April 10, 2009

Dartmouth Steady As Chiusano Goes

by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Katherine Chiusano has returned from an ACL injury to spark Dartmouth most recently to four straight wins and with an Ivy League-leading 17 assists this season.
© David Silverman

Growing up with six siblings helped to mold Katherine Chiusano into the player she is today for the Dartmouth women's lacrosse team.

"I'm the middle child," said the Big Green senior. "That puts me in a position to learn how to follow and learn how to lead. You learn how to be a good team player."

Chiusano has five brothers and a sister. They are tall and athletic, and Katherine fits the mold as a 5-foot-11 attacker.

"I was always playing a sport," she said. "That's what gives me my competitive attitude and drive to get better all the time. I was always struggling to beat my brothers. I learned a lot from them."

Michael played football at Princeton University, John played basketball at Lafayette College and J.J. plays football for Johns Hopkins. Her sister Kristen played lacrosse in high school, but followed field hockey to Lafayette. She has a brother in 10th grade and one in eighth grade. Her family taught Chiusano resilience and perseverance, which she needed to return to a high level this season.

After being selected the Big Green's Most Improved Player sophomore season, Chiusano tore her ACL four games into her junior year. She has returned to currently lead the Ivy League in assists with 17, and is again among Dartmouth's team leaders in multiple categories.

"She's having a really consistent year," said Dartmouth coach Amy Patton. "She's played well in every single game. She's been one of our most consistent players. To see the year she's having, having missed her entire junior year, it's pretty incredible."

Chiusano scored her first game-winner of the season in Dartmouth's 12-8 win over No. 19 Cornell last Saturday. The Big Red held an 8-6 lead with 15 minutes to play when Chiusano scored four unanswered goals, all of them assisted.

"I think we're just starting to play to each other's strengths," Chiusano said. "We play to make each other better. I just think there's a connection now on attack."

The win was the Big Green's fourth straight since a 13-12 overtime loss to No. 2 Maryland left them 2-3 this season. Dartmouth, ranked No. 13 in this week's IWLCA Division I poll, gets another stab at a No. 2 team when its visits Ivy League foe Penn on Saturday.

Dartmouth's early struggles could be attributed to growing pains. Chiusano and fellow co-captain Ashley Hines are the only two seniors on the team.

"We struggled at the beginning of the season," Chiusano said. "Our team is young. We didn't know each other's strengths. We knew we had the skill. Things just weren't coming together."

The loss to Maryland actually gave the Big Green confidence that it could play with any team. Dartmouth is 3-0 in the Ivy League heading into a big week that includes road games at Penn and Harvard before it hosts No. 7 Princeton next Saturday.

"The wins help give us confidence as a young team," Chiusano said. "This past Cornell game, we were put in a tough situation and we came out of it. That's going to give us momentum going into our next game.

"When we are playing well, we are a great team. We know that now. We know we can be a great team."

Chiusano is doing her part as a quarterback of the offense that leads the Ivy League in scoring. She ranks fourth in the conference in points per game.

"She's just a really smart player," Patton said. "She's not somebody that's going to jump out on the field in terms of flashiness. She's just consistent. Her poise on attack keeps our attack very calm. Between her and Eliza [Bennett], they're running our attack."

The Big Green gains great confidence once it gets the ball to its offense. That's when Katherine Chiusano can be a leader, or a follower, whatever is needed by the Big Green.

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