Former PDS Star Briody Produces Breakthrough, Going from Bench to All-New England at Amherst
By Bill Alden
Alyssa Briody was surprised when she got inserted into the starting lineup this March for the Amherst College women's lacrosse team in its season-opener against Hamilton.
Indeed, Briody, a former Princeton Day School star, had been an afterthought in 2004 as a freshman when she scored five goals and had one assist in assuming a supporting role in Amherst's drive to the NCAA Final Four.
It didn't take long against Hamilton, however, for Briody to show that she belonged in the starting line-up as she fired in two goals to help Amherst to a 7-6 win.
Using that performance as a springboard, Briody emerged as one of the top attackers in Division III lacrosse circles this spring, scoring 54 points on 32 goals and a team-high 22 assists to earn first-team All-New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) and first team ECAC All-New England recognition.
In reflecting on her breakthrough season which saw Amherst go 12-4 and make it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, Briody said she was ready to assume a starring role.
"The coach was trying different combinations for the Hamilton game and threw me into the starting line-up," said Briody, recalling the season-opener. "I wanted to have a role with impact. I needed to restore my confidence as a key player. When you don't get on the field a lot, you lose your sense of yourself as a key player."
A key factor in Briody regaining that confidence was the training sessions she put in over the winter break at PDS with coach Jill Thomas and former high school teammates Katie Weber and Danielle Horowitz.
"My work with Ms. Thomas over January and February really helped," said Briody, who noted that the quartet braved the winter weather to do most of their work outside on the PDS turf. "I focused a lot on shooting in those workouts but it was just as much about mental toughness."
Thomas, who had also worked with Briody in 2004, noticed a major difference in Briody's attitude in this year's winter sessions.
"The biggest step for an athlete is the move up from high school to college," said Thomas. "She had done that, been to the Final Four, and was more confident in what she could do. The girls push each other and have a lot of fun."
In Thomas' view, Briody was destined for success this spring. "I told her to let that coach at Amherst see how hard you can shoot it," said Thomas with a laugh.
"I'm not surprised by her breakthrough season. Once she had a taste of success, she was going to take it from there. You better be pretty darn good to stop her. She is so strong and has such a hard shot."
That coach at Amherst, Christine Paradis, saw a special confidence in Briody this spring. "What I was most happy about was that time and time again in close games, she played with a poise, confidence, and skill beyond her experience," said Paradis.
"When Alyssa has the ball, she creates threatening positions for the defense. She has a great first step and it is tough for defenders to strip the ball from her. She has such a strong shot, it is hard and low. We have three goalies and they step out of the way sometimes at practice when Alyssa is shooting."
While Paradis is pleased by Briody's progress, she had a feeling the attacker was going to raise her game this spring. "Towards the end of last year, she was really turning it on," asserted Paradis, who coached Amherst to the 2003 NCAA title.
"We were hoping she could step up to the plate, I was expecting her to be a starter. She just used her opportunity. She was really excited to be a contributor and she took the ball and ran with it."
Briody, for her part, knew she had it in her to be a star. "Everyone on the team and the other parents were really surprised, they told me how proud they were of me," recalled Briody. "I had the confidence to expect it. Coming from high school, this is a role with which I'm more familiar. Ms. Thomas kept saying this is so natural for me."
One drawback of becoming a go-to player was the increased attention Briody started getting from opponents. "Nobody knew me at first," said Briody with a chuckle. "I wasn't getting marked and I had a clear path to the goal. By the end of the season, people on the other teams were screaming out coverages when I had the ball."
Briody's excitement at taking a star turn was tempered by the fact that Amherst didn't make it back to the Final Four as it fell 11-9 to Washington and Lee in the second round of the NCAA tournament. "That loss makes us motivated," asserted Briody. "We really want to come back and do better. We think we have a chance to be really good."
While Briody's future looks really good, she is not going to rest on her laurels. "I don't want to get overconfident," vowed Briody, who will be spending the fall semester abroad in Chile. "It's important to still feel that you have to prove yourself."
Briody certainly proved this spring that she is one of the elite players in Division III lacrosse.