Johnson is a steady force for Dartmouth
Kelsey Johnson has been a model of consistency, and a stellar defender since she first put on a lacrosse uniform as a freshman at Dartmouth College, a program perennially among the nation’s best.
Her statistics — 1 goal and 4 assists in 53 career games — do not tell the story. But her 52 career starts begin to.
In the Ivy League opener Saturday against Yale, the 5-foot-8 senior tricaptain from Hingham delivered one of her best performances in four seasons, racking up career highs in ground balls (6) and forced turnovers (3) as the Big Green moved to 3-0 with a 10-6 victory.
“Kelsey has a real competitive nature to her and has had tough assignments her whole career,” said Amy Patton , in her 21st season as head coach at Dartmouth.
“She usually matches on the other team’s leading scorer and this year we’re pushing her to not only be a defender but to run the field as well. She’s one of our field generals.”
Named to the Ivy League tourney last spring for her standout play against Penn and Cornell in the postseason, Johnson is one of three Thayer Academy grads in the starting lineup at Dartmouth, joining Lindsey Allard , a junior attack from Cohasset, and Ellie Clayton , a senior defender from Hingham.
Casey Griffin, who grew up with Johnson and Clayton in Hingham, is working her way back into the lineup following an injury. The senior from the Noble and Greenough School has had an injury-plagued career at Dartmouth: She scored all four of her career goals in one game against Niagara last year.
“You can definitely see that chemistry on the field with Ellie, Casey, and Kelsey because they are seniors and they have played together for so long,” said Patton. “I think they grew up right down the street from each other and they’ve been playing together forever.”
As a freshman, Johnson recorded 27 ground balls, 14 draw controls, and nine caused turnovers while spearheading a defense that gave up the fifth fewest goals in the country. This season Johnson (team-leading 11 ground balls, five forced turnovers) is seeing increased responsibilities, spending half of her time at midfield.
“It’s really exciting running the field again,” she said.
Johnson has drawn on the confidence of her former teammates at Thayer in making the transition to midfield this season.
“I’ve played a lot with Ellie on defense, and we love playing together,” said Johnson. “I trust her so much on the field. I know that Ellie always has my back and the same is true with Lindsey. We’ve always had that strong support system.”
Allard was the team’s third-leading scorer (19 goals, 10 assists) last season when she started 16 games, including a two-goal, three-assist performance against Boston University. She scored a goal in Dartmouth’s win at Oregon and had two assists against Yale.
“Lindsey is definitely one of our biggest offensive threats,” said Patton. “She’s one of our experienced returning attackers and is a very good dodger. The thing I love about Lindsey is that she really hustles and chases people down and that really sparks our team.”
Clayton, a third-generation Dartmouth athlete, has earned a starting role this season on defense and registered the first point of her career with an assist in an 8-7 season-opening win over Oregon. Her father, Mark, (class of 1982) and grandfather, John Clayton, (1951) both played football for the Big Green.
“Ellie is so poised on the field,” said Johnson. “The entire team draws from that and it sends a calming effect over the whole defense. It’s key, especially since we are working with a new defensive unit this year.”
Here and there
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