An assassin's touch

by Chris Eyer / Beacon Staff • April 4, 2012

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Chelsea Phillips leads the GNAC in shots-on-goal percentage among players with at least 10 shots.
Chelsea Phillips leads the GNAC in shots-on-goal percentage among players with at least 10 shots.

When Chelsea Phillips was first named a captain of the women’s lacrosse team, she had barely been at Emerson for a year. 

Phillips transferred into Emerson from Salisbury University in Maryland at the start of the second semester of her freshman year, just in time for the 2011 lacrosse season. Despite missing the fall practices, Phillips wasted no time in making herself an integral part of the Lions’ roster. 

“She came in my junior year. We weren’t expecting anyone new to join, and then we saw we had another person, which is great obviously,” said Kayla Dowd, a senior defender. “Then as soon as we saw [Phillips] playing, we were like, ‘oh wow, not only is she a really good player, she has really good stick skills and an amazing sense of field awareness.’”

On a team filled with skilled upperclassmen, Phillips took the lead. The attacker led Emerson with 58 goals and added 10 assists during the 2011 season, finishing with 68 total points overall. 

Now in her sophomore year, Phillips has not let up — she put in 21 goals in Emerson’s first four games as the Lions kicked off the season 3-0 in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. 

First year head coach Megan Moore said she, too, could sense Phillips’ ability right away.

“She is a natural lacrosse player. She reads situations, she reads the field,” Moore said. “She puts a lot of work into her skill, into her training. She’s very naturally talented, but she definitely puts the time in as well.”

Those in the crowd will notice her right away. Phillips dodges defenders with agility and has a knack for wriggling around other players. Her opponents turn around just in time to see number four streaking closer to the goal.

Phillips’ ability to change the outcome of a game was on display in the Lions’ matchup against Rivier earlier this season, when she scored four straight goals in a two minute span to tie the score midway through the second half. 

“We were down, and I looked at the scoreboard and something just clicked,” said Phillips, who said she has been playing lacrosse since sixth grade. 

Phillips, who is originally from Waterford, Conn., said she transferred to Emerson for academic reasons. She said she enjoys majoring in marketing communication while also pursuing a minor in health communication. As a freshman, Phillips said she was mentored by senior teammate Maeghan Ross. 

“She helped me on the [faceoff],” Phillips said. “She was a big help to me, and I still talk to her now.” 

Ross was a prodigious scorer in her own right, and finished her career at Emerson with two Player of the Year Awards.

Her teammates and coaches were not the only ones to notice her talent. Opposing defenders have been quick to key in on her. Rushing through the offensive zone, Phillips appears almost magnetized, as the opponents send two or even three bodies at her. Moore said this often opens up opportunities for the other attackers. Fellow sophomore Tracie Lombardo has added 16 goals of her own, and Mackenzie Johnson has put in five with nine assists. 

“When I get double-teamed, it creates openings for other people,” said Phillips, who retains her quick stick skills even under duress. “They can use me as a pick, since there’s [a defender] on me.” 

In the first game of the season against Mount Ida, the opposing defense was more than a little chippy. Phillips was slashed at several times and went down in the first half with a sprained ankle. She would return to lead her team to victory, but not before an errant Mount Ida stick hit her in the head. But even though Phillips is not the biggest player on the field, she does not shy away from the physical game.

“It’s more of a motivation for me,” she said. “It makes me angry, but I want to do better and take it out on the field.”

While a sophomore captain is a rare thing, the title becomes even more significant when one considers that Phillips was elected by her peers. The voting for the captaincy was done individually, according to Dowd. Each player wrote her choice down on a piece of paper. 

“I think that says a lot because individually everyone elected her. It wasn’t something that everyone discussed, it was more everyone individually had their own say,” said Dowd, who was elected alongside Phillips as well. “She’s a strong player, but also approachable, and definitely willing to help others.” 

Junior Sophia Mitropoulos is the third captain. 

Dowd added that Phillips was a leader on the attack right from the get-go, and she is both vocal and leads by example.

And though she brings the complete package offensively, the attacker said she is always motivating herself to work on her defense. 

“Getting back on defense and re-defending, I’m constantly going up and down the field,” she said. “It’s tough, so I’m working on that, definitely.”

As good as Phillips has been this year, she still has another two seasons to add to her accolades. Both Dowd and Moore believe that Phillips will be a stalwart for the Lions for the remainder of her time at Emerson. 

“Getting this year as captain under her belt,” Moore said. “[It] really only propels her further for her junior and senior years.”