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Redshirt sophomore Lauren Benner is the Cavalier women’s lacrosse team’s goalkeeper this season after redshirting last year. Benner was named the National Defender of the Week after her performances in Virginia’s 16-7 win over Richmond and 14-11 upset against No. 3 Syracuse. She then came up big in Virginia’s overtime period against Penn State on Sunday, stopping the Nittany Lions’ only shot to keep them off the scoreboard as the Cavaliers went on to win 12-11. Virginia, ranked No. 4 this week, heads to No. 9 North Carolina Saturday for a noon game in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Question: You faced a lot of shots from a reloaded Maryland offense and a tough Penn State attack this weekend. What is it like to go into a game knowing your going to need to be prepared for anything and everything all the time?
Benner: It’s exciting and a bit nerve-wracking when you’re not quite sure what a team is going to bring come game day. Maryland has a quick attack that generated a lot of shots and it kept us on the tip of our toes. Penn State mimicked a similar attack but we were more prepared for it after playing Maryland. Essentially you prepare for a team’s specific tendencies but you never really now what you are going to get. You just have to stay on top and take on whatever is put in front of you. In any situation, the object is to save the ball and do it through whatever means necessary.

Question: In overtime on Sunday, both teams were going to try to hold the ball in order to set up a play for one final shot. You then made a key save to keep Penn State scoreless in the final minutes. What were you thinking throughout that span?
Benner: You know you are going to play two three-minute periods no matter what. My philosophy is to take each one individually and try your best to not let them score throughout each. You take the first three minutes and focus on that, and then when you are switching ends you regroup and prepare for the next three. It’s hard when you know they are going to hold it and only go for that one last shot with around 30 seconds left. Basically it is that one shot that can determine the game and it has to be a save or a turnover. I had just been thinking don’t let the little yellow thing in the back of the net. Thankfully this time we were ready for the shot and that did not happen.

Question: Is it harder to face a lot of shots throughout the game or one every now and then?
Benner: I love games that are back and forth where I get a lot of touches on the ball. It keeps things fresh. It is the worst when you have games that are dominated by your own team’s attack because it’s hard to stay focused when the ball is not at your end. I hate it when teams drag out their possessions and then go in for a long one-on-one. I’m a bit of a scrappy player and love inside quick shots and quick plays that don’t let you think about what you’re doing. When there is too much time to think or worry I sometimes psych myself out. When I don’t have time to do that I play the best because I just react to whatever is going on without worrying about what my next move is going to be.

Question: Many say that lacrosse goalkeeper is one of the most difficult positions to play in all of sports. What makes it so difficult in your opinion and what made you choose the position?
Benner: The position really feeds off of other people’s actions and depends on the choices of others. Attack is in control of the ball and where it goes. Defense is in control of the attacker by doing their best to force them out wide or toward the help of another defender. Goalies don’t have that control; they just react to the ball. You barely have seconds to stop the ball from going in the back of the net.

I chose this position because I love the pressure that comes with it. You get so much pleasure from coming up with a big save just like an attacker gets when they stick a goal. It’s such a technical positions too, because if you are a quarter of a step out of position that may be enough room for the attacker to sneak it by you. Some days the ball seems tiny and you wonder how in the world it got by you but then other days it seems as big as a softball, and you stop everything. I also love making attackers mad when they can’t buy a goal.

Question: You redshirted last season, so you didn’t see any playing time. How does it feel to be back out on the field playing after being away for so long?
Benner: It feels awesome and a lot more natural than I thought it would. Basically, I haven’t played in a real game since my senior year of high school. It’s crazy to think for the past two years I haven’t played in any games. The fall was a bit trying, but with a fresh new start to the spring and a refocused mindset, I think I have made the adjustment and can now focus on gaining more experience and improving as a player. It is also such a different chemistry on the field than it is on the sideline. Now I am the one in control and not just watching what other people are doing. It feels good to finally be able to show people what you are all about rather than being hidden.

Question: What are some of your goals for the season?
Benner: A couple of individual goals are consistency and having fun. Last year was hard not really seeing many shots in practice and obviously none in games. It wasn’t really that much fun watching everyone play the sport that I love and not being able to do the same. This year it has been awesome to step onto the field and get better everyday. It is going to be key that I remain in the zone throughout the season and not fluctuate in my play but rather keep consistent. It is those days when the weather is perfect, everyone is playing well together and you, yourself, are playing well that makes me remember why I love playing his sport; because it is fun. My goal is to make that everyday and to go out there with no regrets.

As a team, I think we can do a better job with communication on the field and working as a unit rather then an attack and a defense. With a few little adjustments we are going to be unstoppable. The talent is with out a doubt there and I am so excited for when we peak.

Question: What do you love about playing lacrosse for Virginia?
Benner: I love how competitive our schedule is and how we are constantly ranked among the top teams. By playing tough, challenging games during the season we are better prepared for postseason games. We are consistently a competitor for the ACC title and the national title. It is only a matter of time before the latter occurs. I also love calling my home field Klckner Stadium. It is definitely one of the best fields to play on out there.

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