Using head and heart

The Baltimore Sun

The first thing Salisbury women's lacrosse coach Jim Nestor tells you about his top scorer, Sue Ackermann, is how smart she is.

Ackermann, a Liberty graduate, has the resume to back that up - on the field and in the classroom.

Known as an attacker with an ability to read defenses, the senior has led the No. 2 Sea Gulls in scoring for two years. She carries a 3.9 grade point average, majoring in exercise science.

In May, she will receive Salisbury's Female Scholar Athlete of the Year award.

That intelligence combined with athletic ability make Ackermann double trouble for opposing defenses. She can finish, but she's just as likely to set up her teammates.

"Being a smart player, she sees when the feed is there and she doesn't force too many things," Nestor said. "She's very cautious. She has a lot to do with what we create. Being in the right position and reading the game allows her to do so well."

With Ackermann contributing 48 goals and 37 assists, the Sea Gulls opened the season 12-0. A year ago, she had 51 goals and 68 assists in leading Salisbury to the Division III national final.

She stands second on Salisbury's all-time list for assists (116) and points (254). As for goals, she just passed her sister, Linda Ackermann (134), to move into third place with 138.

"She's a really disciplined player," Franklin & Marshall coach Anne Phillips said. "She is a player that understands that because she attracts so much attention, she opens things up for her teammates. She's very unselfish."

Ackermann's leadership is even more important this season as the only returning starter on the low attack. The Sea Gulls graduated more than 150 of the school-record 376 goals they scored last season. Still, Ackermann said she and sophomores Beth Rhodey and Kim Cudmore have become comfortable working together.

"Just like last year, I had more assists than goals," Ackermann said. "That's not necessarily because I get a lot of attention, but other people are getting open for me and they're easy to find. Everyone works well on the offense, so I just do whatever it takes."

Salisbury's average margin of victory so far is 15.2 goals, but the competition gets tougher tomorrow when it plays host to No. 1 Franklin & Marshall at 2 p.m.

Franklin & Marshall beat Salisbury, 11-8, in last year's national championship game and also won an 8-7 regular-season meeting in 2007.

Ackermann said she is looking forward to the rematch.

"We just want to prove to ourselves and to our fans that we've worked hard and we can beat that team. We can stay with them. If we just do our job on the field and we do all the right things without having a lot of turnovers, we can, hopefully, be successful."

While tomorrow's game is important, Ackermann is aiming for an even bigger win to finish her career - one that would bring Salisbury its first national women's lacrosse championship.

"This is my last chance. I just hated that feeling last year. Having our season end on that note, seeing the other team celebrate. You almost don't need any more motivation," said Ackermann, who would like to be Nestor's student assistant coach next season if she is accepted into Salisbury's master of business administration program.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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