California Girl

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Kent State University’s freshman defender Hailee Andry works to control the ball during the first ever home lacrosse game again Robert Morris University on Feb. 16, 2019.

 

Last week, I introduced you to Kent State’s new lacrosse team. We talked to a couple of people about the process of starting up a new team and all the work that goes into it. Well, we talked about some of the work that goes into it. We could talk for hours upon hours if we were to try and talk about all the nitty gritty details.

 

The next couple of weeks, we are going to dig a little deeper and get to know some of the faces and the people who make up the team.

 

As time goes on and people start to get a little more settled in their roles, the team as a whole will start to have an identity. Right now, the identity of Kent State’s lacrosse program is incredibly fresh, incredibly new and very, very green. As the years go on, that green will wear off, the blue and gold will shine and the Flashes will be an extravagant powerhouse and regional leader in the sport of lacrosse.

 

Teams have their own identity and that identity is formed by the individuals who are active in the program from players to coaches and to support staff like athletic trainers and communications people.

 

Every team in existence has a range of personalities from the reserved and quiet yet fierce and definitely NOT someone you want to cross, to the loud, energetic and always positive cheerleader who is the first to run to your side and comfort you if they you hurt or missed a wide open shot and certainly the one to cheer the loudest after a victory.

 

The last part of that description describes Hailee Andry to a T.

 

“Hailee is um a kid who impressed me from the minute I met her, and I think she was ready to commit from the minute she stepped on campus.  She is super bubbly, very outgoing and really positive. I knew we would need that positivity in these first couple of years.”

 

I got that vibe from her too. As our interview was wrapping up and I was packing my gear, we were chatting and I mentioned the upcoming game at the University of Michigan. I said something along the lines of “you wont win the game but it will be an amazing way to see what that caliber of team looks like.” Hailee did not get mad but she did challenge me and reminded me that upsets happen and they have just as much a chance to win that game as Michigan does. At the time of the game, Michigan was ranked 11th in the country.

 

Hailee gets her inspiration from her parents. In fact, she is a fierce family girl. Her parents and siblings mean the world to her.

 

“My parents are a huge, huge part of my life they really have just been my rock of resilience. They’ve been huge supporters and they’ve also,they gave me a good balance in my lie of support but also like helped me find my way of like staying independent.”

 

She tries to talk to her parents every day. It can be a challenge with class, practice and a social life. Especially when your parents are 3 time zones and 3,600 miles away.

 

Hailee was born and raised in Orange County California and grew up playing soccer and volleyball. She made the transition to lacrosse in 8th grade.

 

“I came from soccer so on the west coast soccer is really the sport that kids grow up playing you know, I’ve played soccer for as long as I can remember like since I could run. And so coming from lacrosse was a good transition because of the running aspect of the sports. I started as a middy because they were like Oh perfect asoccer player, we’ll just have you run. And my first ever game was interesting. I get into the game and I knew absolutely nothing about lacrosse and my coach forgot she hadn’t explained the rules to me. And so basically, there’s an offsides in lacrosse. And it’s a little different than soccer so its actually a line that restr it’s we call it a restraining line and my coach didn’t tell me what it was so I’m here like playing middy and attack and we are getting offsides calls and I have no idea they are like please step behind the line. And after the third time I got a call my coach is like oh right Hailee come here. Pulls me off and was like so that’s the restraining line and I forgot to explain you the rules.”

 

After that… well…interesting start to a lacrosse career, Hailee made the varsity team her freshman year of high school.

 

For those who don’t know, similar to the way the NCAA splits up into divisions, high schools split up into varsity and junior varsity (if they have enough players to make two teams) Varsity is generally reserved for upper classmen or outstanding underclassmen. To make varsity in your freshman year is an incredible feat and does not happen all too often.

 

Hailee grew up playing soccer and in middle school picked up volleyball and in 8th grade learned that lacrosse exists and decided to start considering playing. Middle school was all about sports. She spent almost more time on the court or the pitch than she did at home.

