As Carly O’Brien went through middle school, she was on track to be a softball star.
The athletic O’Brien starred in the District 12 softball all-star tournament and played travel ball.
But O’Brien’s sports destiny changed in the span of one afternoon. “A friend brought me to her lacrosse practice, “ said O’Brien.
“I really liked it and after the spring of eight grade, I stopped playing travel softball and got into lacrosse.”
It didn’t take long for O’Brien to establish herself as a star in her newfound passion. She made the girls’ varsity lax team at Princeton Day School in 2008 as a ninth grader and emerged as a go-to scoring threat by her sophomore season.
As a junior, she tallied 63 goals and 13 assists to help the Panthers go 14-4 and win the program’s first-ever Mercer County Tournament title. O’Brien kept firing away as a senior, earning first-team All-Prep A honors and ending her PDS career with more than 150 goals.
Having progressed so rapidly in lacrosse, O’Brien was fired up to keep playing the game after high school.
“I realized that lacrosse was my favorite sport; I couldn’t see myself not playing sports in college,” said O’Brien, who also starred in soccer and ice hockey for the Panthers.
Initially, O’Brien saw herself playing at the highest level of the college game.
“At first, I wanted to go to a Division I program,” said O’Brien. “I went to camps, the intensity level was a lot higher. I was looking at Lafayette.”
But O’Brien ended up falling in love with Division III Dickinson College and didn’t need to look any further.
“It was not until the end of junior year that Dickinson got into the picture,” said O’Brien, whose older brothers, Dan and Clint, were star athletes at PDS and played college sports at the D-III level.
“The coach sent me a letter and I met her in the summer before my senior year. I loved her coaching style. I did an overnight visit. I loved the team; I felt really comfortable. I liked that it was a small school; it reminded me of PDS.”
Similar to her PDS career, O’Brien made an impact right away for the Red Devils this spring, tallying 25 points on 13 goals and 12 assists to rank third on the squad in scoring.
O’Brien’s numbers are even more impressive considering that she was battling through injury throughout her freshman year.
“In my second-to-last game in high school, I hurt my hamstring,” said O’Brien, a 5’8 attacker.
“I couldn’t play all fall because I was rehabbing my hamstring. Sitting on the sidelines was frustrating but I got to know my teammates and see how things are done.”
Once the spring rolled around, O’Brien was able to get some things done on the field as she returned to action.
“After we came back from winter break, I was able to play again,” said O’Brien.
“The first game was quite nerve-wracking. It is a lot higher level than high school, the game is a lot faster in college.”
The injury bug, though, ended up slowing O’Brien throughout the spring.
“I originally hurt my right hamstring but then I irritated the left one through favoring the right,” said O’Brien.
“I did physical therapy before and after practice. I did exercises to build up my leg around the hamstring. It was very frustrating. I had to take a couple of games off. I played about half the time; I worked out an arrangement with the coach for when I would come out.”
All things considered, O’Brien feels she got off to a good start in her Dickinson career.
“I tried to contribute as much as I could,” said O’Brien, reflecting on a season which saw the Red Devils go 7-8 overall and 4-4 in Centennial Conference play. “We have a young team. The freshman class were the stars.”
Currently focusing on getting up to full speed, O’Brien is looking to assume a starring role in her sophomore year.
“I am doing physical therapy all summer,” said O’Brien. “I expect to be 100 percent by the fall. The future looks exciting. We didn’t make the playoffs this year and we want to make it next year.”