KEENE, N.H. 4/22/11 - When Erin Taylor was weighing the pros and cons of which college to attend, she sought the advice of Jason Leser. Who better to ask for help? After all, Leser, like Taylor, not only hailed from the same high school, but played the same position on their respective Brewster (N.Y.) High School boys' and girls' lacrosse teams.
As expected, Leser, who had just completed his first season on the Keene State College men’s lacrosse team, made a strong pitch for Taylor to join him at KSC and play for the Owl women’s team. “We talked about lacrosse and how much he loved it, and he strongly suggested that I come to Keene State,” said Taylor.
Truth be told, Taylor already had her mind set on the small college in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire. “As soon as I visited Keene State I knew it was the place for me,” said Taylor.
Both Brewster products have shone in goal this season at Keene State. Leser, who has taken over as the Owls’ top netminder this spring, has twice been named the Little East’s goalie of the week and is second (.621) and third (7.88) respectively among conference keepers in save percentage and goals against average. Likewise, Taylor is a two-time LEC goalie of the week and sports a 10.66 GAA and .474 save percentage, second and fourth respectively in the league.
Leser and Thomas have stymied opposing attackers with their play and drawn the praise of their coaches. “Jason has stepped right up as our top goalie this season,” said KSC men’s lacrosse coach Mark Theriault. “He’s very poised in the net and has a knack for coming up with the big save.”
“We were looking for a top goalie and Erin seized the opportunity,” said Owl women’s lacrosse coach Katie Arsenault. “She tracks the ball really well and has great reaction time.”
The similarities don’t end there. Both Leser and Taylor suffered injuries playing different sports that ultimately led them to the net. An avid soccer player growing up, Leser moved to lacrosse after he fractured the growth plate in his left foot as a fifth grader. “The coaches didn’t want me running on it, so they stuck me in the net and I’ve been there ever since,” said Leser.
Taylor made the transition from softball to lacrosse after having shoulder surgery her freshman year at Brewster High. “The lacrosse coach, Gerry Walsh, came up to me and told me he needed a goalie,” said Taylor. “I had never played lacrosse in my life, but I just did it.”
The combination of playing with and against some of the top high school lacrosse players in the area brought out the best in Leser and Taylor. Leser played three seasons on the varsity team at Brewster, leading the Bears to the sectional championships his junior year. At his senior dinner, Leser was the recipient of the Joseph William Capalbo Memorial Scholarship – an award that recognizes not only athletic accomplishment but also someone who is a “loyal friend and an inspiration to his teammates and coaches.”
Taylor played two seasons for the Bears, earning All-League honors as a senior.
Leser and Taylor took different routes to Keene State. Leser arrived via the Springfield College connection between Brewster coach Mike Honey and Theriault, while Taylor initiated the recruitment by sending an e-mail to Arsenault.
Both players have found a home in the Keene State net. After serving an apprenticeship that included a strong first half performance against defending national champ Cortland State in the second-round of the NCAA tournament as a freshman, Leser has becomes the Owls main man between the pipes this season. “I feel a lot more confident this season,” said Leser. “My defense has done a great job in front of me so I can focus on stopping the ball.”
“Jason has improved tremendously,” said KSC defenseman Justin Flessa-LaRoche. “It takes a lot of pressure off everyone when you have a goalie that you know can make saves.”
Anchoring Keene State’s defense, Leser had a career-high 23 saves against Lasell College and turned aside 16 shots in the Owls' overtime upset against a Geneseo State team that came into the game ranked 18th in the country. “I was still shaking on the bus ride home,” said Leser. “It was an unbelievable game.”
Taylor said she was very surprised about taking over as Keene State’s top goalie as a freshman. “I was definitely nervous. I just have to concentrate on playing the way I know I can,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s success comes from having a short memory. “You have to keep your head and not let it get to you,” she said. “If you allow a goal, you have to be able to move on to the next shot.”
“Every time there’s a shot, I have confidence that Erin is going to make the save,” said Owl senior defender Emily Persano.
Taylor has had her share of great games for Keene State this season, including a 15-save performance against nationally ranked Bowdoin. Taylor has a souvenir from the game – a huge bruise on her leg. “Goalies like bruises – that means we made the save,” said Taylor.