Experienced defense leads the way for the College; Unrivaled Lions victorious over Ramapo and Drew

Junior Kathleen Notos leads the Lions in goals through seven games. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

Kelly Brennan realizes that her name isn’t going to be announced much throughout the season, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The senior defender doesn’t score goals or hand out assists, but she has been a stalwart on the College’s defense, which is currently the top unit in Division III and was assertive in the Lions 19-1 victory over Ramapo College and an 11-2 victory versus Drew University.

“I think we (defenders) just feed off our attacks,” Brennan said. “If we lose the ball on attack we want to make sure, on defense, that we recover and we get the ball turned over so we can get it right back down to our offense. So, that’s really what we worry about. We don’t really focus on getting statistics.”

A defender in lacrosse is like an offensive lineman, according to head coach Sharon Pfluger — their names usually don’t come up in a conversation unless it’s in a negative light.

“You have to be tenacious,” Pfluger said. “You have to understand that you’re not going to get a lot of notoriety in the paper and all that. It’s all about pride and that’s what it’s really all about — the way you feel about yourself and your teammates inside.”

Brennan, who was All-NJAC in 2010, may not have the flashy statistics that her teammates can boast about, but that’s OK because her voice is better served on the field anyway, she said.

“I’m the last one before the goalie,” Brennan said. “So, I think I just need to focus on communication and just make sure we’re all on the same page. I also have to make sure I’m loud enough, so everyone knows what is going on.”

Pfluger has praised Brennan and the rest of the Lion’s defense for its ability to communicate and cites the lessons of 2010 as the reason why the 2011 defense is so compact.

“It’s definitely more experience,” Plfuger said. “It was a very young defense last year. We graduated a lot of defenders (in 2009) and we were going to make those young mistakes, but we’re more experienced this year. Be it win or lose, all that game experience has created a lot of knowledge for the girls and sort of a game sense, know-how.”

That youthful defense has now transformed into a nation-leading unit that surrenders a scant 2.12 goals per game.

“They can read it better now and team defense is tough in lacrosse because you have to see the slides, you have to see your girl, you have to read each other,” Plufger said. “There’s a lot going on and you definitely have to be multi-tasking down there. I think they think this year and they’re feet are quicker this year, so it’s nice to see.”

Standing behind the rest of the defense and in front of the net is another crucial piece of the Lions’ 2011 defensive puzzle, senior goaltender Mary Waller. Waller was named NJAC Player of the Week and ECAC Metro/South Defensive Player of the Week the past two weeks.

“We’ve been really organized and coming down from the midfield, we all know what is going on,” Waller said. “We’re on the same page as each other, which is really important because it keeps everyone steady, and no one is freaking out.”

Leading the way for the Lions on offense was junior midfielder Kathleen Notos, who scored 10 goals over the two victories. Notos has raised her game to another level this season as she leads the Lions in goals.

“I think it’s just my teammates seeing me when I’m open,” Notos said. “We are all just reading each other very well, and I’ve just been taking initiative.”

Senior midfielder Ali Jaeger and junior midfielder Leigh Mitchell also put in strong outings, combining for seven goals and 12 assists.

Junior Sara Keating capitalized on the field by scoring three goals and an assist off the bench for the Lions against the Roadrunners.

Freshman Jen Garavente was strong off the bench as well. She continued to find the net for the Lions as she scored two goals against the Rangers after scoring three goals earlier in the week versus the Roadrunners.

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