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(Photo provided by Amherst College Sports Information Department)

TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL: Amherst College freshman Alyssa Briody heads to the cage on her way to a two-goal performance in Amherst's 20-4 win over Scranton on May 8 in the first round of the NCAA Division III women's lacrosse tournament. Briody, a former star at Princeton Day School, scored five goals and had an assist on the season for the Lord Jeffs, who fell to eventual national champion Middlebury 13-9 last Saturday in the Final 4.
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Former PDS Standout Briody Makes Impact As Amherst Women's Lax Reaches Final 4

By Bill Alden

After a stellar lacrosse career at Princeton Day School in which she started four years and earned All-Prep accolades, Alyssa Briody was ready to give up the game upon arriving at Amherst College last fall.

Briody, who also starred at field hockey in her PDS days, took up rugby last fall at Amherst to satisfy her urge for athletic competition.

But attracted by the camaraderie surrounding Amherst's NCAA Division III national champion women's lacrosse team, Briody decided that it was too early to hang up her stick for good.

Having to fight hard to work her way onto the field, Briody has made an impact for the Lord Jeffs, scoring five goals and picking up an assist as Amherst advanced to the NCAA Final Four last weekend in Rochester, N.Y.

While Amherst fell 13-9 to eventual national champion Middlebury last Saturday in a national semifinal matchup, that did nothing to dim Briody's debut season.

"In the beginning I wasn't going to play," recalled Briody, who scored two goals in Amherst's 20-4 win over Scranton in the opening round of the NCAA tourney and added another in the Lord Jeffs' 21-6 win over Plymouth State in the quarterfinals.

"I was intimidated by the lacrosse players. I went to a couple of practices and I couldn't believe the intensity. But I also saw what a close group the team was and I knew I would have 20 friends right away if I played. A national title would be awesome but it wouldn't change my experience this year and how well it has gone."

Before starting spring practice, however, Briody realized she needed plenty of extra work to earn a spot on the Lord Jeffs and turned to her mentor, PDS head coach Jill Thomas, to harden her for the challenges of adjusting to the college game.

"What made a big difference for me was this January during break when Katie [Weber], Allison [Marshall], Emily [Hamlin] and I worked every day in the PDS gym with Ms. Thomas," said Briody, whose collaboration with PDS classmates and fellow all-stars Weber, Marshall, and Hamlin formed the foundation of the Panthers' program during their four years at the school.

"We worked on our stick skills and our conditioning. The sessions took about one and a half hours. It was mainly a confidence issue. We had all been shocked by the level of play in college."

Steeled by the work with Thomas, Briody gradually began to feel comfortable at the next level. "By far the biggest difference in the college game is the defense," explained Briody, who scored 62 points on 40 goals and 22 assists in her final campaign at PDS.

"It's played at such a high level, there are no weak links. Every person out there is an amazing athlete. Once I started carrying the ball and getting in a rhythm I developed some confidence. Before I would just run around scared on the field, hoping I wouldn't get the ball."

Amherst head coach Chris Paradis gained confidence in Briody as the season went on. "Alyssa has been a great addition to the team," said Paradis. "She's very skilled and strong. She's really made progress in her understanding of the system we run."

Although Briody hasn't seen a lot of action, she has been productive when she has been thrown into the fray. "Alyssa has made things happen when she's on the field," added Paradis, who coached Amherst to a 16-3 mark in her tenth season guiding the program. "She has a really good eye for goal. She is really strong on cradle possession, she can hold onto the ball through traffic. I think she has shown strong potential."

Briody, who plans to be a counselor at a lacrosse camp this summer and play as much lacrosse as possible over the upcoming break, maintains that her success this season was spurred by some key lessons she learned early on at PDS.

"Ms. Thomas taught me how important confidence is and she made me tougher mentally," asserted Briody. "I remember when she sent me on the field as a freshman and saying to me if you don't have confidence, you have to fake it. After a while it will become real." The confidence Briody developed this spring at Amherst appears to be the real thing.

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