Commentary

Maksym leads Farmingdale

Updated: April 13, 2009, 11:34 AM ET
By Ryan Canner-O'Mealy | ESPN RISE Magazine

One after another, the shots whizzed past Lauren Maksym. Within minutes, a dream season had turned into a nightmare.

[+] EnlargeLauren Maksym RISE cover
Kelly Kline for ESPNRISE.comLauren Maksym is our April cover girl.

Then just a freshman, Maksym had helped lead Farmingdale (N.Y.) on an improbable run to the Class A state semifinals. But there, the Dalers ran into a dominant Fayetteville-Manlius squad.

"It was 8-1 or 8-2 before we could blink," Farmingdale girls' lacrosse coach Shari Campbell says. "During a timeout, Lauren came over and had tears in her eyes. She was shell-shocked, like, 'What just happened?'" "Just getting there was so exciting, but when it came time for the game I was so nervous I couldn't even speak," Maksym adds. "The score kept going up and I had to be taken out. It's always embarrassing as a goalie to be taken out of a game."

When the game (mercifully) ended, Farmingdale had lost 17-7. But looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to Maksym on the field. "That could have been the day she put down her goalie stuff and said, 'I'm done,'" Campbell says. "Instead, she used it as a catalyst to become great."

Great might even be an understatement. These days, Maksym is rated the nation's top goalie and the No. 5 overall recruit from the Class of 2009 by Inside Lacrosse. She has signed with North Carolina. "I call her the human highlight film," says Tracy Wiener, who coached Farmingdale for 17 seasons before "semi-retiring" this year, although she remains a volunteer assistant.

The summer following her freshman year, Maksym worked harder than ever and starred for the state's top club team, the Long Island Yellow Jackets. And while she mostly wanted to forget the painful season-ending loss, keeping it in the back of her mind served a purpose. "I tried to put that game away," Maksym says. "But at the same time I remembered it because I never wanted to feel that way again."

Combine that motivation with her strong work ethic and natural talent, and it was clear Maksym was on the path toward establishing herself as one of the nation's best.

But her journey to the top actually began years earlier. Growing up, whenever her two lacrosse-playing older brothers wanted to work on their shooting, they would tape pillows to her arms and legs, put her in net and fire away. "It was definitely rough, and it made me tougher," Maksym says.


Lauren Maksym Favorites

  • TV Show: "Monk"
  • Actor: Will Ferrell
  • Musical Artists: Lil Wayne & Pink
  • Athlete: Mia Hamm

Those backyard sessions also instilled a competitiveness that defines Maksym to this day. "She just has this ferocity," Campbell says. "She's not afraid of anything. She's not afraid of getting hurt or taking a shot off her shin or chest or head. She sticks her nose right in there, and you have to find a way to beat her."

More often than not, you can't. Maksym's arms and legs are covered with welts after each game, but she doesn't mind. Better a shot goes off her body than into the goal. "I kind of like the bruises," she says. "I don't want the ball to go in the net and will do anything to stop it."

Coming into her sophomore year, Maksym was Farmingdale's clear-cut No. 1 goalie. Without having to worry about competing for a job, she flourished. Maksym earned Newsday All-Long Island honors and was an honorable mention All-American. As a team, the Dalers advanced to the state finals, where they lost to West Genesee, 8-4.

But the team was still young, so spirits remained high for the 2008 season. In addition to Maksym, Farmingdale would be returning defensive midfielder Alyssa Kildare and attacker Candace Rossi, a pair of stars who now play as freshmen at Johns Hopkins. With Maksym providing a brick wall in net, Farmingdale's entire defensive unit could play without fear.

[+] EnlargeMaksym
Kelly KlineMaksym was named All Long-Island as a sophomore.

"We were able to be so much more aggressive," says Campbell, who was the team's defensive assistant prior to taking over as head coach this year. "It's mentally freeing to think, 'I can work hard to try to create a turnover because if I get beat, my goalie is going to make a great save for me.'" With an attacking approach on both offense and defense, the Dalers rolled to a 17-3 season and another berth in the state championship game, where they again faced West Genesee. This time, the game was going to be a battle until the very end.

After a back-and-forth opening half, the score was tied at 8 going into the break. West Genesee went up 10-8, but the Dalers responded with four consecutive tallies to take a 12-10 lead. The Wildcats battled back, however, scoring three goals in the final 12 minutes while keeping Farmingdale off the scoreboard to earn a 13-12 win. Maksym finished the season with four shutouts  an astounding total for a sport that regularly features double-digit scoring  to earn All-American honors for the second consecutive year. But those accolades took a back seat to the heartbreaking way Maksym and her teammates saw their season end. It was a different kind of pain than she felt as a freshman, but similarly excruciating.

Of course, Maksym bounced back from that loss three years ago and plans on doing the same in her final high school campaign.

"I definitely want to prove that even though some girls graduated, we still have a great team," Maksym says. "I'd like to get to states and hopefully finish it this time." After a nightmarish end to her freshman season, it would be a dream finale to an incredible prep career.

Ryan Canner-O'Mealy covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.