Heading into her freshman year at Lehigh, Allison LaBeau was like any rookie trying to prove she belonged.
It’s fair to say she has more than proven herself.
LaBeau was the team’s leading scorer, the Patriot League Rookie of the Year and was among a select group of players invited to try out for the U.S. National Team this past weekend at Georgetown.
LaBeau was one of 88 players invited to try out for Team USA. Facing the top players in the nation (both graduates and current college players), LaBeau learned from the best in the sport. The three-day tryout included everything from drills on Friday to solely scrimmages on Sunday morning.
“This was such a great learning experience,” said LaBeau right after tryouts concluded on Sunday. “There are girls from the top programs in the country here, so just coming in and playing with them will be very beneficial moving forward. It took a little bit of getting used to the fast pace, but once you’re immersed in them and playing, it’s such a great experience.”
It was admittedly nerve-racking heading into the weekend.
“Coming in, it’s a little scary and you’re a little nervous,” said LaBeau. “It’s a tough weekend and very tiring. Everyone’s bodies are tired. I think that that’s the test – you’re trying to push yourself and see who can play at that level when exhausted and tired.”
LaBeau adjusted to the speed of play, settled in and performed well over the weekend. In Sunday’s scrimmage, LaBeau more than held her own, firing a quality shot towards goal and also collecting a hard-fought draw control despite being fouled on the play.
“The U.S. tryout is grueling, both physically and mentally,” said Redfern. “We hope that Alli brings a sense of urgency back to our team to play harder, faster and with greater confidence.”
One thing that will stick with LaBeau when thinking back to the weekend was the sense of community.
“I’m the only one from Lehigh and there are only a couple other girls from the Patriot League here,” said LaBeau. “I really didn’t know many people, but everyone is so welcoming. The lacrosse community is so inviting and they’re here to support you. You make friendships here. It’s amazing how a sport can bring people together like this.”
LaBeau led the Mountain Hawks in scoring during her rookie season, posting 38 points behind 29 goals and nine assists. The midfielder also had 24 draw controls, 16 groundballs and seven caused turnovers. At the end of the weekend, a national team of 38 individuals was announced. LaBeau did not make the cut, but just being among the elite players invited is an honor in itself.
“Alli’s success in her first year was not a huge surprise,” said Redfern. “She came to Lehigh very well prepared. What was unexpected was her mental toughness. Alli’s mentality is excellent for a young player. She takes great risks because she is not afraid to fail. She is also receptive to the coaching staff in making the changes we believe will raise her level of play.”
For as successful as LaBeau was as a freshman, she knows she has a lot of room to improve.
“Going into next season, I’ll need to cut down on my turnovers,” she said. “Next year, I’ll look back to experiences and situations and learn from them so I avoid mistakes. If I’m in a tough situation, I’ll know how to get out of it because I’ve been there before.
“Coming back next year, I hope I’m going to be a stronger player,” she continued. “Especially with this experience (at U.S. tryouts), I’ll really try to bring the intensity.”
One of the many highlights for LaBeau and the Mountain Hawks in 2014 was a thrilling 12-11 double overtime win at Boston University in April. Lehigh handed the Terriers their first-ever Patriot League defeat and it was LaBeau who scored both Mountain Hawk goals in overtime including the game-winner at 4:17 of the second overtime period.
“Our team played so well together and we were just so united,” said LaBeau. “That was such an exciting win. Since Boston University is new in our league, we’ll have a little bit to live up to next year. They’re a great team, but we can play with them.”
LaBeau credits her teammates and the team’s positive culture for her freshman year success.
“Coming in, our team was very welcoming,” said LaBeau. “We’re all very good friends. They don’t scare you. They’re very inviting and they pump you up. Upperclassmen encourage and support you the whole way through.”
The Mountain Hawks advanced to their first Patriot League Tournament since 2011 and with the majority of the team returning, LaBeau is excited to get to work and get ready for the 2015 season.
“We’re really excited,” she said. “Hopefully we have some incoming freshmen who can step up to complement our strong upperclassmen. I think we can come out and be more aggressive against teams and we’ll be more experienced, too.”
This past weekend’s experience against the sport’s elite could help set the foundation for LaBeau’s continued growth on the field.
“Not only does Alli have a lot of room to improve as a player, but our team does too,” said Redfern. “Her next step is to raise her fitness level to that of a U.S. level player. Lots of big things happen for players and teams with superior grit and fitness.”
“Representing Lehigh was so great, said LaBeau. “There are a bunch of girls from Maryland and they’re all representing their teams, but I’m the one person from Lehigh so I tried to make a good name for our program and school.”