Flashes of last season popped into the mind of senior goalkeeper Shannon Syciarz when senior midfielder/forward Leigh Mitchell and junior midfielder/forward Kathleen Notos took the field together for the first time this season toward the end of the College’s 2-1 victory over No. 5-ranked Messiah College.
“It brought back some memories from last season,” Syciarz said. “They have such a thrust forward on the field and bring a lot of momentum to our attack because they’re both such explosive players, so it was nice to see them out there.”
The pair did not make a statistical imprint on the contest, but their presence mattered — something that has been apparent all season long.
“They’re basically on the field with us,” said senior defender Alex Okuniewicz. “It’s been a little different, but they’re psychologically there with us, pumping us up.”
Entering this season, the No. 15-ranked Lions thought they were going to be featuring one of the country’s most dynamic offensive duos in Mitchell and Notos, who combined for 74 points last season. Injuries have forced both players to sit on the sidelines and watch for the majority of this season’s games.
“They’re at every practice,” Head Coach Sharon Pfluger said. “Sometimes they’re walking around to the groups, talking to the kids about what they should do, and I want them to know that they can do that.”
Pfluger noticed that at first, it seemed like both players were leery to put in their two cents, but that initial nervousness quickly went away.
“The kids respect them so much,” Pfluger said. “(Mitchell and Notos) are strong players and I want them to share their knowledge. I want it to be like we have a few extra coaches out there on the field.”
The Lions needed that extra help in the beginning of the year as the team prepared to replace six starters from the 2010 team and found a way to cope with Mitchell and Notos’ absence.
Acording to Pfluger, Mitchell and Notos became imperative in the process of preparing some of the talented youth that was waiting in the wings.
“What a great position to be in and what a great asset to have,” Pfluger said, “to have somebody who is right there in the prime of her athletic career to share the knowledge because she can’t be out there on the field. You take something that’s not so great and you turn it into something productive and positive because the other girls could use that.”
Production from several players has increased while Mitchell and Notos continue to fight their way back. One of those players is freshman forward Erin Healy, who has credited Mitchell and Notos with speeding up her development on offense.
“As an attacker, they’ve been teaching me a lot of stuff,” Healy, tied with a team-leading six goals, said. “It’s kind of like having another coach.”
As much as she values their coaching skills, Pfluger expects to see both Mitchell and Notos on the field more often in the coming weeks.
“I’m really happy that they had a chance to get in (against Messiah), and as the season progresses, they will get more and more playing time,” Pfluger said. “It’s good for them, little bits and pieces.”
Although she said looking at the game from a different angle has been nice, Mitchell admitted she cannot wait to be back out on the field in full force.
“Sitting out gives you a different perspective on the game and allows you to learn more to benefit your play when you return to the field,” Mitchell said. “I’m looking forward to be able to get back out on the field with no restrictions.”