Rising From The Bottom
April 22, 2005
By Ian Kilpatrick, Collegian Staff April 20, 2005
On a crisp fall day in Amherst two and a half years ago, a freshman by the name of Kerri Connerty approached her new coach and asked her an assertive and sincere question, "What can I do to play?"
First year coach Carrie Bolduc knew that Connerty, the first freshman to approach her, would be a special player on her lacrosse team from her youthful exuberance.
Today, Connerty stands poised about 10 meters from her opponent's goal and moves effortlessly through the defense with fluent quickness and a serenity that seems to settle her team at the most critical of times. Her mouth works as quickly as her stick with words of direction, encouragement and praise.
To the observer, it can seem at times like she can score whenever she wants without any help, but that is where the true heart of Connerty's game and personality comes into play.
Yes, she leads her team in goals and points, but don't be surprised if she has no clue or if she doesn't think it's important. You hear them less and less these days in an increasingly "me-first" athletic world, but you've heard the clich? "I couldn't have done it without the team" or "everyone played well, it was a team effort," but they rarely seem genuine or more than just said to say the "right" thing.
When Kerri Connerty says things like this, she means them and may even get pretty mad if you don't believe her.
"We have great captains that get us together," Connerty said. "All have their own roles just as I have my own role. If I have a good game or do good things, it's just because my teammates around me, they got me open, they work off ball, it's definitely not fully me."
Bolduc offers a different perspective.
"I think her work ethic and her willing to improve is just phenomenal," Bolduc said. "She, every summer, works on something new, whether it's her fitness or her quickness or speed, whatever it is. She has done things on her own to improve, and every year she comes back stronger and stronger. I think that her drive, her motivation as an individual, has made her who she is today as a player and as a person as well."
As humble and kind as Connerty is off the field, ironically it's her forcefulness and passion to be the one responsible for her team's fate that has gotten her to where she is today.
She just won't admit it.
"I think I've just had a good season," she said. "I don't think that I work harder or do anything more than anyone else. My teammates work very, very hard, and their hard work is why I do well in games."
It almost sounds too perfect and nice to be true, but she's sincere.
Connerty isn't a leader on your typical team though; she's got much of the responsibility of bringing along an unheard of nine freshmen, which is one demanding and potentially frustrating assignment.
Naturally, not only does Connerty embrace the challenge, she thrives on it. She loves her underclassmen's endless amount of energy and fight and even uses it to keep her going on those exhausting days. She'll admit it can be frustrating at times, but also knows that once her young prot?s come of age, the benefits will be well worth the struggles.
"Being a leader, it's easy because they're so excited to learn new things," Connerty said.
And if the rookies can play with a little more consistency by Atlantic 10 tournament time, Connerty's team will be a dangerous one.
Still, don't be fooled by Kerri's pleasant words and sweet demeanor. She wants to win; in fact it is the sole thing that motivates her and she seems poised to do anything it takes to do so, whether it's scrapping for a groundball, pumping up a teammate with cheer or gracefully weaving and cutting towards the cage for a much needed goal.
Kerri also attributes a lot of her inspiration and success to teammate, roommate and fellow leader, Jackie Nesbit.
"I'd say my roommate Jackie Nesbit [pushes me the most]," Connerty said. "I look to her if I'm down or anything. I think she's also a spark on the team, and I definitely look to her to keep me fired up. She's the same way I am; she'll come up big with a ground ball then psych everyone up.
"I look to her to maintain composure and excitement. She's an emotional leader. We're very much on the same page as emotions, so I look to her if mine are a little out of whack."
The similarities between the two force them to keep up with each other and constantly play as hard, or as well, as possible.
Just as it looks from the tin Garber Field bleachers, it comes easily for Kerri, not in the sense that she got where she is without hard work, in the sense that leading on and off the field is just part of who she is.
Connerty inspires. Her words are serious, confident and honest. And, startlingly, you learn all of this the first time you meet her, but her coach of three years rightly sums Kerri up as a player and a person,
"Kerri is passionate, she cares, she's a serious person, a natural leader, definitely a motivator, one who inspires, one who people can look up to and want to be like. She's consistent, and she cares about her teammates and team, and her performance day to day. She'll do great things beyond lacrosse in life."
The Minutewomen are struggling, which is to be expected with all of their youth. Yet, they are still full of hope and much of it. Not all of it, as she'd say, but a lot can be attributed to the commitment, ambition and character of Kerri Connerty.
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