Super senior Sparks opening College victory

Whether it was by cutting inside for a shot into the lower corner, deking a defender to put one in the upper 90, completing an alley-oop off a pass from behind the net or converting free-position shots, senior wrecking ball Alex Spark scored early and with historic frequency en route to propelling the lacrosse team to a 19-6 win over FDU-Florham last Saturday.

It was an across-the-board dominant performance from the sixth-ranked Lions (1-0) as Spark tied her own program-best of 9 goals in a game, junior Jen Garavante added six more, and the team held firm defensively to win its ninth consecutive game against the Devils (1-2).

The Lions partake in a scoring frenzy against the opposition. (Photo coutresy of the Sports Information Desk)

“I honestly think we just played really well together as an offensive unit yesterday,” Garavante said. “Even though it was the first game, I think everyone on attack did a great job at playing together, getting each other open, and finding the best passing option. Being a cohesive unit like that can often take a little time, bust I think we did a great job and started off the season on a really positive note.”

Tying the record for most goals in a game, which was originally set in 2004 and equaled by Spark last April, was an accomplishment last year’s leading scorer reached by finding the back of the net in as many different ways as there were goals.

“Her skills are great,” Pfluger said. “She has a very good sense of where her stick is and how to maneuver around a defender, so that’s why she has the ability to score in a variety of ways.”

“I like to say I’m sneaky on the field – one of the reasons I have a lot of goals is I know when to try and get the ball and when not to, so I make smart decisions,” Spark said. “I just love attacking, I love scoring, I love faking out the goalie. That’s how I get enjoyment out of the game, I like to have fun with it.”

Piling on the Devils with her own career high in goals scored was Garavente, who set the game’s tone immediately after the opening whistle by penetrating through the left and cutting inside for a lead 13 seconds into the game.

“I thought Jen really came on,” Pfluger said. “She did a great job. She was a little ahead of herself at first, trying to think of stuff ahead, but she got in a groove and it was great.”

If there was ever a scare it came early in the first period, when the Devils scored their only assisted goal of the game to pull within two, but momentum fell the Lions’ way as they went on a 9-0 stretch that spilled into the second half.

“We started scoring more,” Pfluger said. “We were hitting, but I think defensively – you know, (on) defense you make one little mistake and they can capitalize on it – we steadied ourselves out a bit.”

A defense led by junior goalie Kelsey Zinck, who had four saves, communicated effectively to limit FDU-Florham to 15 shots and one every 5.75 minutes after FDU-Florham made it 5-3.

Two other Lions got on the scoreboard, as sophomore attackers Erin Healy and Lauren Karpovich each had a pair of goals to give the Lions separation in the second half, while senior attacker Jillian Nealon accumulated two points and junior midfielder Lauren Pigott dished out a solid game-high three assists.

The win showed the importance of starting off games early for the Lions, who jumped out to an early lead and maintained control.

“In order to be successful, we need to take control of the game early on in the first half,” Garavente said. “As long as we control the pace of the game and take advantage of the opportunities given to us, we will do well. Lacrosse is a game that is all about momentum, and I think we did a good job at keeping it in our favor against FDU.”

“We’re just maybe a fifth of the way through our plays, because I can’t throw them all out on them at once,” Pfluger said. “I’m trying to introduce them in organized fashion, so that I can say ‘okay, now we can combine these plays’ — it’s pretty sophisticated.”

The Lions can build on this start to the season Tuesday at Kean University, who they defeated 20-1 in their last trip to Union, to open the NJAC play in their quest for a fourth straight NJAC title.

“We hold it up to such a high standard every year it’s that point (win the conference),” Spark said. “There’s never anything below that point, we have to win the NJAC. That’s where we start, and then it proceeds into the postseason and winning the NCAA. That’s just the beginning.”

Spark was named the NJAC’s Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, March 4 for her nine-goal performance. It would be safe for one to bet that’s not the last time she’ll receive that award this season.