 

“My 8th grade year, the end of it, I remember on Tuesdays and Thursdays I would have volleyball practice and I think on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I would go from school to lacrosse practice right after and straight to my club soccer practice so 8th grade year was just me finding myself and figuring out what sports I wanted to play in high school because up until that point when I found lacrosse, it was always when I was younger looking up to the Mia Hams and the Abby Wambachs It was, okay, that’s where I want to be.”

 

Mia Ham and Abby Wambach are both former USA national soccer stars and have both won Olympic gold medals and FIFA World Cups.

 

Hailee really wanted to play soccer in high school and college and had a dream of playing on the national team. Going into high school, she decided to cut volleyball from consideration and focused her energy on both soccer and lacrosse.

 

“8th grade was really like a big year for finding myself. And you know a lot of sit downs with my parents and my parents saying okay this is, this is a big deal its not just okay you’re gonna quit this and its not a big deal. You know sportst are a big aspect in my life and 3 sports is a little too crazy for high school. And then coming into my freshman year, I played I wanna say summer league all summer with lacrosse, the lacrosse team under kresta bowman and when it came around school and time for tryouts for soccer, I tried out and made the team and my lacrosse coach comes up to me and goes, hey hailee, I know youre playing soccer and lacrosse but I wanted to let you know that you have an opportunity here to make varsity for lacrosse.”

 

Like we already talked about, making varsity your freshman year is a really  big deal. Her coach told her she had the opportunity but needed to see commitment. If Hailee was missing lacrosse practice to go to soccer, it was a pretty clear indication of where her head was and what her priorities were.

 

Hailee had a hard sit down with her parents who have been instrumental in her athletic career. They talked about the pros and cons of each decision. She had played soccer from such a young age she hardly knew life without it.

 

“I kinda felt like I was plateauing in soccer and lacrosse I felt like I had so much room to grow and I could only go up so I decided I want to do focus on school and my education is important to me so I think if I do two sports I wont be able to focus on school as much so I decided with school and lacrosse.”

 

Once in a blue moon, you will find an athlete who is just naturally incredibly talented and a sport simply comes naturally to them. You get the phrase “They were born to play this sport” Hailee is not that person.

 

“By no means at all. I mean I wanna say my first couple of weeks of playing lacrosse I would just Show up to lacrosse and use whatever extra gear my coach had so that consisted of you know every day I had different color goggles whether it was pink, purple or blue. I think the kids on the west coast would laugh at it cause the gear we were using in 8th grade was the gear they were using in like second grade.”

 

After a while it became clear she was going to stick with lacrosse so her coach approached and suggested that Hailee go out and buy her own gear. She was in 8th grade so that means her coach was really suggesting Hailee ask her parents to buy her new gear.

 

“So my first ever stick was this Carolina blue Brine Stick. Totally your classic third grader pancake stick, didn’t have a pocket at all and so I show up to high school freshman year with this stick and my coach goes You have this opportunity to make varsity and I was like Okay coach. I took it to heart I was like you know what, I’m all in. and she goes okay with that, we may need to look into getting you a new stick. One that’s more advanced and more up to he varsity level. So that’s when I asked around and she was like I remember it was the STX Crux I wanna say like 300 or 500 or  600 something at the time the big step from the Brine first stick to the STX stick I remember”

 

Once the season started, her coach hosted what they called a hell week every month. The week was designed to get back to the basics and really hone the simple, beginner stuff like ball control that is crucial in game play. They would run timed miles, timed 5Ks and really focus on ball control.

 

“One of the things we did was youd see how many quick sticks you can get in a minute.”

 

Quick sticks are when you stand close to a wall, throw the ball against the wall and catch it in the stick over and over again. It helps with hand-eye coordination and ball control.

 

“So I probably started out, to be generous getting like 20 which is at nowhere where I should have been. So seeing these sophomores, they were getting into the 60s and 70s and I was like wow like, how do I get there?”

