Friday, February 13, 2009

An Athlete With Tested Determination

By Kaja Stamnes

The path at which students arrive at college is usually determined by a variety of factors, often many unforeseen at the outset of what can sometimes be a long and arduous journey. A family's ability to pay, rejection from one's first choice, proximity to home, all these and more are questions that arise as a student prepares to enter their undergraduate experience. As a member of the athlete community, however, the factors which determine one's college choice often are shaped in a distinct way from the typical student; the process begins earlier and the dynamics are often more personal. I sat down to talk to my teammate and friend, Shawn Lopez, a sophomore on the Women's Lacrosse Team here at Rutgers about how she ended up a Scarlet Knight.

Shawn began her career as a lacrosse player in sixth grade, in fact quite late considering she grew up outside of Baltimore, Maryland, where kids often pick up their sticks for the first time in elementary school. Previous to lacrosse she had played soccer, but by the eighth grade she began to play club lacrosse and realized that she would like to play in college. This is not unusual once a player begins to play in summer tournaments with their club team; in fact most teams advertise the schools of alumni and charge high rates under the assumption that your child will get it back in the form of a lacrosse scholarship.

As a member of the Skywalkers club team, and a student-athlete at Maryvale Preparatory School, Shawn enjoyed steady levels of recruitment in her early high school career. As a sophomore she had already had contact with various coaches, and excelled in multiple sports at her school. Unfortunately, despite the benefits of staying in shape that an athlete reaps from being a multi-sport star, in Shawn’s junior year she seriously injured her feet and legs. Due to repetitive stress on her legs from cross-country, she fractured both tibias (the bone along the shin) and multiple metatarsal bones in her feet. A bone scan in January revealed the news, taking away the possibility of a junior season, the most important from a college-recruitment standpoint.

Shawn’s first choice at this time had been Notre Dame, but as the news of her injury reached the coach, they unfortunately couldn’t afford to keep a place for her there. “I understood, because their program isn’t fully funded, and it’s risky for any school to save a spot for someone you haven’t seen play in over a year,” says Shawn, though admits being initially disappointed. Despite this feeling like a major setback, Rutgers coach Laura Brand continued to pursue Shawn and after an unofficial visit, she committed to the team.

As a member of the Scarlet Knights, Shawn has continued to show her strength and commitment to lacrosse despite a nagging injury since her time here. Her satisfaction with ending up at Rutgers, rather than South Bend, Indiana, and her upbeat attitude (especially now back in action in practice) show that everything fell into place for Shawn, despite what her initial expectations were as a high school student. She says, “Now that I’m here, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I really wanted to go to Notre Dame, but I’m very happy here, I love my teammates, being close to home, everything.” As we enter the third week of our hardest preseason yet, Shawn’s assurance seems no less unwavering, and I have to say as her teammate that I feel the same way. Hopefully this year, Shawn and the rest of us will get to stomp on the Fighting Irish.

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