By Kevin Lewis
The Mercy College’s Mavericks women’s lacrosse team balks at the idea that a new program can’t compete collegiately. To date, the team is 4-2, with an impressive 3-1 record away from home, as The lady Mavericks have outscored their opponents by an average of four goals a game.
A big part of their success is starting goalkeeper Lauren Mateja.
Mateja, a freshman who hails from Prussia, Pennsylvania, graduated from Upper Merion Area High School, where she played lacrosse for three years. She was an Academic All-American in 2009, and she was named PhillyLacrosse.com Female Athlete of the Week in April of 2009.
Mateja has made quite an impression in her first year at Mercy as the goalkeeper on the team. She has been in goal for every second of the Mavericks’ season as she is currently averaging an impressive ten goals against.
Given that this is her freshman year, it’s been an adjustment to the college life and playing lacrosse on the college level.
“In basic terms, I love being on this team. Coming from out of state to a school with a strong core of New Yorkers was pretty daunting, but the girls really made the transition a whole lot easier. It’s awesome having a group to always fall back on.”
Mateja has been an integral part of the team’s early success, and already has an individual accolade to show for it. Mateja won the ECC Goalkeeper of the Week Award for the first week of March. She gave up 14 goals in two games as the team won both of those games en route to a 2-0 start.
Mateja is pleased with her play so far, but realizes that practice will only make her better. “On a personal level, I think I’ve played alright so far. I know that I have to improve on the fundamentals of my position, like stepping to a shot and recognizing an open cutter. I have a lot to improve on.”
While the team is good and the team chemistry is there, Mateja still feels they can still improve.
“On a team level, we’ve had ups and downs. We’ve meshed together really well, and sometimes feel more like family than just teammates. We just need to reduce the amount of silly turnovers during a game.”
Goalkeeper is a difficult position to play, as the job presents an assorted bag of challenges that come with the territory. A goalkeeper must remain focused at all times or that could cost the team in the long run, and a lot of what a team can do revolves around the goalkeeper.
“The biggest challenge as a goalie is definitely the mental aspect. The goalie is the last line of defense, so a lot things tend to rest on my shoulders during a game. When you’re playing in a close game, everything counts, whether it’s a save or an allowed goal,” said Mateja. “If it’s a save, it’s awesome, you then get to begin the attack. But if a shot gets by and a goal is scored, a goalie has to be able to rebound quickly and move on.
“A goalie has to be deaf to the cheers or taunts of the crowd and opponents and refocus mentally in order to remain the keystone of the defense.”
The team has obviously benefitted from Mateja’s early success, as her impressive individual performance as been the anchor to the good start as the program has gotten off on the right foot. When asked about the direction the team is headed in, Mateja said, “Mercy Women’s Lacrosse is definitely heading into a bright future. We’re starting off the program right with a winning record (4-2), even though we’re a young team with only freshmen and sophomores,” said Mateja.
“It’s exciting to see how much we’re going to improve over the next few years, especially since we’re in such a tough conference.”