College-bound Carey booked for fast success

Girls lacrosse: Liberty's Bethany Carey is going to graduate from high school in three years and will play at Ohio State.

High Schools

April 23, 2004|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Like most girls about to complete high school, Liberty's Bethany Carey is looking forward to all the traditional senior perks, such as the prom and graduation.

When she takes the field for the Ohio State women's lacrosse team next spring, however, she will enter a class all her own. Set to graduate high school in just three years, Carey will become the first player, male or female, to finish school early and go on to play Division I lacrosse, according to US Lacrosse, the sport's governing body.

"I think I'm ready," said Carey, 17. " I don't expect to go and get a lot of playing time, but I think it will be really good to play with the girls who are going to be seniors next year. I'll definitely get so much better from playing with them."

Carey, who turned 17 in February, always has been a top student, with a diet of honors and advanced placement courses. She also has come into her own athletically, turning more than a few heads with her performance at an Ohio State lacrosse camp last summer and playing the lead role on defense for the Lions this season.

Seeing a possibility to graduate early, she rearranged her schedule to add a final English credit this semester and was officially declared a senior by Carroll County Schools Superintendent Charles Ecker in early February. Around the same time, two Ohio State players quit the team, freeing up scholarship money.

She quickly committed to Ohio State, a school she had fallen in love with during her visit, and signed a letter of intent to become a Buckeye just last week.

"I knew I had the credits if I just rearranged my schedule," said Carey, who doubled up on her science and social studies in the ninth and 10th grades and will major in molecular genetics at Ohio State.

"[Ohio State assistant coach Michael Scerbo] basically talked to admissions, and I got everything worked out here at school. It fell into place really, really well."

Still, Scerbo, who had been expecting Carey to commit next year, was forced to scramble a bit.

"It was definitely surprising. It caught us off guard when she mentioned the idea to us," said Scerbo, who was forced to communicate with Carey only through e-mail - to comply with NCAA rules - before she was officially declared a senior. "We had to jump through some hoops with the NCAA and make sure she was following procedures properly."

Carey initially became interested in Ohio State from her coach, Nicki Jones, who played for the Buckeyes in the late '90s. That interest piqued last summer, when Jones gave Carey and teammate Kristen Hannon a first-hand look at the Columbus, Ohio, campus.

"Nicki kind of keyed us into her," said Scerbo. "And then what really kind of put her on our recruiting list was when she came out to camp and how well she played here."

Jones said she's seen marked improvement in Carey over the past two seasons.

"She definitely made a turnaround from her freshman to sophomore year," said Jones. "She's stuck with it and keeps on improving."

Both Jones and Scerbo see Carey as a natural leader on the field, able to command respect from her fellow players.

Carey, who spends her summers playing alongside numerous Division I recruits for the prestigious Heroes club lacrosse team, believes she still needs to improve her endurance and overall stick skills to compete at the Division I level. Though the Buckeyes are just 4-8 this year, they are coming off their best season in school history at 14-4.

Carey's mother, Maria Ruark, said she has no concerns about how her daughter will handle the social or academic challenges of graduating a year early.

"My only concern was whether she could compete athletically having one year less of high school varsity experience than everybody else," she said.

Scerbo, however, doesn't see that as an issue.

"She's a very, very gifted athlete and has great stick skills," said Scerbo, who said Carey will most likely play defensive midfield. "I don't think she'll be faced with any different challenges than any other freshman. She's still going to have to deal with the pace of the game and the adjustments to college living. I don't think the age issue is going to make it any more difficult."

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