Notre Dame Prep is cashing in on Hanssen checks

Girls lacrosse: The defender combines quickness with a mental edge to frustrate opponents and lead the No. 3 Blazers in another title quest.

High School

April 13, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

For Notre Dame Prep's Jamie Hanssen, playing defense is the ultimate mental challenge.

In lacrosse, the attack almost always controls the action, so the All-Metro senior strives to swing that advantage back in her direction. Asserting herself early can make all the difference, especially in one-on-one situations.

"From the beginning of the game, you've got to make your presence known," said Hanssen, 18. "With the whole intensity aspect, you have to be up in her face. You're a huge challenge to get by. You don't give her any slack the whole game. It frustrates some people and they get a little scared, which makes it easier as a defender to control them."

Hanssen's mental edge, combined with her quickness, body positioning and exceptional timing, translates into a lot of caused turnovers -- and potential goals -- for the No. 3 Blazers, who have won two of the past three Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships.

A slim 5 feet 6, Hanssen never has been a dominating physical presence, but that hasn't stopped her from developing a dominating defensive presence. With her psychological edge, she lets her mark know she's the one in control.

"That's the way every defender should feel -- `I'm the one in charge. Even though you have the ball, I'm going to tell you where to go, I'm going to dictate to you.' Jamie's got that and that's really special to have," said Roland Park coach Sarah Layng.

A multi-sport athlete since she was 5 years old, Hanssen still played field hockey and basketball this year for the Blazers, but she realized her athletic future lay in lacrosse when she made the NDP varsity as a freshman.

"It was a big shock that I made varsity as a freshman," Hanssen said, "but I love the constant movement and the intensity of the game. It's just a big, growing sport and there were a lot of opportunities open to me."

Hanssen, who carries a 3.97 grade point average, seized her opportunity and signed early to play for North Carolina next year.

In the meantime, she will try to help the Blazers defend their IAAM title after getting off to a 7-2 start.

Moving to defensive midfield this season from line defense, Hanssen has more freedom to run the field and get into the attack a little more. She's even scored six goals.

Kathy Jenkins, who coached Hanssen the past two years on the Mid-Atlantic I team that won the national schoolgirl championship, saw the difference in Hanssen's game last week when her St. Stephen/St. Agnes team fell to the Blazers, 7-6, in Alexandria, Va.

"She's more of a transition defender now rather than just the set defender," Jenkins said. "With her speed, that enables her to get down on attack. They can set something up and she can stay and be involved in the attack, which is really crucial."

The move to midfield also gives Hanssen a chance to demonstrate a wide variety of defensive skills, from tightly containing opponents on the crease to stalling opponents in transition to fitting smoothly into the defensive unit.

"Her defensive body positioning is outstanding from the midfield to the crease," said NDP coach Mary Bartel. "Then there's her patience on her check. When she's patient, her timing is perfect. Between her patience and her timing, I don't know that you could ask for a better combination in a defender."

Legal checks can be hard to come by in women's lacrosse, where sticks have to be kept away from the body, but Hanssen has a reputation for being able to get off quick, clean checks. She sets up the checks with her quick feet and her ability to contain an opponent with her body positioning.

"She can read an attacker's body language especially on the [crease] roll," said Blazers teammate Becky Lillemoe. "She always goes for the check and a lot of times she gets it."

Roland Park's Wendy Blue has a mental picture of Hanssen's check that she would rather forget.

"I have this vision of myself holding the ball and thinking I have this nice tight cradle. Then out of nowhere, she just checks me. She does it at the exact moment when she's supposed to," said Blue, who played with Hanssen on the Skywalkers club team. "She doesn't lunge forward, she just has this quick little check and the next minute she's running down the field with the ball."

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