Junior forward Leigh Mitchell hadn’t played a field hockey game in about two years coming into this week, but she looked just like her old self as the College’s field hockey team rode to a 3-0 start to the 2010 season.
Mitchell made her return to the lineup known right away as she scored the game-winning goal in the Lions’ home opener against Stevens Institute of
Technology, who came in ranked No. 18 in the Kookaburra/National Field Hockey Coaches Division III preseason poll.
“It was exciting playing because I haven’t played in two years,” Mitchell said. “I was a little nervous in the beginning, but once the whistle blew I was alright.”
Mitchell continued to show why she was the team’s top weapon in 2008 as she recorded an assist and a goal as the Lions defeated King’s College and No. 16 Juniata College in the Stevens Invitational this weekend.
“Leigh’s a great player and it’s great to have her back,” head coach Sharon Pfluger said. “She’s explosive, she’s quick and she’s got a lot to offer.”
Sophomore Camille Passucci scored the first goal six minutes into the match against Juniata College, but it was Mitchell’s second goal of the season that decided the game as the Lions took down their second ranked opponent in a 2-1 victory over the Eagles.
The team’s early success shouldn’t be surprising as the team not only returned Mitchell from injury, but also brought back 10 of the 11 starters from last year’s team.
The Lions experience could especially be seen on the defensive front as they dominated their opponents.
The Lions held Stevens to one shot and no goals in the opener as junior goalie Shannon Syciarz picked up her first shutout of the season.
“I thought for the most part, for the first game of the season, that we did a lot of really nice things,” Pfluger said. “I think when we lost momentum we had some kids with really, really strong sticks coming through for us big time and maintaining the stability in the game.”
Overall, in the first three games of the season, the Lions have only allowed their opponents to get 11 shots on net.
Syciarz currently supports a .818 save percentage as she has only allowed two of those 11 shots to get past her.
Senior Mary Waller has quickly built on her impressive 2009 season as she was one of three Lions to record a defensive save in the first week of the season — along with fellow senior Kristen O’Neil and junior Alex Okuniewicz.
“I thought our defense and midfield really stepped up,” Mitchell said. “We had a good stick on the ball and I thought individually everyone had really good games.”
Senior Jessica Falcone proved the Lions have another scoring option opposite Mitchell as she scored two goals in the Lions 3-1 win over King’s College.
Kathleen Notos has also been a factor on offense as she has collected one goal and two assists in the Lions first three matches.
“I’m happy with the way we’ve played,” Pfluger said. “We probably could have scored more goals, but that’s going to come with more experience.”
The Lions will look to stay unbeaten as they travel to Manhattanville College on Sept. 7 and then to FDU-Florham on Sept. 11.