COLUMN By LARRY HICKS 854-1575 x445 / @ydsports
It’s not your typical “recruited-to-play-Division I-something” story.
It is, however, a story about perseverance, about persistence, about backbone, about grit, about stick-to-itiveness. It’s about a young woman from York County who entered a situation with her eyes wide open, knew it was going to be difficult, and then stepped up to meet the challenge head-on when it became more difficult than she ever could have imagined.
It is the story of Kiyanna Brown, 19, a freshman lacrosse player at Delaware State University.
First a little background: Brown is the daughter of Kenneth Brown and Dawn Trump. Her stepfather is Scott Trump. They live in the Shiloh area of the West York Area School District, from which she graduated high school last year.
Brown played field hockey and lacrosse for the West York High School teams and was selected a York-Adams Division I all-star in both sports. She was recruited to play midfield for the Delaware State University lacrosse team despite having less than three years experience in the sport.
“Field hockey (played in the fall) had always been my primary sport,” Brown said. “I ran track in junior high, but decided I wanted to try something else. So when I was a sophomore, West York started a girls’ lacrosse team (played in the spring). I’d never played before, not even on a traveling or recreation team, but a couple of my friends talked me into it.”
West York did manage a 3-12 record that first season. And “we improved each year after that. In fact, we made the District 3 Tournament my senior year.”
Then the college recruitment started. The lacrosse coaching staff at Delaware State University had an offer like no other program in America. It had no lacrosse team for women, but it intended to start one. And it made Brown one of its top recruits. Brown accepted the offer of an athletic scholarship to go there.
“I knew the deal. I knew from the very start it was going to be difficult,” Brown said. “I knew we’d have to work very hard because we’d be playing experienced teams, full teams with full sets of substitutes.”
DSU had recruited three freshman players, plus one transfer recruit, one graduate student and seven players who participated in a university intramural program the year before. There was not a single player with NCAA Division I college lacrosse experience.
That was tough enough. Then it got tougher.
Lacrosse, for the novice fans among us, is a team game played with 12 players on each side. DSU started the season with exactly 12 players. Other teams had rosters brimming with 24 to 30 players.
Then the injuries, withdrawals and defections set in.
“We started out the season with 12 players, but no substitutes,” Brown said. “A couple games into the season we were playing with seven or eight players against teams with 12 players. It wasn’t always pretty.”
As it turns out, lacrosse isn’t the same as baseball. In baseball, if you don’t have nine players to start the game, you simply forfeit to the other team.
But in lacrosse, Brown said, you can play with as few as two players — one must be the goalie, however. But that’s two players against 12. It quickly becomes a beatdown.
It never came to that, however.
“We always had at least seven players. But we played quite a bit with just seven players,” she said.
That meant being double- and triple-teamed all of the time.
It is a game that features passing, catching and carrying a rubber ball with a netted stick. And it’s run, run, run, especially when you’re shorthanded. It meant a lot of physical play. It meant being tested, physically and mentally every game.
“It meant we had to be more physically fit than the teams we played,” Brown said, “because we had no subs. The coach prepared us pretty well for what we’d face. We really worked on fitness, being able to run for 60 minutes without gasping for air. By the end of the season, I was more fit than I’ve ever been.”
But it was a challenge. Delaware State played 11 games in its fledgling season, against teams such as Colgate, Wilmington University of Delaware, Mount St. Mary’s, St. Bonaventure, Howard, Manhattan, Saint Francis and Niagara.
And it lost every one. In truth, they took a beating most of the time. They lost to Wagner, 21-2; to Liberty, 21-4; to St. Bonaventure, 19-0; to Saint Francis, 20-2.
You get the idea. It’s won-loss record was 0-11, and not a close game in sight. It was brutal.
“But we had our share of small victories,” Brown said. “We managed to overcome some huge disadvantages. We actually scored some goals against more experienced players and teams, even when we were double- and triple-teamed.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it was a great learning experience. I can honestly say I learned more by playing down (seven against 12) than I might have otherwise. I improved my skills as the year went on. I have no complaints. In fact, I enjoyed it.”
Talk about making lemonade out of lemons.
Next year, Brown said, will be another year. A better year.
“Hey, we scored eight times in our last game (against Wilmington University) even though we only had seven players on the field. It wasn’t a win, but it almost felt like one.”
A moral victory, perhaps.
Brown was responsible for three of those goals against Wilmington, a team record for goals in a single game. She also had two assists and five points in the game.
And she finished the season tied for the team lead in goals (eight) and points (10), and she led the team in turnovers caused on defense.
Oh, and one more thing — Brown is majoring in sports management. And she’s a dean’s list student.
It’s a different story than we’re used to hearing.
But what a story.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick email@example.com.