Senior forward Jillian Nealon has seen a lot of remarkable things unfold since arriving at the College in the fall of 2009. Yet what developed on Friday, Aug. 31, was a feat that even Nealon hadn’t previously experienced.
Nealon had never scored more than three goals in a season coming into 2012, but in a 5-3 win over Stevens Institute of Technology, the senior forward scored four, count ’em, four goals.
“It was awesome to see Jillian get so many goals,” said senior midfielder Camille Passucci. “She has worked really hard this preseason and it all came together for the first game. She had a great stick the entire game and it definitely paid off on the scoreboard.”
The first goal of Nealon’s career day came in a moment of need for the Lions, with the shot entering the cage a little over a minute after the Lions surrendered a goal to the Ducks. It was a goal that Nealon says ignited the Lions for the rest of the contest.
“That goal got us fired up, we knew we had to answer back and do it quick,” Nealon said. “I think the fact that we did score so quickly after (that goal) was key because we never got down on ourselves. We just got fueled off the adrenaline from our goal.”
Sophomore midfielder Erin Waller picked up where she left off in 2011, putting the Lions ahead 2-1 and then assisting on Nealon’s second score to give the Lions a two-goal lead heading into the half. Both goals came after penalty corners started by Passucci.
“Erin has been doing a great job and her hard work in the offseason has definitely paid off,” Passucci said. “She is such a key player in the midfield and the offensive corner crew and will make a big impact this year without a doubt.”
Early in the second half, Nealon kept her stick hot, securing a hat trick 43 seconds into the second period. Nealon would add her final goal later in the half, putting the Lions comfortably ahead 5-2 in what ultimately ended as a 5-3 game.
In the shadow of the Nealon’s career-high performance, sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Krause posted a solid day in the cage in her first start replacing last year’s goalkeeper Shannon Syciarz.
Krause, who finished with three saves, impressed her teammates and Syciarz, who was in attendance, when she made a beautiful save on a Stevens’ stroke.
“Her save against the stroke was a key save that definitely changed the momentum of the game to our favor,” Passucci said. “She is starting to find her groove, and we’re confident with her as our defensive anchor.”
The Lions also saw encouraging play from two freshmen, forward Cortney Natalicchio and defender Mikayla Cimilluca, who both started against the Ducks.
“Both Cortney and Mikayla adjusted really well to playing in their first college game, which is difficult to do, and I think they are both going to keep improving and really help the team out,” Nealon said.
After shaking off the rust against Stevens, the Lions have a few things to work on before they play their second game of the season Saturday, Sept. 8, against FDU-Florham, but for now the Lions are just happy to have started 2012.
“It felt good to finally get on the field and play another team,” Nealon said. “We have been in preseason for a while and we have scrimmaged each other a lot so it was nice to finally have a game.”