NEWBURYPORT DAILY NEWS: "Rising to the Occasion"

"Rising to the Occasion"

Galligan pushing pace at Stonehill

By Evan Mugford
Newburyport Daily News
Staff writer

EASTON — A 2008 graduate of Pentucket Regional High School, Stonehill College sophomore Sarah Galligan admitted that the leap from still blooming North Shore lacrosse to Division II collegiate competition was an arduous one.

Galligan was thrust into a field of play that brimmed with girls from lacrosse-heavy regions like Maryland and Long Island. The pace was brisk, the skill level, intimidating.

Akin to her years as a Sachem, Galligan has continued to improve, a detail that is much to the delight of her head coach, Katie Lambert-Conover.

"From the second I met Sarah, I knew Stonehill as a school, from an athletic and academic standpoint, was a perfect fit for her," said three-year coach Lambert-Conover. "I knew it would be a place where she could really excel."

With an unfortunate injury to senior star-midfielder Liza Gross (ACL tear), Galligan has upped her level of midfield play and was recently rewarded for her efforts.

The 19-year-old West Newbury native was named as the latest Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Week. In her last four games — all Skyhawk victories — Galligan has scored 20 goals with four assists while helping her team to a 7-1 record.

The sophomore now leads Stonehill with 27 goals, 33 points, 29 ground balls, and 15 caused turnovers, but adheres to the fact that it's just a matter of competing for the team's best interest: a winning record.

"I feel pretty lucky to get it. We've had a pretty short roster lately because unfortunately there's been a few different injuries to our team," Galligan said. "Liza Gross tore her ACL, and she's the player who normally steps up with those big goals, so with her being injured, we have had to make switches and changes on the field. We're just looking to do our best to fill those positions, and I think that's where a lot of those goals have come from. Just from the need to win as a team."

A Daily News All-Star and Cape Ann League Player of the Year when she was a senior, Galligan left Pentucket as the school's all-time leading point scorer. Playing for Stonehill, however, a two-time national champion in '03 and '05, would need even greater output from Galligan if she ever planned on getting valuable playing time.

"In high school, there was a little bit more leniency, especially from the North Shore area where lacrosse wasn't as developed," Galligan said. "It was a big adjustment going from there to the college level and playing with girls who grew up in areas that were rich in lacrosse culture. I definitely had to adjust to the level of skill and the increased pace of the game."

As a freshman, Lambert-Conover explained that Galligan was exactly that: raw, but with talent.

"I will say that following her freshman year, she's definitely exceeded my expectations," Lambert-Conover said. "I knew Sarah was a great athlete, and I knew that she was going to excel at Stonehill. It took a year of growing pains for her to do so, but she has figured it out. She's made the adjustments, and I hope she'll be able to play the same way for the rest of the season."

Along with Galligan, Lambert-Conover explained that the team as a whole has changed just a year removed.

"As a freshman, she was kind of just thrown in there. Last year's team was more of quantity than quality, and that's the difference with this year," Lambert-Conover said. "We have less kids, but the level of players we have are substantially better. And I think Sarah has stepped up to the challenge because she knows that if she doesn't excel and really prove herself, that somebody else is dying to take her spot.

"Nobody is taking her spot. She has really become mentally tough; she's figured out what her strengths are, what her weaknesses are, and she's played off them."

Galligan, who is concentrating on a double major of communications and political science and is a member of SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), commented on the new cast of underclassmen that is helping the Skyhawks to a No. 6 ranking on the IWLCA Division II chart.

"We're currently sixth, and we have a really great team this year. It's a lot different feel than last year. We're pretty young," said Galligan, referring to the team's eight freshmen. "As a freshman last year, it was tough adjusting to the college pace, but the girls have been doing a really great job of molding well with this team. We're a pretty small team, and that's allowed us to do really well on the field. We've been able connect well up and down the field from position to position," Galligan said. "We have a great new goalie in Rebecca Moore (NE-10 Goalkeeper and Freshman of the Week, Division II Rookie of the Week) and her success has been helping generate a lot of great wins."

Galligan's ability to improve, she explained, doesn't entirely revolve around her scoring touch.

"I think game to game, you learn more about the type of player you are in what situations you can handle best and what situations you tend to struggle with," Galligan said. "You need to understand situations where you need to rely on your teammates and trust them to take on those roles. Game to game, you learn more about yourself and the player you are, the role you have, and how to get better at it."

Lambert-Conover stated that Galligan has been an exemplary member of her team.

"I'm really, really proud of Sarah. She's playing hard, and she's playing consistent, which was one of her major challenges when she was a freshman," Lambert-Conover said. "She had flashes of what we knew she could be, but this year she's stepped up and she's playing that way consistently, and I'm really proud of her because that's not an easy thing to do.

"Now that I really know her as an athlete, she's much tougher than you would guess just from looking at her. Mentally tough as well as physically tough. She likes to step up to the challenge, and I think all of our players are feeding off the fact that she is out-working everybody."