The Start Of Something New

I picked up my first lacrosse stick when I was seven years old. At the time, I had been in full swing with soccer (my other true love), and didn’t think that any other sport could take over priority. My father and uncle introduced me to the sport. Frankly, I never really expected it to become such a big part of my life down the line. With their help, I began to learn how to cradle, throw and shoot. Shortly after, they started the recreational program in my town and coached me and my friends in 3rd grade. Now, the journey officially started.

From 3rd to 6th grade, lacrosse was just a spring season sport that followed soccer and basketball. To be honest with you, I wasn’t taking it too seriously. But after 6th grade, I started to play club lacrosse. Now, the sport was a year-round venture. My two best friends and I played in the fall, winter, spring and summer. There wasn’t a week that went by without touching a lacrosse stick at least five times a week. It was a goal of mine to play Division 1 lacrosse one day and to be one of the first players from the high school program to go to D1. So, things picked up quite heavily.

Summer tournaments and showcases started to become more of a focus which means that I traveled almost every weekend with my amazingly supportive parents and family. We would drive up and down the east coast (the hot-bed of lacrosse) and play 5-6 games a weekend in the sweltering summer heat and humidity of the right coast. I was missing high school summers with my friends, pool parties and weekends down the Jersey shore just to focus on getting recruited, playing in front of coaches, and bettering my skills. My club teammates became family, hotel rooms in Maryland, Virginia, New York and the south of New Jersey became my second home, and my love for the sport grew stronger & stronger.

There was something special about running up and down a field with the sun blazing down. This complete test of endurance and your mental skills… those things got me so attached. Although I knew right when I picked up a stick that it would become a huge part of my life, it was the countless summer tournaments, chugging Gatorades to stay hydrated after profusely sweating in 100 degree weather, playing four games a day, supporting my club teammates in their own pursuits of getting recruited, and aiming to get to the tournament championship as a team while also focusing on my personal game that really defined my passion for the sport. I knew that I wanted to do this following my high school career… and to represent a University.

Starting Something New

That University was Michigan. Besides the fact that the minute I stepped foot on campus in Ann Arbor it felt like home, I chose to sign with Michigan because I would be a part of the inaugural women’s lacrosse team. This meant that I would have a hand in starting a culture and a program that will go on to last many more years. To start from scratch with 27 other girls around me sounded perfect. I knew it would be a challenge but I knew that I wasn’t alone as everyone else was going through the same thing. We had to help each other understand the level of work ethic that went into building and excelling at the Division 1 level. And that challenge was intriguing.

Combined with the spirit, culture, prestige, and academic reputation of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor was just the perfect fit. When you are standing on campus, especially the athletic side of it, you can just sense something extraordinary. There is a little over 800 student-athletes amongst the roughly 50,000 undergrad and grad students. And 28 of those students were about to be a part of the start of a whole new program. We knew we had big shoes to follow. The Big House. Michigan football and basketball. Michigan soccer, softball, baseball, etc. There is an overwhelming sense of spirit and championship culture when you are on South Campus. Everyone wears the Block M proudly and I wanted to be a part of that.

I knew that committing there would mean that I would have so much support around me to succeed and become the student-athlete that I wanted to be – accomplished on the field and in the classroom.

Ann Arbor

The city of Ann Arbor. It’s a small city with really, really cold winters. But there’s something about it that was immediately attracting. The buzzing energy of South State Street, the restaurants, and atmosphere of Main Street and South U. You feel the Michigan spirit wherever you are. Especially on a gameday, wow. There is nothing better than a football gameday in Ann Arbor. “The Big House”, our football stadium, is one of the most renowned stadiums in the country. Maybe even the world?! And before we got our own facility, we actually got to experience playing the sport we love in it. What priceless memories!

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Being a Student-Athlete at Michigan

Being a student-athlete at one of the most prestigious public universities, both academically and athletically, was a privilege and an honor. It was the most amazing four years of my life so far and a time that I will cherish and remember forever. I met some of my best friends, made some of the best memories of my life, learned a lot about myself, grew my lacrosse skills, and excelled as a student. I still smile about so many different moments that will always remind me of this unique and wonderful time.

I thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by my teammates and best friends to work towards goals each and every day. There was never really any off days. As a student-athlete, you are either practicing, lifting, studying film, getting treatment, doing homework, or preparing for an exam. I enjoyed the busyness and the thrill and excitement. It really made me feel like I was growing as a person.

