NEW HAVEN — You are only freshmen, but you are going to lead your college lacrosse team in goals. You are going to lead your team in assists.
When all is said and done, you will stand 1-2 in total points.
Had you told Cheshire’s Emma Farrel and Southington’s Carolynn Keal that prior to their rookie season at Southern Connecticut State University this spring, they wouldn’t have believed it at all.
Fast forward to the end of the season, that prediction would have been accurate.
Southern’s 2015 season ended at 3-14 Saturday with a 13-11 loss to Southern New Hampshire. Farrel and Keal, with one goal apiece, completed a campaign that indeed saw them go 1-2 in scoring. Farrel led the Division II Owls with 41 goals and 17 assists for 58 points. Keal was second with 31 goals and 15 assists for 46 points.
Those are eye-opening numbers, even for players who were All-State in their senior year of high school.
Keal, in particular, didn’t expect to have such a great year due to one basic reality: the difficult transition from high school lacrosse to college.
College lacrosse, Keal noted, is a year-round sport and, physically, it’s much more demanding.
“Coming to college, you start to play in the fall right away when you show up,” said Keal. “Physically, I was pushed to start conditioning earlier in the season. Also, I had to practice more, so time management was a huge transitional factor, where in high school, you have the fall to yourself and you could do whatever you want to do, in college.”
As one of only six freshmen on the team, Keal said she knew that she was going to receive playing time, but wasn’t sure how much. She found out fast. On March 11, in the season opener at No. 1-ranked Adelphi University, Keal started and scored her first collegiate goal.
“Starting as a freshman was the best opportunity for me,” Keal said. “When you think of a freshman, they go in for someone tired late in a game, maybe, and I was OK with that. But once I got that chance to start, I wanted to make sure I was going to keep that starting spot for the remainder of the season.”
She did. Keal started all 17 games and wound up taking a team-high 84 shots. She also led the team in ground balls with 45 and in draw controls with 52.
Keal credits her first-year success to her hard work in practices, which at times begin at 6 a.m.
“We play our practices as if they’re games,” said Keal. “All of us love playing together and working hard. We always have that game mentality where it pushes all of us to work harder. So when the whole team shows up to practice, we are all ready to push each other.”
As for Farrel, her time as a starter began in the second game of the season against St. Anselm College. She responded with two assists.
What made her stand out as a player to keep an eye on came the next game, out in Philippi, W.V. against Alderson Broaddus University. Farrel scored six goals and assisted on a seventh to fuel a 21-5 victory. After that, she scored three or more goals in eight of the next 14 games.
Farrel wound up being named Northeast-10 Conference Rookie of the Week three times and ECAC Division II Rookie of the Week once.
Farrel said winning Rookie of the Week several times was a good feeling, but she’s more focused on helping her team win more games instead of individual honors.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Farrel. “I mean our team doesn’t have the best record [3-14], so I would rather have a better record instead.”
SCSU coach Maureen Spellman said she had high expectations for Farrel and Keal, who prior to college were teammates on the Noreaster club team. Her expectations were so high, in fact, that their excellent play this season wasn’t a surprise.
“I put a lot of pressure on them from the start,” said Spellman. “I think they handled it beautifully as freshmen. They are the future of this program.
“The club that they came from, the families, the support — right off the bat, I knew they were going to be impact players.”
Of the 190 goals the Owls scored this season, Farrel and Keal accounted for 72. Keal credits that to the chemistry that the two have on and off the field.
“We definitely click as teammates,” she said. “We both push our hardest. We both want to help the team succeed. So having another girl on the team, who wants the same goals as me, really helped us. I was really happy when I found out she was going to be my teammate in college.”
“We already had chemistry before Southern because we played on the same club team prior,” Farrel said. “Coming into college, we were so used to how each other played. I can just give her a look and she’ll know I’m about to pass to her. I think we have a very strong connection on the field.”
It’s a connection that has three more years to thrive.
Looking ahead, Farrel said she wants the team to continue its progression for years to come. Despite the team’s 3-14 record this season, she said, the Owls worked very hard in every practice and games.
“Our team has a lot of goals that we want to accomplish next season,” Farrel said. “Our record doesn’t reflect on how hard we try. I definitely think we’ve put in all the hard work so far, which I’m happy about. ”
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