A sports team will almost always have its star players.
The eyes of the crowd gravitate toward ankle breakers, momentous goals and flashy assists, naturally bringing stardom and attention to offensive players. But just as vital to the Mountain Hawks’ success is the work on the defensive line led by senior goalkeeper Taylor Tvedt, senior defender Julianne D’Orazio and junior defender Kayleen Kelly.
“Especially because there are so many midfielders that are running the entirety of the field, women’s lacrosse tends to lose sight of the importance of defense,” Tvedt said. “We really pride the little things, such as getting a knock down or defending a cutter well.”
The defensive front will be important Tuesday as the Mountain Hawks (2-1) take on No. 10 UPenn (3-1). Penn’s attack will be difficult to contain, especially Penn gunslingers Caroline Cummings and Alex Condon have already combined for 25 goals just four games into the season.
“They’re very powerful scorers, so (Kelly) will have a big job on Tuesday, knowing that possession off the draw will be a big indicator as far as who’s going to be in control of the game,” coach Jill Redfern said.
Lehigh is expecting big saves from Tvedt to subdue Penn’s experienced offensive front, and a major component of that success in the backfield will be communication, which can dwindle when the opposing attack starts to take off. The key will be staying locked in, focused and vocal during those runs.
“Defense is really team-oriented, being able to figure out what the other attack is doing together as a unit,” Kelly said.
It’s up to the defensive front to decide and communicate how to adapt to different teams, seeing whether they take a driving or feeding style of attack.
“No matter what sort of strategy you take, communication is the key to being really effective as a unit,” Redfern said.
Tvedt has already played in plenty of big games throughout her college career. Therefore, she will be at the core of the Mountain Hawks’ backfield against Penn. Being the only player on the field with a complete view of what’s going on makes her essentially the “communication quarterback,” as she calls it.
Penn will be the second top 10 team Lehigh will face this season after it fell to No. 6 Penn State 18-9. Redfern suspects Tuesday will be much different as the Mountain Hawks have settled in more since the season opener.
However, defensive success is only half of the battle. When it comes to attacking, the team will need to look for an aggressive performance from the supporting attackers on offense. Redfern said primary scorer, senior Allison LaBeau, will likely draw in Penn’s best defender and might have to deal with a potential double team and face guard.
Redfern emphasized that this is an away matchup against a top 10 team and an Ivy League game, which adds to the excitement.
“It’s always fun, knowing their student athletes are pretty similar in their aspirations to our own, and just to have an opportunity to have an upset win in the top 10 I think makes it a special game,” Redfern said. “We know they’re an exceptional team, and we’ll need to have our best game to have a chance to win.”