‘Big Three’ fuel Lions; Freshmen off to fast start

Senior midfielder Ali Jaeger. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

While the sports world continued to go back and forth about whether or not the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” can win a championship, the fans of the College’s lacrosse team watched their own “Big Three” — junior midfielders Kathleen Notos and Leigh Mitchell and senior midfielder Ali Jaeger — led the Lions in their first step toward a title in 2011.

Notos, Mitchell and Jaeger combined for nine goals and five assists in a 12-5 victory over No. 7-ranked SUNY Cortland on Sunday, March 13.

“These girls are extremely unselfish and really, really humble,” head coach Sharon Pfluger said. “It’s perfect for us.”

The Red Dragons were able to stay even with the Lions for the first 10 minutes of the game, but they could only contain the Lions’ Big Three for so long.

Notos helped pave the way for the Lions, scoring all four of her goals in the first half of the contest.

Mitchell was able to add two goals herself, while also dishing out four assists. Those four assists were enough to push Mitchell past alumna Lee Moreau to third all-time in career assists.

“Leigh is a tremendous athlete,” Pfluger said. “She’s that quiet kid that sort of sneaks in there, and all of a sudden we say, ‘wow, look what Leigh did.’ We knew that from the beginning though. Leigh’s been a clutch player for us since the start.”

Jaeger, the Lions’ leading scorer last year, collected three goals and an assist, moving her to fourth all-time in career goals and career points.

Although she recognizes how prestigious her accomplishments are, Jaeger has bigger things than records on her mind for the 2011 season.

“(The statistics) really don’t matter at (the College) because it is really all about making it to the national championship,” Jaeger said. “So, all that individual effort does add up, but the stats really don’t matter so much.”

Pfluger shares a similar perspective on her 2011 squad.

“They all work well together, and those stats are nice, but they just want to win,” Pfluger said. The Lions also saw significant contributions from first-year players in their first three games of the year.

“They’re an awesome addition,” Jaeger said. “They come out there, and they’re not afraid to play at the college level.”

Freshman midfielder Lauren Pigott showed little fear on the field as she broke onto the scene in a 21-4 victory over Frostburg State University with three goals and two assists, but she admitted there were some nerves before the game.

“Coming out in your first game, you really don’t know what to expect,” Pigott said, “But once you get in the game and get in the groove of things, you feel more comfortable knowing that the other girls are out there helping you.”

The Lions 20-1 victory over Kean University saw another freshman, Jen Garavente, prove that she can play with the big girls.

Garavente built on the two goals she scored in the season opener by collecting three goals against the Cougars.

“The first-year players are meshing in with some experienced players,” Pfluger said. “They are stepping up. Some of them you wouldn’t even know were first-year players, which is exactly what we want. They are working hard, and they believe in the program, so I’m really proud of them so far.”

Sophomore attacker Jillian Nealon also put in a good performance in the Lions first two games with six goals scored, while Notos, Mitchell and Jaeger combined for 19 goals and 11 assists.

“I think that we’ve played with each other so long that we are able to read each other well,” Jaeger said. “We also have the freshmen class, who have really contributed a lot so far on offense and defense, so putting it all together is a nice combination.”

Brandon Gould can be reached at gould9@tcnj.edu.