Winning within the conference and falling just short out of it, the lacrosse team overcame a fairly even first half against Rowan University on the road last Tuesday, April 2 by playing lights out in the second half. They could not, however, make up for early lost ground in a 10-7 defeat at No. 8 Franklin & Marshall College on Friday, April 5.
The Lions (8-3) remain atop the NJAC standings thanks to the Rowan result, which was fuelled by a second half in which they outscored the Profs 8-1 and extended their conference win streak to 15 consecutive games.
Although the Lions — whose only NJAC loss was to Rowan in 2010 — were held to a two-goal lead heading into the break, they went on an 8-0 run after it and built a shutout streak of 30:55, which lasted from the end of the first half until the game’s final minute.
“I think in the second half against Rowan we were able to settle into a rhythm,” senior attacker Jillian Nealon said. “We found what was working offensively and we stuck with it and were patient. We switched up the defense in the second half as well and defense played really steady and created a lot of turnovers in our favor.”
Junior defender Nicole Pineda picked up four ground balls and forced three turnovers, and the Lions as a whole forced twice as many turnovers as Rowan, while limiting opportunities on net to help junior goalie Kelsey Zinck get her seventh win.
On the other side of the ball, senior attacker Alex Spark was held to 2:59 minutes of play and one goal, but junior midfielder Lauren Pigott exploded for four goals and Nealon found the back of the net on five of six shots to give her a career-best 24 goals this season.
“I think this year I have really been focused in finishing my shots and I have done a better job of reading different situations to create opportunities to score,” Nealon said.
Similar to what unfolded against Rowan, the Lions managed to step up their game in the latter stages of the Friday, April 5 game in Lancaster, Pa., yet another win fuelled by a strong second half was not in the cards against Franklin & Marshall in front of more than 400 spectators.
The Red Dragons built an 8-4 lead early in the second-half, and though a comeback brought the Lions back into the game — Nealon scored one of her game-high three goals and sophomore midfielder Erin Waller added two to cut the hosts’ lead to 8-7 — Franklin & Marshall closed out the game with a pair of unanswered finishes.
“The Franklin & Marshall game showed that we had the power to come back after being down,” Nealon said, “but we needed to stay sharp for the entire 60 minutes of play.”
Pigott got on the scoreboard and had four ground balls while Zinck made five saves in the team’s first loss in five games, but they can get back in the win column on Tuesday against NJAC opponent Montclair University and when they travel to Salisbury University on Friday, April 12.