Coming into another season with contender-caliber extending beyond control of the conference, the women’s lacrosse team aims to continue its NJAC dominance and reach its 29th consecutive NCAA tournament under head coach Sharon Pfluger this spring.
The Lions, who made it to the third round of the NCAAs last year, have won 11 Division III titles since Pfluger took over the program in 1984 and have consistently made runs at a 12th division title since last being crowned champions in 2006.
“Coach Pfluger has created a family-like atmosphere amongst her players and a team dynamic where every player strives for success, works hard for the girl next to her, and will accept nothing but the best,” said junior defender Lauren Pigott, one of Lacrosse Magazine’s five finalists for preseason player of the year. “Playing for Coach Pfluger I have learned so much more about the game. She strives to see her players succeed, both on and off the field.”
Pfluger has coached more than 130 All-Americans in her tenure at the College, including a pair of returning upper-classmen that combined for 143 of the team’s 467 points last year: Pigott and senior attacker Alex Spark.
Pigott picked up 38 goals, 11 assists, 92 draw controls and forced 10 turnovers along the way, while Spark found the back of the net 76 times in the fourth-best scoring season in the program’s history.
“Alex Spark is not only an incredible lacrosse player, but she is one of the best athletes I know,” Pigott said. “It’s comforting to know that we have an attacker on our team like Alex, and I have complete confidence when she has control of the ball. Her sharp, quick and forceful cuts to goal can fool almost any defender she comes up against, and it is truly amazing to watch her on attack.”
Other players back on the roster include junior goalie Kelsey Zinch, who had a conference-best 6.46 goals against average last year, and junior attacker Jen Garavente, whose 45 points last year are the third-most among the returning athletes.
Success for these players has been elephantine in NJAC play, where the team as a whole is 18-1 since the conference’s inception in 2009 — only a narrow loss to Rowan University in 2010 mars the mark — leaving the Lions heavy favorites.
Four of the conference’s six coaches tabbed the College as the top NJAC team in a pre-season poll, with rivals Rowan and Montclair University splitting the other two votes, and the Lions were ranked third in Division III by Lacrosse Magazine.
“It is definitely a great feeling going into each season knowing that we are expected to be top in our conference, and we expect nothing less from ourselves,” Pigott said. “Winning our conference is definitely our first step every year before reaching our ultimate goal of a national championship.”
Part of the team’s success can be attributed to their intense approach to the game.
“Before stepping onto the field before every game, we like to remind ourselves to play every game with no regrets — give everything you got every minute and leave nothing on the field,” Pigott said.
The Lions will start giving everything they have in their season opener at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 2., when the team will host FDU-Florham in Lions Stadium for their first of 17 regular-season contests.
“When we put our jerseys on, we know that we have a reputation to uphold and we play for the players before us,” Pigott said. “I personally feel that our on-field philosophy is to play with pride, play for our teammates, and give nothing but our best every second of the game. When all of this comes together, we play as a dominating unit.”