindsay Smith and senior goalkeeper Allyson Smith captained the Golden Eagles to their first winning season since 2015.

  “Hannah helped put Central soccer back on the map,” Sullivan said. “She also inspired all of the underclassmen and taught them the true meaning of hard work. She began the season as not one of our starting 11 players – crazy, I know. She put in the work every single day at practice until she proved us coaches wrong. When we needed someone to go twice in a drill, it was Hannah who always stepped up. She earned her spot, her confidence soared and she never looked back.

  “Hannah will be missed in so many ways. We will miss her leadership both on and off the field. We will miss her work ethic in practice and making everyone around her better. We will miss her outgoing personality and all the laughs at practices. And of course will we miss her scoring goals out on the field. Our forwards have some very big shoes to fill next season. She was more excited for the successes of her teammates and team more than her own. Hannah is extremely coachable and always looking for ways to improve her game. She is one of the hardest working people I know – both in the classroom and on the soccer field.”

  Let’s go back to last August. Lewis had doubts about trying out for the Golden Eagles.

  “She told us she wasn’t sure if she wanted to play soccer and was thinking about just being our manager,” Sullivan said. “We are so glad that she changed her mind. She went from wanting to be a manager to becoming the Ocean County Player of the Year. Unbelievable! Us coaches are so proud of her for all that she has accomplished and we can’t wait to see all the big things she’s going to accomplish at JMU.”

  Coming off a knee injury which cost her a large chunk of the preseason, Lewis began her senior year as a second string striker.

  “I almost quit the team after our first game of the season,” Lewis said. “Coming off the bench was a huge mental challenge for me as for the past three years I had been a starter, playing most of every game. So the start of the season was definitely a struggle – well, more of a mental battle – for me as I constantly contemplated whether or not I was good enough to represent the program”

Photo courtesy Mike Franco

  Turns out that Lewis profited after enduring hard times.

  “The challenge aided my growth as a soccer player and athlete,” she said. “It pushed me to work hard and earn a starting berth, which I did and fortunately enough was able to have the best season I could have ever asked for. Not only did this obstacle of earning a starting spot help me improve from my junior year to my senior year … my coaches definitely helped me improve just by being so positive and supportive and creating a positive environment.”                 

  Central flag football coach Billy Kvalheim said it did not take Lewis long to excel.

  “She picked up on things very quickly,” he said. “Lacrosse took priority because it is a varsity sport, but she was a game changer when she was able to get here. She attacked the ball as a defender and was athletic enough to throw and catch the ball. She was very coachable. She was positive with her teammates and a great role model for the younger girls on the team. My wife was her head coach in lacrosse at Central for two years and she always said how coachable and athletic Hannah was. It’s a blessing that I had the opportunity to coach Hannah Lewis.

  “Hannah will go down as one of the best athletes to come through Central Regional High School. She loves competing and gives back to the community. She is a positive influence on everybody she is around.”

  Ranked in the top three percent of her class, Lewis graduated with a 104.3 grade point average.

  Lewis enjoys surfing at Lavallette and Seaside Heights and on Long Beach Island.

  “It’s an outlet for me to relax and have fun,” she said. “There’s no pressure when I am surfing and while I feel that I thrive under pressure it’s soothing to have a hobby just for fun!”