February 14, 2013

New England's Greatest Players: #9 Sarah Dalton

By Phil Shore

It was April 1, 2009, and Boston University was trailing its archrival, the University of New Hampshire, 4-0, at halftime.

“In the locker room, I said it couldn’t get any worse,” Terriers head coach Liz Robertshaw said.

Then, in the second half, senior Sarah Dalton came alive and scored six goals to propel BU past UNH, 9-8.

“(Sarah) came over and said, ‘April Fool’s Day,’ and I just looked at her and said, ‘It wasn’t funny,’” Robertshaw recalled. “She could be so loose and be like, ‘Liz, don’t worry, we were fine.’ Having players like her could keep you loose and keep you having fun.”

Dalton’s youthful exuberance and seemingly unstoppable will to score is the reason she is No. 9 on New England Lacrosse Journal’s list of the greatest players ever from the region.

Dalton, a Cornwall, Vt., native says it was relatively easy to push away the stress because that’s how she played her whole life before college and it just carried through her BU years. She says it was part of her hometown upbringing.

“There was no pressure. Yeah, in high school, we wanted to win state championships, but there were no club teams and I didn’t’ know anything about recruiting,” Dalton said. “You just played for fun. You played with your friends after school and you made new friends because of this shared interest.”

Dalton didn’t begin her lacrosse career until she was in seventh grade. Where she grew up, there was no option for lacrosse until then. She played several sports, including soccer and ice hockey. Her brother, five years her senior, also played lacrosse and helped ignite Dalton’s interest.

She also credits the exposure to lacrosse she got from the local players that succeeded before her — as well as the team at Middlebury College — for helping her learn to love the game.

“It was a sport our town thrived in and there were always people to look up to,” she said. “I was a lax rat and followed the people that were doing well. I would follow them in the paper and go to games. I would go to Middlebury College clinics and games if I could.”

Dalton excelled at Middlebury Union High School, playing varsity all four years there; Dalton and Middlebury Union reached the state championship each season, winning it twice, including an undefeated season as a senior. She earned two first-team All-State honors and one second-team All-State honor as well as first-team All-American honors as a senior. After a post-graduate year at The Taft School, Boston University came calling.

“I remember her coming and she was shy and very quiet and not very sure of herself and that carried even through her freshman year,” Robertshaw said. “Her freshman year, the uniform hung on her. Then you see her in pictures from her senior year and she had such a sense of self and purpose. We saw something special in her, but you never know in the college game if they can get hold of it and be the player they can be.”

Dalton can pinpoint the day that transformation from quiet player into a force to be reckoned with occurred. She says her confidence spiked in a game against Loyola her sophomore year.

“We lost a lot of kids to graduation and transfers, so we didn’t know how good we were going to be,” she said. “I had been up and down the first couple of games. It was my first exposure to face-guards. But I was still scoring goals and I felt like they still couldn’t stop me. I still was getting open. I was scoring. It made me feel like I could be good and it also put my name on the map.”

Dalton scored five goals in that game and the Terriers won, 14-10.

Robertshaw says that Dalton’s shooting and field awareness made her a very dangerous player.

“Consistency was her game. I was surprised when someone made a save against her. If they could limit her to three (goals), they thought they had a good game against her,” she said. “I was impressed with how she can read a defender on and off ball. The ball would be at ‘X,’ and she would backdoor a defender. If she got you two times, the defender knew it was coming and she could still beat her.”

Those skills, including Dalton’s abilities at draws, pushed her into the record books at BU.

Dalton holds the school records for goals in a career (247), points in a career (284), draws won in a career (191), goals in a season (91), points in a season (102), draws won in a season (58) and goals in a game (8).

She was a three-time All-American, three-time All-North region, two-time America East Player of the Year, three-time America East All-Conference and was a two-time member of the US Lacrosse Developmental National Team.

Dalton — who currently works with her dad at the nonprofit organization College For Every Student, after three seasons as a Division 1 assistant coach — is proud of her accomplishments but is happier about the relationships she made with coaches and teammates.

“BU lacrosse prides itself with a sense of family,” Dalton said. “Everyone’s career is going to end at some time. But Liz has made it feel like you are a part of BU lacrosse forever.”

Robertshaw says she is not only proud of Dalton’s individual accomplishments but what she has done for New England lacrosse as a whole.

“She’s one of the best players to play at BU, and she’s from Vermont,” Robertshaw said. “She’s not a Maryland kid or New York kid, where everyone thinks the best players come from. I’m very thankful she’s one of our alums and for what she brought to her team.”

Photo courtesy of Boston University Athletics.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.