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On the defensive

Just for "kicks," Kellie Lajoie, who played center midfielder for four years with the York High School girls soccer team, played defense in the final 10 minutes of this past summer's Senior Bowl, featuring the best girls soccer players in the state of Maine.
/ Source: SeacoastOnline.com

Just for "kicks," Kellie Lajoie, who played center midfielder for four years with the York High School girls soccer team, played defense in the final 10 minutes of this past summer's Senior Bowl, featuring the best girls soccer players in the state of Maine.

Little did she know, that's the position she would wind up playing during her freshman season with the Endicott College women's soccer team.

She adjusted to the position so well that she started every game but one and helped lead Endicott College to the Sweet 16 of the Division III National Championship, the furthest the school ever advanced in the tournament.

"It was a big adjustment for me," the 2006 York High School graduate said. "I was recruited to play center mid and I started left defense for the entire year. I adjusted, and once I got into the flow of things, it went pretty well."

Endicott College second-year coach Jodi Kenyon normally doesn't start freshmen, but changed her philosophy after seeing Lajoie come off the bench and play 24 minutes in Endicott's season-opening 4-1 victory over Hartwick.

"She stepped right in and didn't make what we call the freshmen mistakes,'" Kenyon said. "She proved she had the ability to make the transition to the college game and I was comfortable and confident with her on the field right away."

Lajoie entered preseason camp with the full intentions of playing center mid, but Endicott had many midfielders and was lacking on defense.

"Kellie's just a natural athlete, and was a kid we felt we needed to have on the field," Kenyon said. "She was an accomplished player and we had a lot of players at midfield. She needed to be on the field. We had a hole to fill and she stepped right in and filled that hole well."

Lajoie, who did register five assists this season and hit a few crossbars, was not upset about the change in her game.

"I just wanted to be on the field," she said. "I was a freshman who just wanted playing time."

Lajoie, who was named Commonwealth Coast Conference Rookie of the Week the week of Oct. 3, was surprised at how well she adjusted to her new position.

"I never played defense in my life, and I didn't know I could do it,"

said the psychology major. "I loved being on the attack and sometimes I found myself pushing the ball up the field, and one of the captains just told me to relax and stay back."

Kenyon never saw Lajoie play before she arrived at preseason camp this summer, relying on other coaches who spoke highly of her.

"She was above where I thought she was going to be," Kenyon said. "She was a pleasant surprise. She's not the type of kid who will be a flashy player, but she makes other players around her look good when she's on the field."

Kenyon said future recruiting classes will dictate where Lajoie will play the next three years.

"She has the ability to play any position," Kenyon said. "It's nice having Kellie to attack out of the back. She was great about the change.

She's a student of the game and was just happy being out on the field.

She showed great poise and maturity."

Endicott went 19-4-1 during the season, ending with a 1-0 loss to Amherst College in the third round of the tournament.

"It was a pretty successful season," Lajoie said. "We went further than any other team at Endicott. I think we outplayed them in second half. We just couldn't capitalize on our opportunities."

Midfield or defense, Lajoie knows she will be on the field somewhere next season with the Gulls.

"I got some good positive feedback from my coaches," Lajoie said. "I came in as a center midfielder and then I played defense pretty well. I am a lot more confident in my skills. We're losing some good players, but hopefully we can get some good recruits and go further next year."