Gallion, from the lacrosse hotbed area near Baltimore, Md., is completing her first year on the collegiate level as the defensive coach for the National Lacrosse Conference champion JU women’s team which is what makes her perfect.
One collegiate season down, one championship ring on the way.
Now, for the mistakes, and there weren’t many of them as you’ll see, but Gallion is candid about her first season at the Division I level.
“It’s been quite a journey of throwing some things out there, not having them work and going from there,’’ she said. “ I’ve learned that dong the wrong thing actually helps you develop into the style of play you want. I’ve made quite a bit of mistakes.’’
Apparently, not really.
Anybody who has to play the Dolphins, or follows them on a fan level, knows the team can score. It did, of course, set the all-time NCAA scoring record this season.
What nobody really counted on was the stifling defense that noticeably improved as the season progressed and in the last eight games never allowed more than nine goals a game and in that span held opponents to a paltry 5.5 goals per game.
Gallion, whose mother, Kim, insists her daughter majored in lacrosse during Sarah’s collegiate playing days at Johns Hopkins, says you can put those gaudy numbers on the players.
“I think a coach can only do so much,’’ she said. “You can offer as much information as you have but when push comes to shove it’s about what the players do with that information. Coaches shape players, but it’s up to the players to put that in motion.’’
What you can put on the coach is the learning process she has seen this season.
“I’ve learned a lot about what my coaching style is,’’ she said. “I’ve learned a lot about the ins and outs and how much time it takes to break down film and really what goes in to putting together a style of defense and developing that style the defense owns.
It’s something you can’t really play, as I found out, you try to do as much as you can to develop a play or type of defense you want to run but it really it develops in the players.’’
Coach Mindy McCord believes Gallion is a little more responsible than she’s letting on.
“Our players have improved tremendously in their technical development because Sarah is a great defensive teacher of the game,’’ McCord said. “Sarah has done a great job in her first year. Her passion for the game, energy, and work ethic she brings every day are second to none.”
Not to say there haven’t been some tough adjustments.
“The biggest adjustment going from a player to a high school coach (she coached at Bartram Trail in St. Johns County) to a collegiate coach was being able to break down the more advanced tips and advice that I could give the girls, along with learning concepts, because as a player you learn through a lot of ways,’’ Gallion said. “You learn through your coaches, your mistakes and your successes. As a high school coach, you focus more on basics and developing the players that are a little more inexperienced. The adjustment that was the toughest was how to teach the more advanced concepts and more advanced style the girls needed in order to go from where they were to take the next step.’’
And take the next step the defense did.
The Dolphins ended the year eighth in the nation in caused turnovers, tied for 13th in scoring defense (nine points a game) and 14th in ground balls.
“I’d like to think I have something to do with it,’’ she said, “but the majority of it is on the advancement of the players and their desire to be better and rising to the occasion.’’
- Jim Nasella