Lions hold onto spot as No. 1 team in Division III; Draw controls help College get past No. 7 Gettysburg

Senior Ali Jaeger scored four goals in the Lions’ win over Gettysburg College. (Jess Davis / Staff Photographer)

Every time a half starts or after a goal is scored in lacrosse, players head to the middle of the field and prepare for one of the most important aspects of the game, according to the College’s head coach Sharon Pfluger — the draw control.

“If you can control the ball like that then you’re automatically going down on attack,” Pfluger said. “It allows you the opportunity to have a chance to score, and it’s a big controlling factor. In the tightest games of the season, many times it comes down to who won more of the draws.”

Senior midfielder Kelsey O’Gorman didn’t score the game winning goal, and she didn’t record an assist that altered the fate of the game, but in a tight game, she came up with one of the teams’ biggest plays as the College capped an 8-7 victory over Gettysburg College.

After the Bullets, who are now 7-2, scored with 3:26 left in the contest, O’Gorman came off the restraining line, fought her way to a bobbling ball and won the draw control for the Lions, who are now a perfect 10-0 and ranked the No. 1 team in Division III by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association.

O’Gorman’s draw control was the 17th of the game and tipped the ratio, 9-to-8 in favor of the Lions.

“That draw control was so essential because we needed possession of the ball,” sophomore attacker Jillian Nealon said. “In lacrosse, momentum can change at any second, and Kelsey’s draw control definitely kept the momentum going our way (against Gettysbrug).”

Junior midfielder Kathleen Notos, who handles most of the draw controls for the Lions, lead the way for the College, recording four in the game. Notos has been an important piece to the Lions, who have a 154-to-54 draw control ratio this season, by either grabbing draw controls or directing them to her teammates.

“I’m trying to place it to my teammates outside their girl, so that’s really key,” Notos said. “If I can place it to them, I can trust them to get it.”

“It’s one of the key factors in lacrosse to get the draw control because if not, then you have to regain possession right away to get the ball on offense. If you get possession, though, you can start your offense right away.”

The Lions offense did enough to get the victory, but they did stray from their season averages against the No. 7-ranked Bullets as they were only able to score eight goals. It was the first game this season where the Lions did not pile up double-digit goals, and they only recorded one assist.

“Their defense began to pressure us out which gave us the opportunity to take our defenders one on one,” Nealon said. “A lot of our goals came when their defenders pressured us behind the crease, and we used that to beat the defense.”

The matchup of top-10 teams started out favorably for the College as the Lions jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The score would grow to 4-1 as the first half of the contest drew to an end.

After allowing an early goal by the Lions in the second half, the Bullets began to surge back, scoring three straight goals to make the score 5-4.

The Lions responded to that stretch by scoring three of their own. Notos scored the first and was then followed by senior midfielder Ali Jaeger, who scored two of her game-high four goals, increasing the Lions’ lead back to three.

“I live for these competitive games, so I just went out there with the mindset that I will do whatever it takes to win,” Jaeger said. “Our team is so powerful because we all share the same philosophy that losing is not an option.”

The Lions’ lead seemed safe, but after losing three draw controls and surrendering three goals, it was a one-point game again.

However, after Notos was able to direct the draw control to O’Gorman, the Lions did not allow another shot, causing two turnovers and grabbing two ground balls on their way to victory.

The Lions have another tough test this weekend as they take on No.2-ranked Salisbury University, but Jaeger believes the Lions can be successful if they can create more action and capitalize in the passing game.

“Gettysburg is a very physical team,” Jaeger said. “They were all over us when we cut inside the eight meter. We will have to make sharper and more deceptive cuts in order to utilize our passing game against Salisbury.”

Brandon Gould can be reached at gould9@tcnj.edu