Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Steve Craig firstname.lastname@example.org
Leila Mills has scored a lot of goals, but never one like this.
Last Thursday, Mills -- a Wheaton College junior from Brunswick -- scored with a second remaining in regulation to give the Lyons an 8-7 women's lacrosse win against Bridgewater State.
"I've never been able to score one like that. It was really exciting," Mills said. "We had set a play in a timeout. In lacrosse you leave your sticks on the field when a timeout is called (designating each player's starting position).
"When we got back to our sticks, we realized one of the players was too far away so (Coach Emily Kiablick) quickly put the switch on so it was even more exciting; kind of an on-the-fly, we-have-to-go play."
Last week Mills scored 16 goals with five assists as Wheaton went 3-1. Mills earned New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference offensive player of the week honors.
It was the type of take-charge effort Kiablick has wanted to see from Mills -- even though she knew it wasn't in Mills' nature.
"Leila is truly the most unselfish player I've ever coached," Kiablick said. "But at the beginning of the year we really struggled and it was largely because we graduated a strong senior class and we didn't have a player taking ownership of the attack.
"Lately Leila has put her stamp on this team. She's still a highly productive player who keeps her turnovers down but I definitely see her trying things with a little more urgency."
At Brunswick High, Mills helped lead the Dragons to Class A state titles as a sophomore and junior, and scored 63 goals with 31 assists while earning All-America honors as a senior.
She has started at attack since her first game at Wheaton. As a freshman she was a complementary threat with 14 goals and six assists. Last season Wheaton doubled its win total (14-6) and Mills bumped up her contribution to 28 goals and 11 assists.
This season Mills, a neuroscience major, leads the team in goals (42) and points (54).
"Especially when I came as a freshman, I just kind of watched everything that happened and tried not to be a ball hog," Mills said. "This year it was really different. We definitely needed not just me but all the upperclassmen to step up."
Wheaton is 11-6, 6-0 in the NEWMAC, to win the regular-season title. The Lyons will host the league semifinal and final rounds this weekend. The NEWMAC champ receives a bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Wheaton finished winning 5 of 6 -- the loss, 14-3 last Saturday, to powerful Bowdoin College (ranked eighth nationally). Mills scored all of Wheaton's goals.
Mills' goal-scoring increase has corresponded to an improved ability to convert directly off a pass after making a cut close to the net. A slender 5-foot-3 player, Mills said by improving her "quick stick" shot it's been harder for her to be pushed out of scoring areas.
Quite often the pass is coming from freshman attack Allie Bush of Kennebunk. Bush's 30 assists are the second-highest single-season total in school history. Bush also has 11 goals.
"She's connecting with Leila really well. She's helped bring her game to another level," Kiablick said.
Junior Hayley Bright (3 goals, 1 assist) of Cumberland (North Yarmouth Academy) is starting as Wheaton's low defender and has been a critical component to the Lyons' "high-pressure defense," Kiablick said. Mills' former Brunswick High teammate, Kelsie Jenquine, is one of the first midfielders off the bench.
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