Vol. LXI, No. 20
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
Jen Larsen felt like a bit of an outsider last spring when the Stuart Country Day lacrosse team won its second straight state Prep B title.
The transfer from Lawrenceville School spent most of the season playing for the JV team, moving up to the varsity for the playoffs.
Determined to have a greater role this spring in her senior campaign, Larsen toiled diligently over the off-season to improve her conditioning and stick skills.
Her efforts paid dividends as Larsen has emerged as a solid contributor on attack this spring for the Tartans, helping to pick up the slack when star attacker Kelly Bruvik went down with a season-ending knee injury in the season-opener.
Last Monday in the state Prep B title game against visiting Rutgers Prep, Larsen was in the middle of the action, scoring a goal and adding an assist as the Tartans cruised to a 13-2 win and a championship three-peat.
Afterward, a beaming Larsen made it clear that she relished her bigger role. "It is really nice to be a main part of the team," asserted Larsen. "I played from the beginning to the end with the girls; they know that I was there all the time. We just set it up and it felt right. I wasn't coming in awkwardly at the end; instead I just really felt connected and a part of the team."
Larsen was also inspired by her connection to her older bother, Chris, a former lax star at Army who is currently stationed near Baghdad.
"I was thinking of my oldest brother the whole time when I was out there today; that was really pushing me to do my best," said Larsen. "I tried to keep picking it up any time I made a mistake."
The Tartans, though, made few mistakes as they outflanked Rutgers Prep all over the field. "The team played really well," said Larsen. "We really pulled it together the last two games. I kept yelling 'every ball, Stuart, every ball.' We really wanted it."
In the early stages of the season, it looked like Stuart was coming apart as it struggled to adjust to the absence of Bruvik. "It was a little nerve-wracking at the beginning," recalled Larsen, who now has 17 goals on the season. "It definitely made us all aware that we had to fill the void. We couldn't play at 100 percent, we had to play at 110 or 120 percent.
Stuart head coach Sara Wagner appreciates the intensity Larsen brings to the team. "I looked to her today; I said 'Jenny make sure they are up today,'" recalled Wagner.
"She's got that excitement and leadership; she really focused the second half of the season. We needed that today; we needed her enthusiasm."
Wagner was enthusiastic about her team's three-peat. "It's great for the Stuart community," said Wagner, whose club improved to 7-7 with the win. "It says a lot about the girls and how determined and disciplined they are. They have come a long way from the beginning of the season."
The Tartans faced another obstacle as sophomore star Elizabeth Bucklee was sidelined by a sprained ankle the day before the title game.
"We were playing today without 'Bucky' and I thought our attackers really stepped up to the challenge," said Wagner, who got five goals from Caroline Passano together with three from Amanda Curnan and two from Kara Weeks.
"We concentrated on the attack, being patient, and getting the best shot. I'm glad we were patient in the beginning; I think we were able to wear down Rutgers Prep's defense a little bit."
Wagner was proud of how her defense executed its game plan. "Today belongs to our defense, I think," asserted Wagner, whose team was slated to face Princeton Day School on May 15 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semis on May 17.
"I thought our defense was outstanding today. Jackie [Radvany] played well in the midfield. Eleanor [Hayes-Larson] had a terrific first half. We really did a good job of stopping the ball. We have been working on that in practice."
Larsen, for her part, was determined to work as hard as she possibly could in her final high school season. "I wasn't getting recruited to play a sport so it was all or nothing right now," said Larsen. "I wanted to go out with a season where I put everything in with no regrets."
As Larsen celebrated with her teammates and family after Monday's win, it was clear that she had achieved that goal.
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