For a higher goal: learning, winning

Salisbury State: For All-American Jen Mezzadra, the school's all-time top scorer, records are secondary to leading the Sea Gulls back to the women's Division III Final Four.

March 01, 2001|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

At the preseason South of the Border Tournament, Salisbury State All-American Jen Mezzadra had the chance to display her high-scoring style on the field, but she also took the time to observe other players.

As the leading scorer in Sea Gulls women's lacrosse history, Mezzadra is constantly looking for new skills and strategies to add to her already wide repertoire of attack moves. She doesn't want opponents to become too familiar with her game.

"I want to change some things, try to learn some new moves, some new shots," said the senior, "because people know what I'm going to do. They know where I like to shoot, how I like to shoot and where I like to shoot from, so I have to change it around and surprise them."

Mezzadra, a Parkville graduate who led the Sea Gulls to a 15-3 record and the Division III Final Four last season, has never been one to rest on her laurels - and she gathered plenty of them a year ago.

Not only did Mezzadra break her Sea Gulls records for goals in a season (79) and points in a season (96), but she also became the program's all-time career leader in goals (164) and points (198) as a junior. She earned first-team All-America honors and was featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd."

Still, she is driven to be better. Mezzadra has been that way since high school.

"She's always been a student of the game," said Nancy Gross, who coached Mezzadra at Parkville High. "She was that quiet type of kid who sits back and watches. You just knew she was taking everything in."

Mezzadra was the first Knights player to compete out of season, said Gross. She played summer league ball after her junior year.

The next year, 1997, she helped the Knights reach the state Class 4A/3A state semifinals. She boosted her scoring from 39 points as a junior to 105 as a senior, contributing 81 goals and 24 assists.

"Jen was always willing to try something new," said Gross, "and she worked very, very hard."

At the South of the Border tournament, which drew teams from all divisions to North Carolina and Duke the weekend of Feb. 17-18, Mezzadra watched as many games as she could.

"She observed a lot of players at the Division I level and saw some different cuts that they were making and some different shots and their positioning on the field and she's willing to try that," said Salisbury coach Dawn Chamberlin.

"She's not stuck in a certain mold in terms of this is how I play and I'm not going to change that. She's very open to adjusting her style to fit the needs of our team and to fit the need of the particular game we're playing."

That willingness to adjust will be evident this season when Mezzadra likely moves from first home back to second or third home, drawing her more toward the midfield and more into the preseason No. 10 Sea Gulls' transition game.

"She's not just the first home this year, which is where we, as midfielders, got her the ball and she always put it in the back of the net," said assistant coach Amanda Moculski, who set a Sea Gulls record for assists in a season (37) while playing alongside Mezzadra last year.

"This year we need her a lot more in the midfield. Whether that affects her numbers ... it could possibly, but numbers don't matter to her."

Mezzadra's goals for the 2001 season have nothing to do with numbers - only with winning.

"I'm not focused on breaking any records," said Mezzadra, 21. "I don't feel like I need to break my records again. I'm more focused on the team and proving to people that we are still good."

The Sea Gulls feel they have something to prove, said Mezzadra, not just because they lost several key players to graduation, but because of the way they ended last season.

Their dream trip to the Final Four ended in the semifinals with a crushing, 19-4 loss to the eventual champion, College of New Jersey.

"It was upsetting that we had worked so hard to get to that game and then played the way that we did," said Mezzadra. "But I can't say that anybody regrets it.

"We didn't have our best game, but to be there was a huge accomplishment. We would definitely like to get back there and show that there's so much more to our team than what we showed on the field that day."

Mezzadra is willing to accept any job necessary to help the team repeat as Capital Athletic Conference champs and return to the Final Four. If she has to be more of a playmaker and less of a scorer, that's fine. The new role also fits her talents.

"She sees the field better than anybody," said Moculski. "Passing is such a key part of the game and Jen can see somebody quicker than a lot of people can. Her assist numbers are going to go way up this season."

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