Each week, The Baltimore Sun will publish a Q&A with a college lacrosse player to get you better acquainted with his or her team. Today's guest is Syracuse defender Natalie Glanell, a South River graduate aiming to help the No. 2 Orange win its first national championship in her senior year.
Glanell, an former All-Metro defender for the Seahawks' 2010 Class 4A-3A state championship team, has been to the NCAA final four twice with the Orange. She leads Syracuse in ground balls (30) and is second in caused turnovers (20).
What attracted you to Syracuse?
I kind of wanted to get away. I didn't want to stay very close to home, and I'm so happy with the decision that I made. You do want to do things on your own when your parents aren't right there, and Syracuse is a big athletic school and they give a lot of attention to the athletic department. They really take care of you. I love that there are no professional sports teams up here. Everyone up here is all Syracuse. They support all the teams whatever they do, and it's like just one huge family and it's really fun.
How big of a change was it for the team to move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference this spring?
We made it to the ACC championships, which is a pretty big statement for our program. It's unfortunate that we didn't bring home the championship (13-7 loss to No. 1 Maryland), but we'd rather win it in the end anyway (laughs). It's been really, really special for me and this team because we all got to experience what it was like to be in the Big East and also the ACC. I have those bragging rights, which is pretty cool. The ACC is such a great competitive conference. We usually played Maryland and Virginia every year, but we never played North Carolina and Duke in the regular season, and it's awesome because it's the best of the best competition.
What do you enjoy most about playing defense?
I think you have a different mindset. Especially the way Syracuse plays, everything has to be done as a unit and all together. If one person is getting dodged, it's the person next to her's job to come help out. I think it builds a lot of other kinds of character being a defender. I swear it teaches me life lessons, to be more of a wholehearted person. We have each other's backs. It's the best feeling knowing that you're not playing as a bunch of individuals out there, but as an actual unit. You build that on the field, and it transfers over off the field. All of the defenders are so close on and off the field, and it's a lot of fun.
How does the defense benefit from being coached by a legendary attackman, Gary Gait?
I truly think we have the best attackers, and playing defense against them every single day makes us better and better. Gary is great. All the knowledge he has, he's always coming up with something new. Since my freshman year, he's always hopping in practices, playing with a girls stick. I might have to cross-check him a couple times more than my team needs (laughs), but he's out there scoring a lot of goals on us. It's a lot of fun when our coaches come out and play with us, although I don't think we've really played girls as big as him (laughs).
What has it been like to go against your former South River teammate Brooke Griffin when you've played Maryland?
I knew that question was coming (laughs). We still are friends. I never think it's the easiest thing to play against your former teammate who you kind of grew up with, especially Brooke Griffin. Everyone in Maryland knows she's a superstar, and she's the most humble person. I have had to match up on her, and when we go out there everything is kind of left off the field and it's just Syracuse against Maryland.
Do you see any parallels in this Syracuse team and your South River team that battled for three years and then won the state championship your senior year?
A lot. I don't want to jinx it, but it's definitely something that crosses my mind a lot. It is very, very similar, and that's what it's feeling like. That's always been in the back of my mind every year once the year passes and we don't walk away with the national championship. I did that my three years in high school and the last year, the last game, we were able to get that history-making championship. And I believe. I have faith.
Do you like having one more game against Loyola on Saturday rather than having two weeks off between the ACC and NCAA tournaments?
Very much so. It's kind of tough not having a game and you just have practice continuously for weeks (the Orange had a month between its first and second games this season). Obviously, game day is the most fun day. Everyone gets pumped up. That's why we play, for the game. Not to mention it's also senior night, so it'll be exciting for me and all my roommates and our parents and family, and Loyola is really great competition for us, so it's going to be a really great weekend. I'm looking forward to it.
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