Freshmen goalie Paige Innarella (center) stands next to senior goalie Julia Ward (left) and junior goalie Katie Morris (right) during the national anthem before Lehigh's game against Bucknell University on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at the Ulrich Sports Complex. After Ward went down with an injury in the middle of the game, Innarella took over as the starting goalie. (Erik Thomas/B&W Staff)

Innarella Story: freshman goalie steps up

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Standing on the sidelines Sept. 17 during her first Patriot League field hockey game, freshman goalie Paige Innarella watched as veteran goalie, Julia Ward, commanded the goal. When Ward suffered an unfortunate concussion close to the halfway point in the game against Bucknell University, Innarella was called upon to enter the game, clocking the first minutes of her career in goal.

“I started as goalie my freshman year of high school, so mentally I was prepared and ready to do the same thing I did then,” Innarella said.

Innarella’s debut in goal proved to be successful as she made four saves against the Bison. She continued to impress the rest of the weekend, starting the next day against Providence and finishing with seven saves while only allowing one goal. Innarella’s efforts were rewarded when she was named Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week.

Innarella attributes her success to not only the confidence in her skills but also her teammates and coaches.

“To handle the pressure of my position, I look to my team and the coaches to help me out,” Innarella said. “I look up to many of my teammates including Jackie (Renda), who I played with in high school, and have been able to see her develop into such a great player.”

Renda, a junior, believes Innarella has grown a lot as a player and her communication skills will be especially important going forward in Patriot League play.

“(Innarella) brings a lot of positive energy to our team,” Renda said. “She has an impressive amount of vocal confidence for a first year.”

Coach Caitlin Dallmeyer said Innarella has handled her role well given the circumstances.

“As a first year, it’s such a mental challenge to prepare to be in a starting position and as a goalkeeper that pressure is magnified,” Dallmeyer said. “(Innarella) is used to performing with strong players, so her coming in with a lot of confidence has really helped her out.”

Innarella said the most difficult part about her job is going up against opposing players who are really experienced in one-on-one situations. Despite this pressure, goalies also receive a lot of glory for their success in games.

“My favorite part is when I make a nice save and everyone cheers for you,” Innarella said. “It really boosts your confidence.”

Going forward this season, Innarella hopes to help her team make it to the Patriot League Tournament and finish with a winning season. She said she will help her team in the only way she knows how: by allowing as few goals as possible.

Gaining the experience of starting several games so early on in her career will only help Innarella as she continues to develop as a player. Dallmeyer said this experience will help Innarella learn to position her players so she is receiving less shots as well as continuing to develop her communication skills.

Innarella has this season and three more to seize any opportunities she is given and continue to make an impact on the field. The Mountain Hawks are 2-8 overall and 1-2 in Patriot League play.

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