Posted: April 5, 2008
By Brendan Kuty
Of the Daily Record
Before all the awards, before all the goals and the double-teams, Lauren Dykstra was just another Lehigh University freshman, tensely awaiting her first lacrosse practice.
But when Dykstra, a Mendham graduate, finally hit the turf, her butterflies fluttered away into the cool fall air.
"There's always a question as to how a player will adjust to the collegiate game," Lehigh head coach Liz Ota said. "There's always an unknown factor. But we believed she had the potential to be a very powerful player for us."
Dykstra, who leads the Patriot League in goals (44) and assists (11) through 11 games, has answered all questions this season for the Mountain Hawks, but poses to rival squads a very specific inquiry: Can she be stopped?
A five-time Patriot League Rookie of the Week honoree, Dykstra hasn't slowed down a second. The midfielder has scored in every game thus far, recording at least three goals nine times, including an impressive eight-goal outing against Lafayette College.
"I feel like I've matured more," Dykstra said.
Dykstra, as a senior, led the Minutemen to the state championship game, scoring 91 goals while assisting 12 to become the 2007 All Daily Record Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year. But that wasn't when Division 1 coaches started to notice.
It was in 2005, Dykstra's sophomore year, that Ota came calling. Dykstra caught the head coach's eye with her speed and scoring ability when Ota visited Mendham High School to watch some of the older athletes. The two kept a good rapport afterward, cementing her decision to attend Lehigh.
"She obviously was a very attractive recruit for many coaches," Ota said. "I think it immediately felt like a fit for all of us. She was looking for a school that has the full package in terms of academics and athletics."
Dykstra wasn't the only D-1 recruit last season to leave Mendham. Kaitlyn Messinger is a midfielder at the University of North Carolina and Maggie Smith, also a middie, has scored once for Ohio State.
Dykstra's outdone both. By plenty.
Dykstra says her most memorable performance came last Saturday when she had five goals and an assist as the Mountain Hawks rallied to beat Holy Cross for the first time since 2003.
The win came after Lehigh suffered a string of one-goal losses, making it extra sweet.
"She has adjusted tremendously over this year," Ota said. "She's really been able to plunge in and develop immediately."
A season-long starter, Dykstra has noticed teams paying her extra attention.
"I get face-guarded sometimes," Dykstra said. "But I actually like when I get face-guarded because it frees up our attack."
Playing alongside Sara MacIntyre and Inneke Carmola, the last two Patriot League Rookie of the Year winners, however, has helped for Dykstra. With so much offensive firepower on hand, Dykstra can confidently pass out of double-teams to a number of competent scorers.
Jessica Shoulberg was Dkystra's head coach at Mendham. A fiery leader, Shoulberg would sometimes make her Minutemen run laps after wins if she felt they could have played better. Ota is more laid back.
"They're very different," Dykstra said. "(Shoulberg) was definitely more intense. She gets right to the point. ...Ota gets to the point, but she's a little more relaxed."
Ota sees Dykstra only getting better.
"Yes, she has exceeded our expectations," Ota said, later adding, "She will be a cornerstone part of developing this team."
This story originally appeared in the Saturday, April 5, 2008 edition of The Daily Record. Used with permission.