Selena Lasota of Campbell River

Lacrosse star plays outside the box

World champion got her start in Campbell River box lacrosse program

Just a couple of weeks ago, Selena Lasota stood at the pinnacle of her sport. Now, it’s back to work.

Lasota, 19, helped Team Canada to the U19 Women’s World Lacrosse championship in Scotland, earning player of the match honours in the gold-medal game as Canada snapped a four-year title run by the U.S.

Now, a new season awaits at Northwestern University in Illinois, where Lasota earned Big 10 Freshman of the Year honours last season.

“I think it’s still sinking in,” she said a week after scoring three goals — including the game-winner — and adding two assists in the world championship final. “It’s kind of crazy. I’ve been told by Northwestern to lay low this week, then get back to training.

“I’m obviously very excited to get back, but I’ve been trying to unwind a little bit and take in that I’m a world champion. It feels weird.”

The championships, held on the pitch at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, were a far cry from her humble beginnings in the sport. At age eight, Lasota first walked into Strathcona Gardens to strap on the pads in the local box lacrosse program.

She quickly grew to love and excel in the game, and within a decade was competing for a Team BC provincial club made up mostly of boys.

Lasota never took the multi-sport athlete route, though she did play soccer and basketball briefly at Carihi.

“(Lacrosse) was the only sport I got put in,” she said. “I didn’t think about joining other sports because I like playing lacrosse so much.”

Playing the traditional outdoor field version of Canada’s summer game was not an option as she was growing up, but her play with the provincial box lacrosse team prompted her coach to invite her to a field lacrosse camp in Florida following her Grade 11 year.

What she did not realize was that many U.S. university programs used the camp and its series of games to evaluate potential recruits. Until then, she had not considered the possibility of turning her love of a game into a college scholarship.

“I got scouted when I was down there,” she said. “I didn’t reach out to anybody, but Northwestern scouted me. I was pretty surprised.”

It was Lasota’s turn to deliver the surprises when she suited up for the Wildcats in her first year at the school. She shattered the school’s single-season scoring record for a freshman with a team-leading 69 goals, a mark that ranked her fifth in the nation. At the end of the campaign she was named to the inaugural All-Big Ten team, earned the conference’s Freshman of the Year Award, and was selected a second-team All-American.

The Wildcats advanced to the final eight in the NCAA championships before being eliminated.

“I think personally, I did well,” she said of her debut season. “But the team has so much more to offer. I’m excited to get back and start working with the rest of the girls.”

Two of her Team USA opponents in the recent world championships, high school All-Americans Mallory Weisse and Claire Quinn, will join Lasota at Northwestern this season.

While playing through her first university season, Lasota was in the midst of a long-running tryout and development camp for Canada’s U-19 national team.

“It was a two-year process; I was still in high school when it started,” she said. “When the training camp started I had to apply. There were scouts all over the country looking for players.”

Following her graduation from Carihi she attended a 10-day training camp that whittled the field of hopefuls from 60 players to 30. A series of four more camps weaned the team down to its final roster, and Lasota said she never took her spot for granted, despite the accolades of her season at Northwestern.

“I think everybody was fighting for a spot,” she said. “There were tons of great lacrosse players the entire time.”

The next challenge was to blend a diverse group of young women that ranged from high school standouts to those with high-level university experience like Lasota and Lydia Sutton, a midfielder coming off her first season at the University of Southern California.

Coincidentally, Lasota and Sutton faced each other in their first collegiate game, in which Northwestern pulled out an 11-10 overtime win over Sutton and the Trojans in Los Angeles.

“I think that everything else just went away,” Lasota said of the national team’s bonding. “We all had confidence in ourselves and each other. Everything that happened in the past, before training camp, went away. The biggest thing to me was just how well the team got along and experienced such an amazing and historical event.”

Team Canada dropped its first match in the World Championships, to the U.S. It then rolled unbeaten the rest of the way, steamrolling the 1999 world champion Australians in the semifinals and topping the U.S. 9-8 in their gold-medal rematch.

“It was very exciting, a great game to be a part of,” Lasota said of the final. “I think everyone was very focused and determined. We knew we wanted the gold medal and worked very hard to make the plays we needed to make.”