LAX in D.C.: Kennett's Schaen sisters headed to American University
● By Richard Gaw
Kristin Schaen, a 2014 Kennett High School graduate and the oldest of the three Schaen sisters, spent her four years of high school committed to both athletics and academics.
She was a member of the National Honor Society, was a year-round athlete all four years, and by the time she reached her senior year, she earned Ches-Mont League honors in both field hockey and lacrosse. Her accomplishments both in the classroom and on the playing field led her to Lafayette College, where she is a tri -captain of the school's Division I lacrosse team in her senior year.
Along the way, however, Kristin managed to squeeze in yet another commitment: Teaching her younger sisters – fraternal twins Jennifer and Morgan – all she knew about the sport of lacrosse.
“Kristin never went easy on us, and I hated it at the time,” said Jennifer, who is 20 minutes older than Morgan. “She would be so physical with us, but looking back at it, it made Morgan and I stronger players now.”
What was passed down from sister to sisters has paid off: Jennifer and Morgan, about to begin their senior seasons on the Blue Demons lacrosse team, recently signed letters of intent to attend American University in Washington, D.C. this coming fall, where they will join the school's lacrosse team as freshmen in the spring of 2019.
There is a well-proven adage in sports that claims that in order to improve, an athlete should toss his or her skills into a pool made up of better talent. Nearly from the time Jennifer and Morgan began to play lacrosse in the third grade, their tutelage was dotted with top competition. By the time they had reached fifth grade, they had moved on from recreation leagues to a club team, and when they reached middle school, they were playing with an against high school players.
“We grew up playing against talented competition, playing with them and against them, and they made us better players,” Jennifer said. “I have always enjoyed competition, because it allows me to be in the moment of a game. As cliché as it sounds, I seriously do forget about anything that's stressing me out, such as a big test I have coming up. It began when we were playing with girls who were older and more talented then we were.
“We may not have been as good as they were when we started out, but when you're thrown onto a team with girls who are amazing, you don't have choice whether or not you want to give it your best.”
Heather Wentz, a Unionville High School graduate who later played lacrosse at Syracuse, has been one of Jennifer and Morgan's major influences along with Kennett High School Coach Dale Watkins. “Heather gave us both a love of lacrosse, and it shows so much because we want to continue to play on the collegiate level,” Morgan said. “I would not be the player I am today without Heather. She taught us everything about the game in a way that didn't sound like drilling. She and made us want to do well, and motivated us to want to win.
"Coach Watkins has done so much in developing and strengthening Kennett High School’s lacrosse program and has helped us grow as players and teammates."
The dovetail of Jennifer and Morgan's athletic and academic journey enjoys a generous overlap: They were named to the All Ches-Mont First Team last season; co-founded the Kennett High School’s badminton club; and are both members of the Athletic Representative Council and the National Honor Society. Although it is logical to suspect that their choice to attend American University this fall is merely an extension of their similarities, it was not the case. During an exhaustive, tour of prospective colleges last year, they participated in lacrosse clinics at several East Coast colleges, and ultimately felt that American University was best suited for what they were looking for.
“Everywhere we went to visit, they asked us if we wanted to attend college together,” Morgan said. “It was never a 'Yes' or 'No,' but whether or not we would find a school that we both loved, and if we fell in love with separate colleges, then we would go our separate ways.”
“We had the same opinions about the schools we visited,” Jennifer said. “We'd talk after each visit and found out that our thoughts were all the same. We knew that we wanted to attend a school that had a campus, but also have accessibility to a metropolitan center. American University was perfect because it has an awesome campus, and it's five minutes from Washington, D.C.”
While the Schaen sisters know that playing lacrosse in the Patriot League against Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Army, Navy and other colleges is only one year away, they are not letting their future lacrosse plans interfere with their current one. Both Morgan and senior Abby Davidson will be the team's co-captains this year as they seek to improve the Blue Demons' 7-12 record last year. Watkins' team will also be led by seniors Katherine Clarke, Eliza Fantazzi, Riley Harris, Haley Mannino, Ivy Pratola and Annalise Werner.
“Morgan and I know the seniors are the leaders on the team now,” Jennifer said. “We lost a lot of good players last year, so now it's part of our role to get the job done. Our former teammates' graduations will give me the motivation to work harder than I have ever worked before.”
“Our goal as a team is to return to the Ches-Mont playoffs, which the team did in our freshman and sophomore years,” Morgan said. “If we all work together and everyone does their part, I think we have a very good chance this season.”
Given that American's current roster is young – there are 7 freshmen and 8 sophomores on Coach Emma Wallace's 2018 team – there is a very strong chance that the Schaen sisters will see a lot of playing time in their first season. It will be part of a new adjustment that will also be met with increased training and practice schedules, as well as the demands of travel to and from opponents – all of which are constant stressors on an academic load.
“To a lot of people, that sounds stressful, but to me, that is structure, and structure is what makes us motivated to get things done,” Jennifer said. “I need structure because that's how I get moving.”
“Time management is so important to both of us,” Morgan said. “We'll be driving home from school before a night game and say that in between this period of time, we're going to do this and this, then play our game, come home after the game and study for school. For us, having sports allows us to remain focused on time management and stay organized, and we've learned those skills throughout our entire lives, and that will prepare us for the next four years.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.