Sarah Wilkes will be playing lacrosse this year for Centenary College (LA), in their first year in Division 3. No, they don’t have a women’s program. Yes, she is playing for the men’s team. Learn more about Sarah’s jump from club manager to varsity athlete in the interview below!
How did you get involved with men’s lacrosse in the first place? Was there a lot of it in Shreveport (LA), where you grew up?
I played women’s lacrosse throughout high school, and attended lacrosse camps during the summer, but when I went to college they didn’t have a women’s team. I knew a lot of the guys on the team and met the coach at the time, Michael Brand, and offered to keep stats and help with the home games. In high school, the major high schools in our area had men’s lacrosse and two schools had women’s, but it is definitely growing here in Shreveport with middle school and even elementary school leagues.
What made you decide to step on the field this year? As you said, you were a team manager in the past… what made you want to suit up and play?
I tried to get a women’s team going at Centenary the past few years, but with our school changing divisions, and getting a new Athletic Director, it just wasn’t good timing. At the end of my junior year, I found out that the men’s club team was going to become NCAA Division III. While talking to the dean of students, and some of my friends on the team, we joked about me joining the men’s team. One day I was playing with a friend of mine and fellow teammate, Colton Cowley, and he suggested that I actually try and play.
I called the SCAC conference to make sure it would be clear and then decided I would try and play. Being surrounded by men’s lacrosse the past few years as manager helped me understand the sport more. Coaching my high school women’s team for 2 ½ years after graduating, and watching the guys play, made me miss playing the sport of lacrosse and knew that, with it being my senior year of college, this would be my last opportunity to ever play lacrosse again, so I knew I at least had to try.
How have you been prepping for the season?
Over the summer I would throw around with some of the team members, but I knew I had to work a lot on my own. Former Centenary lacrosse players, Matt Volentine and Alan Brown, helped me learn the sport of men’s lacrosse. They went over everything from cradling to shooting to dodging with me.
I would either wake up at 6 AM to meet with Matt, or wait until after Alan got off of work to work with them, but I was always working on my own in my spare time. I definitely had to get back in shape and learn how to play with a guy’s stick, while wearing pads and a helmet, which was quite the jump from women’s lacrosse.
Centenary is entering their first year of D3 NCAA lacrosse this year, how does it feel to be on the first NCAA lacrosse team at the school?
It is definitely exciting to be playing on the first NCAA DIII lacrosse team at Centenary. I know the former coaches and players have worked hard to get lacrosse as a D3 sport and I feel very honored to be a part of the first team.
The team has a small roster. Do you think everyone is going to have to pick their game up and contribute in order for the team to see success?
Our team does have a small roster; however this makes us a very close team. Instead of fighting for playing time and starting positions, the team focuses on improving as a team and pushing each player to play his (or her) very best. We know that we have to work very hard to compete with larger teams because we won’t have as much sub time or options on the field.
The older players really do a great job of pushing the team to play hard at practice and finish workouts strong. I think that as long as we stick together and have a positive attitude we will continue to improve as a team and play great on the field together.
What are you most excited for this Spring?
This Spring I am excited for the games. We had about a month of practice during the fall and a scrimmage against SFA, but I am ready to see all of the hard work pay off during our season. Hopefully we will have a few more players come out in the Spring to add to our team so we can have a strong and solid roster.
What would you say to another female student who wanted to play men’s lacrosse? Any advice?
I would encourage any other woman to try and play men’s lacrosse if she was interested. With demographic ceilings beginning to disappear, women are beginning to participate in many things that men are able to. In my opinion, it is one of those opportunities that you must take advantage of and set an example for future ladies to follow.
I would advise one to have a strong support system behind them because it isn’t easy, but it is definitely worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t participate in a sport you love because of your gender. Follow your dreams and prove to others and yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to.
We want to wish Sarah, and the entire Centenary Lacrosse program, the very best of luck in their first season in D3. We’ll be sure to check in with this squad again in the future.