Assistant Sports Editor
In their most recent contest, the Springfield College women’s lacrosse team was experiencing serious frustration. It was not a question of effort, or hustle, or even defense, for the Pride’s stout defense led by junior goalkeeper Anne Versprille held the MIT Engineers to just one goal in the first 15 minutes of play. The only problem was that Springfield had not yet scored.
Following a timeout by head coach Kristen Mullady, senior midfielder Meghan Flanagan looked at her line mate and freshman Connie Nielsen and said only one sentence to the first-year midfielder from Sayville, N.Y.
“You know what you need to do.”
Nielsen, as she has done all season, drove the ball down and fired a shot past MIT goalkeeper Paige Kennedy that knotted the score at one, sparking an 11-7 victory in Springfield’s regular-season finale. Nielsen finished with a game-high five points, including four goals and one assist for the Pride.
In her freshman campaign for the maroon and white, the first-year Physical Therapy student has posted an incredible 38 points, consisting of 35 goals and three assists to lead the Pride this season. This statistic smashed the impressive numbers put up by past freshman, including teammates Kelly Gallo (28 points as a freshman) and Allie Davis (24).
“Connie is playing great for us,” commented Mullady. “Every game she is progressing and has really built her confidence up with the games that are on our schedule, and right now she is really coming up key for us in some close games.”
Growing up in the lacrosse “hot bed” that is Sayville, N.Y., Nielsen has been coached by and played with the best of the best her entire life, aiding her in the transition from high school to the collegiate game.
As a freshman for the Sayville High Golden Flashes, Nielsen was brought up to the varsity team and asked to make an immediate impact. With this experience in her career already under her belt, the savvy freshman knew exactly how to respond to her call at Springfield.
“It helped me a lot. I had a really good coach in high school which paved the way and made the transition really easy for me,” said Nielsen, decked out in Springfield lacrosse gear from head to toe. “I think also the girls on the team helped me a lot. Being a freshman is intimidating at first on and off the field, but I just want to work hard and play for my teammates.”
At Sayville High School, Nielsen played alongside many Division I athletes. Among these players included freshman midfielder at High Point University, Emily Meier, Navy standout Jasmine DePompeo and University of Connecticut midfielder Morgan O’Reilly. Both DePompeo and O’Reilly posed as senior captains for Nielsen in her first year at Sayville.
Now at Springfield, Nielsen has new upperclassmen to look up to. Among the select few include Flanagan, who plays by her side on the Pride’s top midfield line.
“She is an amazing athlete; she has so many strengths,” said Flanagan with a smile from ear to ear. “First off, her ability to put the ball into the back of the net is tremendous and has been huge for us. We would not be the same team without her this year. She is great in transition, and has really been progressing off the ride and coming back to play defense, and has been putting pressure on the ball and getting better at that.”
Along with her tremendous skill on the field, Nielsen also excels in the classroom, taking on the challenging Physical Therapy program at Springfield College.
“As hard as she works on the field, she works harder in the classroom. She is always studying or doing homework on the bus to away games,” added Flanagan.
With only playoffs remaining on Springfield’s schedule, Nielsen and the Pride will attempt to defend their NEWMAC title. The Pride will face a tough test in Mount Holyoke, and will take on the Lyons this Saturday, April 27 at Wheaton College.