With just a year of experience in lacrosse at Henry Ford High School, Carly Schwarz didn't think it would be her sport at Albion College.
In just two years, however, Schwarz stands as an important reason why Albion finished the season as the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament champion and advanced to the NCAA Division III Women's Lacrosse Championship for the second time since 2015.
An all-MIAA first team pick in the midfield, Schwarz looks the part of the Road Runner when the Britons depend on her speed to clear the ball to the attacking end of the field. She knew how to finish scoring plays, too, finishing the 2019 season in sixth place on Albion's single-season scoring list with 66 points (41 goals and 25 assists).
"Calvin put five defenders on me," Schwarz said of a clearing attempt during the MIAA Tournament semifinal, a contest Albion won 13-10. "That was the moment when I recognized I was a threat."
Schwarz, who competed in the sprinting and long jump events on the track team in high school, described herself as a "track star on the lacrosse team" during her one season on the field at Henry Ford.
The Albion women's lacrosse program is proud of the way it develops students of the game and Schwarz is an example of the improvement a committed athlete can make, even in just two years.
"In high school they would just give me the ball so I could run it up the field," Schwarz said. "I would usually drop the pass and have to get the ground ball since I hardly had any stick skills."
"Last season was an insane amount of learning the game," she added. "The physical skills came along, but that season was so much learning."
It didn't hurt that she returned to volunteer as a coach to her former teammates at Henry Ford once she finished her first season at the collegiate level.
"It was another step in my growth as a player because they questioned and challenged me," Schwarz said. "I was able to teach a lot."
Schwarz maintains she continues to learn new things about women's lacrosse every day. For example, it wasn't until the day before the MIAA Tournament championship game against Hope College that she learned it's illegal to cradle the ball in the stick in front of your face.
A self-described Star Wars nerd, she says carrying her stick is the closest thing she will get to imagining a light saber, Schwarz says her improvement in lacrosse is a product of the support she receives from her teammates.
"I'm comfortable being weird because I know this team will always have my back," Schwarz said. "(The success I've had) is a product of the team. If the opponent worries too much about me, they are making a mistake because everyone on my team is a dangerous lacrosse player."
Joe and Julie Serra have given a $5 million leadership gift to launch a fundraising initiative to make two dreams a reality at Albion College. The first is a newly expanded fitness and student activity facility at the site of the current Dow Recreation and Wellness Center. The second is a new or renovated competition facility for the volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball that currently call Kresge Gymnasium home.
The College is continuing to raise funds in support of both projects. To learn more, call 517/629-0446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.