 

Practice, Practice is how you get there.

 

“So I had this wall in my house. On the side of my house. Luckily it had a light above it so I would go to school all morning, probably get there at 7 in the morning, go to practice lift and then Id go home and the first thing I’d do is like I don’t really want to start homework so you know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna go turn on that light if it’s getting dark outside and just get on the wall. So id set my timer and kinda go against the wall all day and all night and my mom would be in the house and be like oh my gosh Hailee that banging is driving me crazy.”

 

Eventually, Hailee was able to get into the 50s and 60s through practice and driving her parents up a tree. All her practice lead to a successful high school career and it definitely lead to her first ever goal and many after that. If you ask most athletes, they  usually have a favorite play, touchdown, goal, save, basket whatever it may be and they can remember it like it happened yesterday.

 

“I think we were like up by ten or something and it was the second half so coach put me in and scoring my first goal in high school  all the girls were so excited because obviously I was like this 100 pound freshman coming off the bench and I was just like totally a wacky goal like not good form  I watched it on film and I remember I was just so excited  and it was just like that feeling right there just being surrounded by my teammates, my sisters was just such a feeling of bliss and joy.”

 

“I think I was driving from the top right side and at that time they called me betty spaghetti because I was this tiny little thing and my limbs were kinda just like, would like flail when I ran so I definitely got better at that, hopefully. But they called me betty spaghetti so I did one of those dodges where I just kinda like somehow got my stick around my defender and it wasn’t the most powerful or accurate shot I think it maybe like bounced our rolled in”

 

Hailee has definitely gotten out of that betty spaghetti phase of her life and she has much more control of her extremities which was really important when she started the transition to college and the recruiting process.

 

“I think that’s where, a huge piece where my parents came in. Just different things in high school were filling my brain, my youthful brain of like you know, they don’t take defenders, they only take middy’s so they can put them wherever they want them kind of thing you know, your stick skills aren’t where they need to be at just different things like that people doubting me and by parents just really kept pushing me and encouraging me hey Hailee it doesn’t hurt to try, it doesn’t hurt to try. You like, email the Notre dames and Marylands if you want when you go to those big presidents cups they are going to be at.”

 

By fault of her own, she would send the emails but not really follow up on it. She would send the email introducing herself, telling them she is interested in their program and would like to learn more but never sent a follow up email.

 

Because she started playing in 8th grade, she was a late to lacrosse. It is one of those sports in that you grow up playing. Similar to ice hockey where most NHL players have been skating almost as long as they have been walking, most high level lacrosse players have been on the field their entire life. Hailee missed out on some opportunities to reach out and potentially be recruited by big schools like Notre Dame, Maryland and Boston College (all of which have VERY strong lacrosse programs) but also fill up their roster YEARS in advance.

 

“Around my junior senior year everyone’s filled their roster they’ve had their roster filled since like 8th grade my class right? They said keep trying keep trying so Rebecca kingsbury came to me she was like hey and this was my senior year which is extremely late for the lacrosse recruiting process at the time now they have that rule where you can’t talk to girls until their junior year, I think September 1st of the junior year you can start talking to girls. Before, like when I was a junior, they would talk to girls when they were in 8th grade.”

 

So the girls who are recruited for those super strong, national championship caliber teams, have been playing lacrosse for their entire lives and until recently, have been talking to colleges since 8th grade about coming to play there. Do you remember my friend in high school who committed to play basketball at Ohio State in his sophomore year? Yea, the same thing happened with him, he was recruited very early in his life and his sporting career.

