The Navy Women’s Lacrosse team had been on a roll for the last three years, and was seemingly on the verge of an incredible 2020 campaign with very realistic hopes of a deep run in the NCAA tournament. It was not the strongest of starts to the season, but with an incredibly challenging strength of schedule that included four ranked opponents in their first six games, there was no reason to believe these women were not about to bounce back and make their fourth consecutive appearance at the dance.
The class of 2020 has been one of the most successful and experienced classes in program history, with a combined record of 54-16 and three straight seasons of making an appearance in the NCAA tournament. They were led by arguably the greatest Navy Lacrosse player of all time in Kelly Larkin, but she was not alone. Six classmates, together the entire way, on the road to careers that would be cut devastatingly short.
Today we take a look back on their contributions to their team and the Naval Academy, in an effort to honor their tremendous efforts wearing the Blue and Gold.
Carley is first up in our Meet the Midshipmen series! Check out her fun facts pic.twitter.com/6v2py31H6R— Navy Women’s Lacrosse (@NavyWLax) February 20, 2020
We don’t often give credit to the seniors who have stuck it out in the trenches all four years, only to see their playing time gradually go down to the new crop of stars. Realistically, you cannot have successful programs in any sport, on any team, without players like Carley. These players show up day in and day out with a positive attitude and effort towards making her teammates better. You don’t get to practice against opposing defenses; instead you get your teammates. It is not hyperbole to suggest the level of effort given by those teammates directly result in the product you see on game day. Carley played in 35 total games, scored 8 goals, and tallied 3 assists throughout her career.
Caitlin really came into her own during the 2019 season, where she saw action in 17 games before suffering a season ending injury. She really started coming into her own as a junior racking up three hat tricks on the season. Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity to get going during the abbreviated 2020 campaign. Caitlin appeared in 40 games throughout her career tallying 33 total points on 28 goals and 5 assists.
Natalie had become an anchor in the midfield for Navy over the last two seasons. She has appeared in every single game since she was a sophomore, and her presence on the field was felt. 2020 looked to be her year as she racked up 11 points in 6 games including impressive hat trick showings against ranked opponents Virginia and Maryland. Those 11 points are just shy of half of her total mark last season and only 1/3 of the way through. She clearly demonstrated the effort she put in to prepare for a stellar senior campaign. Natalie will finish her career with 52 total points, 49 ground balls fielded, and 51 turnovers forced.
#PatriotWLAX 2020 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Announced @NavyAthletics Sr. Mid Annalise Heyward— Patriot League (@PatriotLeague) January 21, 2020
https://t.co/0DGokcoNyo#PatriotWLAX | #NCAAWLAX | @PatriotLeagueTV pic.twitter.com/nM8ZDxIfg8
Annalise is another Mid who really came into her own as a junior during the 2019 campaign. She racked up 50 total points and won an impressive 83 draw controls. A physical force, she also rounded up 44 ground balls and force 29 turnovers – efforts that were strong enough to earn her 2nd Team All Patriot League and Patriot League All Tournament Team. She only played in three games this season, but she left a mark when she set foot on the field. In 53 appearance, Annalise racked up 67 total points, 62 groundballs, 52 turnovers, and won 127 draw controls. She was named Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year for 2020.
Kayla made appearances in 69 games throughout her career; the only games she did not start were her first 8 games as a freshman. She only missed three starts after that due to injury; otherwise she was out there putting shots in the back of the net on a regular basis. Her junior campaign netted her 1st Team All Patriot League Honors, something she would have no doubt repeated in 2020. She scored in every one of her 6 appearances on the year for 13 goals, while adding 5 assists, 13 ground balls, and winning 31 draw controls. Her career totals 130 points, 95 groundballs, 74 forced turnovers, and 214 draw controls.
ICYMI: Kelly Larkin made some history yesterday! ⚓️ pic.twitter.com/rjb6orbptJ— Navy Women’s Lacrosse (@NavyWLax) February 17, 2020
Kelly Larkin is arguably one of the best athletes to ever don the Blue and Gold. She garnered 15 end of season honors ranging from Rookie of the Year to All-American, not including the watch lists she’s been on for the last two seasons. She can also claim another 15 weekly titles during her tenure. She has never missed a game and started every single game of her Navy career (72). She averaged 5 points a game in 2020 against some of the stiffest competition in the country, and that’s after just 1 point in the season opener. What I’m getting at is that Kelly Larkin is really freakin’ good, and it’s a travesty she won’t get the opportunity to climb even higher in the NCAA record books.
Make no mistake about it, Kelly is one of the greatest Women’s lacrosse players in the history of the NCAA. Had this season gone through to completion, there was a very good chance she end up in the top 5 for career points, with an outside shot to make a run at the top spot overall. Imagine Keenan Reynold’s senior season ending in September; it’s that serious folks. Kelly’s total career numbers are 199 goals and 177 assists, averaging more that 5 total points a game in her career.
This team was poised for a big year, with Kelly Larkin about to put the icing on the cake of an incredible career, and her incredible senior teammates looking to join her and the rest of the Mids for another deep NCAA tournament run. Either way, this is not the ending these athletes deserved. We all know it is the right thing to do, but it still does not make this any easier.
Honoring the achievements and efforts for the seniors of 2020 through this forum is not enough, but it is the least they deserve from their fans.