February 11, 2009

High Expectations for F&M's Pritchard

by Nelson Coffin | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

For the second time, senio Jen Pritchard has been named Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Player of the Year. She's hoping Franklin & Marshall will have two titles in the last three years at the end of 2009.
© John Strohsacker/Laxphotos.com

Although Franklin & Marshall came out of the blue to win the 2007 NCAA Division III championship, a year later the color could have best been used to describe how the Diplomats felt after suffering a 13-6 setback to Hamilton in the national final.

F&M senior attacker Jen Pritchard, who scored only once against the Continentals after torching Salisbury for four goals in the 2007 title game, remembers every excruciating minute of the setback.

"I can't put into words how I felt," said Pritchard, a first-team IWLCA/US Lacrosse All-American from suburban Philadelphia's Penncrest High. "I only took one shot. We just didn't play F&M lacrosse, and they played great defense. It was very frustrating."

Following a relaxing summer laced with weekend trips to Ocean City on her beloved Jersey Shore, Pritchard's intention to hone her stick skills while spending a semester abroad in Madrid studying business and Spanish ended in the check-in line at the airport.

A hefty extra baggage fee nixed that idea, so she and teammate Devi Hensch traveled to the Spanish capital without sticks.

In fact, as of early December, Pritchard had not taken a shot in anger since her season ended in May.

Nor, by the way, had the two-time Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year met new coach Lauren Paul, who left an assistant's gig at Dickinson to return to her alma mater after former Diplomat coach Anne Phillips took over the Yale program.

For her part, Pritchard was hardly apprehensive about being introduced to her new coach or the old stick.

While she likened the ability to maintain the adroit stick-handling that produced 71 goals  last season (and 200 in her career) for the 19-2 Centennial Conference champs to "riding a bike," she and Paul had contact via e-mail and phone.

So, no worries there, either.

For one thing, the new coach is likely to welcome the many attributes her star performer brings to the team.

"Jen's always the one the plays revolve around," Paul said. "She's the kind of player who ends up being everywhere."

Besides leading the team in goals, Pritchard also set the pace in shots on goal (92), draw controls (74), game-winning goals (six) and singing the national anthem a capella before athletic events (two).

She said winning a singing contest in middle school earned her a trip to New York, where she also prevailed in a vocal competition. That victory gave her the nerve to belt out the "Star Spangled Banner years" later in front of modest-sized gatherings before men's lacrosse and women's basketball games.

The only fly in an otherwise superb ointment - at least according to Pritchard - is that she could add a little more bravado to her game.

"I still don't have that get-out-of-my-way swagger," she said. "Coach Phillips would tell me last year that I need to be more physical."

Her teammates aren't complaining, though.

"When you feed her the ball, she knows what needs to be done," said senior midfielder Ashley Bevington. "She always does something that benefits the team. She's good at getting quick goals and getting our momentum back."

Former teammate and current F&M assistant Carli McLaughlin notes that Pritchard consistently handles tough situations with aplomb.

"She's really smart and knows how to find the net, no matter who's on her." McLaughlin said. "She's always so poised."

Pritchard's focus is now riveted on the task at hand - getting that title back.

"Devi and I ran every day in a park near our house in Madrid," she said. "We let the championship slip away last year, and we don't want it to happen again."

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