 

“Senior year, my coach is like, yea check it out its division one and that, like my ears perked up when I head division one, new program and I like automatically had this vision. You know like, You have this new team and you get to be the first one right you get to set the tone, set the standard, set the culture. Like when you come in as a freshman especially to such an established division 1 program for a team like lacrosse, you are basically from my understanding the equivalent to like scum on the bottom of a shoe. Like you gotta earn everything you gotta work your way up. And so to come in and be able to have a say, and to be a voice and be abel to make a difference, in your first year, like, that just automatically grabbed my attention. “

 

She came to a prospect camp here after being invited by coach who had watched video of her from a tournament she participated in a couple of weeks earlier.

 

“Yea, so coming out here, coach drove me around in her, I think it was a minivan at the time which is funny, you know she had just had Bodie”

 

Bodie is coach’s son.

 

“And just talking to coach Tierney just getting a feel for the kind of person she was like knowing her background in lacrosse like she grew up playing with boys gives her a little bit of that edge you know, getting to know her love of the sport that was a big thing for me you know, I wanted to be coached by someone who shared my love and compassion and passion for the sport and she just really seemed like she cared for the people she was bringing in.”

 

So it almost sounds like a two sided interview. Each party is trying to decide if it is the right fit. Hailee is trying to decide if Kent is the right fit for her and Coach Tireney trying to decide if Hailee is the right fit for Kent.

 

When you join a team, you usually come on an unofficial basis when you are deciding between programs and get to meet the team, check out the culture and you make a decision to join or not because you actually know the people, even if it is just a little bit. With this program, Hailee decided to move 3 quarters across the country to play lacrosse in a brand new program, with a brand new team she had never met before. If that’s not a leap of faith and a complete trust in the coach and the school, I don’t know what is.

 

Looking back, Hailee would not be where she is if it wasn’t for her parents and the support system she had growing up.

 

“My parents are a huge, huge part of my life. They have just really been my rock of resilience they’ve been huge supporters they’ve also they gave me a good balance in my life of support but also helped me find my way of like staying independent which is really, really fantastic of them. Every day I’ll call them and  be like Hey, just wanted to say hi and thank you and I miss you and I couldn’t be here without you and they are like, Oh no its you but really growing up they gave me a good balance of nurturing and pushing me out of the nest.”

 

Hailee played on a prestigious west coast lacrosse club team and her coach at the time, Rebecca Kingsbury, was an instrumental player in helping Hailee get to college and play lacrosse.

 

“She’s the one who helped me navigate through and kind of narrow down the colleges I was looking at and she said one day to me you know hey, I know you want to go to a big school possibly division one like, that’s the ultimate goal for every athlete at the end of the day I know you want to go to a school with a football team There’s a school called Kent State its in ohio and theyre starting this new program and at first I was like, Ohio? WHO? The first time I came out here was for a prospect camp and, I almost didn’t come but my parents talked me into it they were like Hailee, you know it doesn’t hurt to try it at the end of the day right, you don’t want to regret not going and I couldn’t be happier they talked me into it because ever since I set foot on this campus I’ve just been in love.”

 

Hailee is a hugely family oriented girl. She keeps in very, very close contact with her siblings and parents who have all helped her through life thus far especially in sports.

 

Her 3 siblings all played sports with her growing up so she always had someone to kick the soccer ball around with and someone to help run drills. Her siblings still play a huge role in her life now even though they are spread out across the country and she doesn’t get to see them regularly anymore. Her oldest sister, Asia, left home to go to play D2 golf at the University of Chicago and then transferred to USC to finish up her undergad closer to home, and farther from the cold and the wind. She is currently getting her law degree at Arizona State and her brother is a junior at Penn State and her younger sister is still a sophomore in high school.

 

Partially due to inspiration from her older sister who studied abroad and through a travel bug instilled in her from her parents, Hailee is planning to go study in Florence, Italy in the summer through the Kent State campus there. She is studying business and hopes to eventually be a successful business woman and follow in the footsteps of both of her parents who are entrepreneurs.

 

Next time, I sit down with Coach Tierney and her assistant coaches, Amanda Glass and Morgan Fee and talk about their lives and their love of lacrosse and coaching.

 

 

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