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Steven Hemphill | | May 18, 2015

The draw

2015 DII Women's Lacrosse Championship: Finals Recap

SALEM, Va. -- Felicia Mills isn’t a center-stage kind of lacrosse player.

The Adelphi senior prefers the center of the field, and Lock Haven was the latest women’s lacrosse team to be reminded why that’s the case.

For the better part of the past three seasons, Mills has taken nearly every key midfield draw the Panthers have faced. More often than not -- by about a 2-to-1 margin, Mills came away with the ball.

Oh, by the way, she also scored the go-ahead goal for Adelphi in its 5-4 overtime win against the Bald Eagles in Sunday’s NCAA Division II national championship game at Roanoke College.

So will scoring the winning goal in the last game of your college career going to be the memory that will hang with Mills for years to come?

“It probably should be the goal, but my mind is always thinking about the draw,” she said. “I’m always thinking about every single draw that I’ve taken.”

She’s not alone. Over the weekend, Mills’ ability to control the draw as often as she does was heralded by her teammates, her coaches -- even the other teams’ coaches.

“It’s a possession game, and that draw … leads to possession,” said Le Moyne coach Kathy Taylor, whose team lost to Adelphi three times in 2015, and were outdrawn in Saturday’s semifinal 11-5. “We knew they had a great draw specialist in Felicia, and she proved that again [on Saturday].”

The numbers all come out in favor of Mills and her Panther teammates. Coming into the final weekend of the season, Adelphi controlled 310 draws, as opposed to just 150 for its opponents. Of those 310, 125 were won by Mills. For her career, Mills controlled 374 draws.

“Having the confidence that I’ve built, taking draw after draw, that pushes me to take them again,” she said. “It’s a sense of pride I have in that job -- knowing that’s the thing I can contribute to this team.”

Mills isn’t the first in her family to shine as a draw specialist for the Panthers. Her sister Marissa, who graduated in 2012, was in charge of the job when Felicia first arrived on the Adelphi campus. Marissa finished with 124 draw controls in her career.

Felicia said Marissa is also the voice -- sometimes in her head, other times in her face -- that makes sure Felicia’s mind is right when it’s time to take a draw.

“I think about how I’m set up every single time,” Felicia Mills said. “My sister said something to me [Saturday] about not getting low enough. So I have to get low on every single draw.”

And while there were many other players who helped ease the transition when first-year coach Pat McCabe took over the team back in office, he acknowledged that having Mills on the field was among the most important reasons a new coach could enjoy this kind of success.

“We’re really lucky to have Felicia with us,” he said. “It works in a couple of ways.

“One it allows your defense to have room to breathe. If they do give up a goal, they’re probably going to be seeing the ball come right back again. And offensively, it allows our team to relax a little when we score a goal. … A good person on the draw allows you to maintain your offensive runs, and it allows you to limit your opponents’ offensive runs.”

As for her future, Mills said she’s hoping she can be a resource for the players who will assume her duties. Returning players Ryley Weber and Camille Rosellini are the most likely candidates to replace Mills. She said the key for whoever takes the job is to go into the circle feeling like winning control of the ball is the most important part of the game, and not worry about scoring.

“Most of the time, I’m just trying to move the ball along -- do my job,” Mills said. “I know I do the draws well, so I focus on that, and then get the ball to the attack.”