When junior attacker Ally Runyon receives a pass from her teammate, she knows she can score. When she’s slicing through defenses on the field, it looks second nature by now, as she tucks the ball into the net with pinpoint accuracy. The statistics do not convey the extent of how she can take over a game.
The women’s lacrosse team’s leading scorer has had an impressive campaign once again for the South Hill squad this season.
As a freshman, Runyon tallied 31 goals, which was second-most on the team, en route to being named the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year in 2013.
She surpassed that number of goals in her second season, scoring 56 on her way to being named to both the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association’s All-Empire Region Team and the Empire 8 All-Conference First Team.
So far in 2015, Runyon has netted 35 goals in only 10 games and is on pace to score 60 for the season. Should Runyon reach that number, she would be close to breaking the school’s single season goal-scoring record of 61 set in 1998 by then-senior Allison Doyle.
Despite the numbers, Runyon said her transition to the college game was not as easy as it seemed coming out of Fairport High School in Fairport, New York.
“The adjustment from high school to college was very difficult,” Runyon said. “The speed of play and the talent level of the team were so much higher than anything that I had been exposed to, so it took some time to adjust to.”
She said she did not necessarily feel unprepared when it came time to make the transition, but she had to get comfortable and build a rapport with her new teammates.
“I did have to work really hard and get used to being a part of a new team, but my teammates were amazing at building our confidence and making each other better players,” Runyon said.
After clearing those initial speed bumps, Runyon was on the fast lane to becoming a true offensive threat, and she said she attributes her goal-scoring prowess to a lack of fear in the field due to an increased trust in her teammates abilities.
“I think that the reason I have become more of a goal scoring threat is that I am not afraid to take as many risks as I have in the past,” she said.
Head coach Shannon McHale said Runyon’s work ethic and athletic ability are also key components to her offensive skills.
“[She is a] superior athlete who is very humble and always works to be better every day,” McHale said.
Runyon’s teammate, junior midfielder Riley Marion, echoed McHale’s sentiments when she said she believes Runyon has the skills of a high-caliber athlete.
“She’s really strong, so not many defenders can stop her,” Marion said. “Al has a really quick first step and is comfortable driving left or right, so that makes her very hard to defend.”
Runyon said she has noticed opponents utilize a defensive tactic called face guarding in order to try and stop her from scoring. Face guarding is described as when a designated defensive player will face a chosen offensive player for the entirety of the attack and not let them out of their sight. This makes it harder for offensively dangerous players, such as Runyon, to impact the game by giving them limited opportunities to have the ball.
Runyon said while the tactic can be successful every so often, it has not affected the team’s ability to score as a whole.
“It can work to get me out of the play, but fortunately we have enough talent on our team so this doesn’t affect our offense too much,” she said. “I have to work harder to get the ball, but we all work together to do whatever our offense needs to do to score goals.”
McHale said she shared Runyon’s feelings about having a talented offense that defenders cannot ignore to focus on the goal-scoring junior.
“You can’t shut Ally Runyon down,” McHale said. “She’s too smart, too athletic and too competitive. She has talented teammates who the defense has to mark as well or they will score as well.”
Marion said the dynamic between Runyon and her is more than just teammates is but one of friendship that translates on the field.
“We’re best friends, and I think that shows sometimes on the field,” Marion said. “One of the strongest parts of our attack is our fast break, and that is a time where we really work together and create opportunities for each other. Ally has a really good game sense and I can rely on her to give me a great feed if I am cutting, or I know she will be able to handle and finish any feed I give her.”