by Shelby Eden
The 2015-2016 school year marks the first official season of a women’s lacrosse program at the University of Northwestern. The addition of the new sport has allowed players who are brand new to lacrosse have an opportunity to participate in and contribute mightily in a collegiate sport.
By the time athletes reach the college level in a sport, they usually have trophies from that sport lined up in their childhood bedroom, have attended camps in their respective sport each summer since third grade and have played critical roles on their high school teams.
However, for five lacrosse players on UNW women’s team, none of these things are true about their lacrosse journeys. For these five athletes, this season marks the first time they have learned basic lacrosse skills, participated in a lacrosse practice and played in a lacrosse game.
These first-time players are not just sitting on the bench in games either. Each athlete has played in every game and has started many of them for the Eagles—an opportunity that more experienced athletes in other sports do not always receive at the college level.
Molly Repp, a sophomore attack who has played in and started all seven games for the Eagles, has netted four goals this season. Coming into college, Repp was unsure if she would be able to continue athletics at the college level after playing volleyball and basketball and running track in high school, but she has found her place on the lacrosse team.
“I came here thinking that I would love to play a sport but thinking that it wouldn’t work out and that I am not good enough,” said Repp. “It’s exciting to step into this role as a new lacrosse player and see the success of my past athletic experience flow into this: it’s great seeing the hard work pay off for all of us.”
Benson, a freshman attack who has also started every game and has one goal for the Eagles, did not have a history in lacrosse before coming to UNW, but she played hockey for 13 years. Since Northwestern does not offer a women’s hockey program, Benson missed having the chance to be part of a team and has enjoyed her experience this season.
“I am very blessed to have gotten as much playing time as I have and to have given my team a goal,” said Benson. “I love getting to play and helping my team in any way that I can.”
Because the Eagles have a smaller roster of 14 players, with 10 having to be on the field at a time, everyone on the team has had the chance to play big minutes and make an impact in games. This fact, however, does not mean that the new players have not had to work hard to play at the collegiate level. These players have had to learn the rules and skills of the game that their teammates and opponents have picked up over previous lacrosse experience.
“Our goal always comes down to Colossians 3:23. We strive to compete with purpose, do the work and leave the results up to him.” – Taylor Deetjen
“Lacrosse is definitely the most nitpicky of the sports with cradling the stick and going for ground balls,” said Repp. “There are a lot more aspects of your body that you have to control along with the stick.”
She added, “The rules of the game are insane: you have to be aware of your body and make sure you aren’t too aggressive but be aggressive enough to go after the ball.”
Along with the new players having to learn many new skills in a short period of time to be game ready, Head Coach Taylor Deetjen has also had to adapt her game plans to fit the wide range of skills on the team: a task she proudly takes on.
“There is a huge sense of strategy being the coach. In life, whether it is in teaching or coaching, there are always going to be different skill levels,” said Deetjen. “It is meeting athletes where they are at and motivate to continue to work hard to get better. It is also very important placing players on the field where they can thrive in their team role.”
Although the Eagles are just 1-8 on the season, with their lone win coming against first-year program Concordia-Chicago, two of the team’s losses came by the score of 10-11 in competitive contests against Clarke University and Carroll University. The Eagles hope to avenge one of these losses with the mental toughness they have gained throughout the season in a rematch against Carroll at home April 23.
“We have learned how important it is for us to play with confidence and with perseverance against teams with more experience: we all have a great attitude going into games,” said Benson.
“I would love for us to come back and beat the team we were close to beating earlier this season,” said Repp. “I think it’s a chance for us to capitalize on the ability to play them again.”
Outside of athletic goals, players on the women’s lacrosse team work to be good disciples on the field and look to represent Christ in their pursuits: a goal that stretches far beyond athletic experience.
“Our goal always comes down to Colossians 3:23,” said Deetjen. “We strive to compete with purpose, do the work and leave the results up to him.”
“My goal is that other teams will continue to know that we are Christians, not just because we are a Christian university but because of the love we show them on and off the field,” added Benson.