The College was put in an unfamiliar position against Franklin and Marshall College with its top two goal scorers — senior Ali Jaeger and junior Kathleen Notos — unable to find the net. For the Lions to leave Lancaster, Pa. with a victory, they needed someone else to step up to fill the void.
Although the team struggled to find one early, the Lions got its supplement about midway through the first half in the form of first-year midfielder Alex Spark. Spark stepped up to compliment junior midfielder Leigh Mitchell — who had a game-high five points — by scoring three goals in the Lion’s 9-5 victory over the No.7-ranked Diplomats.
“They put a lot of pressure on both Ali and (Kathleen) and doubled them when they had the ball, but the double teams just allowed us to get the ball to other players,” sophomore attacker Jillian Nealon said.
After falling behind 4-1 to the Diplomats, the Lions’ run to perfection looked to be in serious jeopardy. But, that was before Spark and Mitchell got hot.
Mitchell scored the Lions’ second goal of the game with almost 15 minutes left in the half only to come back down the field 67 seconds later, dishing the ball to Spark, who scored to bring the Lions within one.
Each midfielder added another goal to their collection before halftime, and with the addition of freshman midfielder Lauren Pigott’s last second goal, the Lions went into the locker room supporting a 6-4 lead.
The Diplomats struck first in the second half, but the Lions defense shut them out the rest of the way, while Spark added another goal, and Mitchell chipped in two more.
Her presence against the Diplomats was a much needed boost for the Lions
who have been led by the scoring prowess of Jaeger, Notos and Mitchell for most of the season, but Spark would only endorse the attack as a whole.
“Of course I wanted to score and win the game, but I didn’t feel too much extra pressure because, aside from Ali and Kathleen, there are five other attackers on the field with me,” Spark said. “All of which have had awesome goals throughout the season.”
Despite Spark’s humble outlook, her efforts — along with those of Pigott and freshman midfielder Jen Garavente — have been vital to the Lions’ success this season.
“I think one of the reasons we fit in so well is that when we’re on the field, we aren’t considered freshman or transfers,” Spark said. “We are simply considered part of the (College’s) lacrosse team.”
Spark’s contributions may be the most impressive of the trio, though, especially considering she was out of lacrosse and on Loyola University’s crew team just a year ago.
Spark, who picked Loyola for the school’s atmosphere, elected to transfer because she missed lacrosse and Loyola didn’t offer the major she wanted to pursue — health and exercise science.
“Going into my freshman year I was undecided as far as major goes and throughout the year I decided to major in health and exercise science, a major that Loyola did not offer,” Spark said. “I was torn to try and make it work at Loyola or find a school that offered my major. While considering transfer options, I also considered schools that I could play lacrosse at as well, and (the College) ended up fitting all the components.”
Loyola’s loss was the College’s gain.
Spark has fit in nicely with the Lions’ offense, scoring 25 goals to this point in the season.
Some of those goals have come in the biggest contests of the Lions’ 14-0 run, including wins over Salisbury University, SUNY-Cortland, Gettysburg College and Franklin and Marshall College — all are currently ranked in the top 10 in Division III.
“She definitely adds depth to the attack, and her presence is so huge because she is always stepping it up in big games,” Nealon said. “Since she’s new, she is under the radar to a lot of teams, which makes her so dangerous.”
Jaeger — who knows a thing or two about scoring goals — raved not only about Spark’s physical attributes, but her mental ones as well.
“She’s an awesome shooter,” Jaeger said. “She throws in a fake and places the ball in the open space. Many young players don’t think before they shoot, but Alex does, and that is what makes her such a threat on the field.”
The Lions will look for Spark to remain a threat as they host Montclair State University on Friday.
Brandon Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.