Growing from the struggles

There’s no doubt that some days were amongst the hardest of my life, however. I’m not going to lie… I cried and thought about giving up. There were so many times where I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that I was failing, that I had too much on my plate to succeed. My anxiety grew and became more prominent in college. I always had it but it was these four years that really tested it. But, being a student-athlete, having my team around me and access to resources that allowed me to succeed in every aspect of life really made me feel like I could do it. And frankly, I became a lot stronger because of it. As did many of my teammates.

I mean… Think about it… I was a member of the women’s lacrosse team at THE University of Michigan. If that doesn’t make the struggles worth it, nothing will.

Beating the Buckeyes

And it is because of overcoming these struggles that we get to experience moments like the following.

My most memorable moment as a student-athlete was beating Ohio State my senior year in Columbus in an overtime game. I still get the chills thinking about that game and the feeling after we won. If anyone knows sports, college sports I guess I should say, then you know about the Ohio State – Michigan rivalry. Yes, of course the rivalry is more prominent and recognized in football, but really any team at Michigan feels that strong desire to win against Ohio State and claim the rivalry each year.

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We had worked so hard on the game plan for this match-up and we knew it was going to be a battle. It always was. This was an important one for the graduating seniors. We really, really wanted it. And all of us showed up.

It was a game of back and forth. We had a significant lead for a while before they came back. The game of lacrosse is fast and there is never a guarantee until the final buzzer. You can score a goal in 10 seconds or less in the game of lacrosse. And that’s what this game came down to.

Many of us played on top of our level, myself included. We played our hearts out. It came down to overtime before it happened. We scored and the most surreal feeling took over…  we had just beaten our rival. Michigan’s rival. The emotions immediately took over. Running around, pure excitement. Our parents and fans in the stands, screaming. Our biggest supporters were just as excited, if not more. Looking around and seeing the pure joy on everyone’s faces was just an unreal sight and something I will never forget.

This was our first Big Ten win. There were a lot of tears. Tears of joy. We were all hugging each other and sang Hail to the Victors right on the field post game. Singing that fight song was always a great feeling but this time, this time was ten times better.

We left Columbus, Ohio with the biggest smiles on our faces. We were so proud of one another. So proud and excited to wear that Block M and drive back to Ann Arbor with a deserving win under our belt.

This will always be one of my favorite memories and I know it’s probably also the favorite memory for the majority of my teammates. It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

A Final Piece of Advice

Now that I’m graduated, it was time to reflect on my journey to Michigan and my time as a Wolverine. To conclude my story, I would like to give some advice to any incoming freshman.

Do not wish time away when things are tough or hard. As I currently embark in the beginning stages of adulthood, I find myself wishing I had another day, another week, and another month filled with long practices with my teammates and travel days while finishing up a paper on the bus. Your schedule as a student-athlete is basically made for you. You don’t have much say in what time you have to practice, lift, study film, get treatment, or have team dinner. Heck, you barely have the option of crafting your own class schedule as you have to work with an academic counselor to find classes that fit within your daily athletic schedule. But, you do have a say of what you make of it.

My class and I tell this the current team, specifically the seniors, all the time. Because one day, we were freshmen that had to figure out the whole Division 1 student-athlete thing on our own with no class above us. And then one day, we were playing our final game in the Big House. It’s hard to not wish days to be over or looking at the clock for it to be done. Especially when you’ve failed a run test, didn’t study as much as you should have for an exam, or just weren’t feeling on your A game.

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Enjoy every single second because the day will come where you are “just” an alumni and go back to Ann Arbor once or twice a year to play in your alumni game. Take advantage of every moment you have with your teammates on and off the field. Never take a second for granted and represent the Block M with dignity, a championship mindset, and appreciation for all that you are given to be a student-athlete at a school like the University of Michigan.

The hard times are hard, the cold days of Ann Arbor are unbearable, the schoolwork is probably harder than you ever expected, and the days are long. But it is these days that will shape you and make you stronger. Eventually, you will miss these days. Deeply.

The University of Michigan is a special place that will forever have a spot in your heart and in your life. You are a part of an elite group of men and women. Take advantage of the resources, the community engagement opportunities, the academic resources, the city of Ann Arbor, and the moments in the locker room with your teammates. Put your phone down and truly experience and feel these moments. Because time really does fly. You may not realize it now but one day, you will.