Dubious defender finding her future

Girls lacrosse: Mount Hebron's Becca Ferrell, who never saw a game before she played in one, has developed such skills, Vanderbilt won her over with a sizable scholarship.

April 18, 1999|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Chris Robinson could see the kid was an athlete. Naturally, he pictured her with a lacrosse stick.

It was winter of the 1995-96 school year. Halfway through her freshman year, the kid had transferred to Mount Hebron from High Point High School in Prince George's County. She was good enough to make the varsity basketball team.

"She was quick and had some good athletic ability," said Robinson, who was beginning his first season as coach of the highly-successful Vikings girls lacrosse team.

"So I pursued her," he said, by trying to whet her interest in lacrosse. "I wrote her a letter, talked to her, talked to her parents -- and got nowhere.

"I hit a brick wall. She was not interested at all. I don't think she knew what a lacrosse stick was, to tell you the truth."

Becca Ferrell laughs. Such memories.

"He had upperclassmen come and talk to me and share their experiences and how they had exceled in the sport," Ferrell said. "He gave me a history of the sport and wrote to me encouraging me to come out. I didn't know what [lacrosse] was. I thought it was stupid."

But come March 1, Ferrell was there at the JV tryouts.

"I didn't expect her to be there," Robinson said. "Some of the kids had talked her into coming out."

Ferrell reasoned that playing lacrosse would keep her active, as well as give her the opportunity to make more friends. There was nothing to lose.

"If I didn't like it I could always quit," Ferrell said, "so I went out and tried it."

And?

"I actually liked it," she said.

"At first, I didn't understand anything about it," Ferrell said. "The first lacrosse game I ever saw was the one I played in, so it was really awkward. But it was a lot of fun."

It still is fun for Ferrell, who, said Robinson, "is one of the best defenders in the state" -- good enough to earn nearly a full athletic scholarship to Vanderbilt University.

"She really put her mind to committing to lacrosse in her junior season and has worked tremendously hard for what she's gotten," said Robinson, whose 7-0 team is ranked No. 1 in the Baltimore-Washington area.

"She has a lot of natural athletic ability, which has helped, but her work ethic is really what put her over the top."

Her college future blossomed last May in Mount Hebron's 19-7 victory over Towson for the Class 1A-2A state title.

"My assistant saw her and said this kid is a find and going to be one of the top defensive recruits," said Vanderbilt coach Cathy Swezey. "I watched her play in the All-Star Express at Anne Arundel Community College and saw what a competitor she is. She is very aggressive and very determined.

"You look for a defender that is physical, someone who will take a couple of hits and someone [who] anticipates. Becca is very good at taking charges. She gets herself in position and plays it well. I couldn't be more excited and look forward to her bringing those qualities here."

Ferrell arrived at Mount Hebron as a basketball and soccer player. And at the end of her freshman year, she still thought basketball would be her college sport.

But a good sophomore season in lacrosse -- she was the first defender off the bench and later started for an injured player -- began to change her mind.

"Her skills really developed, and she started to get the hang of the game," said Robinson.

"I started to realize what it actually takes to be a good player," Ferrell said. "By the end of my sophomore year I really was starting to think about taking it more seriously and wanting to pursue it."

The Vikings won the Class 1A-2A state title her sophomore season, and that success also helped in her decision.

"That's a good motivation to keep playing," said Ferrell, who in the off-season attended camps and joined leagues.

"She had a great run in the state playoffs in her junior year, and that's really when college coaches started to look," said Robinson.

Ferrell takes great pleasure in frustrating an opponent. It's what makes the game fun for her, and she does it better then most.

"She's got great positioning, especially close by the goal," said Robinson. "She's got very quick footwork and [can] position herself so that she's always in the right place at the right time. She's able to force offensive players away from where they want to go."

And Ferrell also has improved her stickwork.

"She is a line defender who has stickwork of an above-average attack person," Robinson said. "She can really handle the ball."

Ferrell played varsity soccer, basketball and lacrosse for three years. And although she had some difficulties in basketball over playing time, she wouldn't change a thing.

"There were times I wanted to quit a sport, because I was burned out and wondered what it would be like to have more of a social life instead of going to practices," said Ferrell, one of six children, the oldest a 21-year old sister and the youngest a 1-year-old brother.

"But when I look back, I'm go glad I did it. It's all worth it, because I did what I loved. I had to sacrifice some things, but I did what I wanted."

A team captain this season, Ferrell has come full circle. She now talks to others about lacrosse.

"It's kind of interesting. You just don't know what life is going to deal you," Ferrell said. "I thought I had things planned out, and it took a turn I didn't expect."

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