SENIOR WEEKS: Tragedy gives Downingtown East’s Carey perspective on loss of senior lacrosse season

If anybody has a nuanced perspective on losing her senior season to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s Downingtown East lacrosse star Lauren Carey.

That’s because Carey’s faced a bunch of challenges along the way, and the postponement and eventual cancellation of the 2020 campaign wasn’t even close to the toughest. A week and a half before the start of her sophomore season, Carey’s older brother, Kyle, died unexpectedly at age 18 while attending the University of Oklahoma.

Deep in grief, Lauren was questioning whether she had the strength to continue playing lacrosse. She turned to her parents, Sue and Todd Carey, for advice.

“I remember talking with my parents, not sure if I was going to go back and play my sophomore season,” she said. “But they convinced me.”

At the very next Downingtown East practice in late winter of 2018, Carey knew that she had made the right decision. Looking back, it was a pivotal moment.

“Just being there and having all 40 of the girls in the program supporting me, that’s when I realized that I needed to play lacrosse,” Carey confirmed. “From that, my love for the game really grew.

“It was like a place where I could escape everything and just play the game I’ve been playing since third grade. It was a great way to open my eyes and realize how important lacrosse was in my life.”

A native of Chester Springs, Carey started playing organized lacrosse at age 9. She preferred it over other spring sports, like softball, because it was action-packed and much more physical. And even though her last high school season consisted of a few practices and a scrimmage, Carey played all of the previous nine seasons along with fellow seniors Kya Effinger, Rachel Swink and Olivia Fanelli.

“I really never expected that my senior year would end this way,” Carey said. “The team we had was ready to do some big things this season.

Carey became a varsity starter as a sophomore for the first time, and then blossomed into an all-league and all-area first team defender as a junior. In 2019, she helped the Cougars capture the Ches-Mont league title.

“Lauren is extremely disciplined and driven, so naturally competitive, and always team-oriented,” said her coach Kelli Joran.

Joran took over as East’s head coach in this offseason replacing Christa Somits, and plans were in the works to move Carey from defense to the midfield for her final high school season.

“She has always been an absolute force on defense and on the draw for our team, but we were most excited about utilizing her on the attack end as well this year,” Joran said. “She was so seamlessly transitioning.”

It was just another challenge to overcome. Similarly, Carey struggled through the college recruiting process.

“I was a little behind in recruiting,” she explained. “I wasn’t reaching out to college coaches because I had a lot going on personally. But I was ready for my junior season. I knew what I had to do and that was to leave it all on the field. It’s my dream to play at a Division I school.

“A lot of my friends were committing in the fall of 2018, but I was nowhere near that point.”

Following her excellent junior season, however, Carey committed to play collegiately at Old Dominion last summer.

“I wasn’t going to let my opportunity to play college lacrosse slip away,” she added.

Carey isn’t exactly sure what position she will be playing with the Monarchs during the 2021 season, but she is open to whatever lies ahead. It’s just another challenge to overcome. And she certainly seems to have the outlook to see it through.

“It’s so hard not being able to play now,” she admitted. “I want to enjoy every moment of the game because I remember being at our last practice. We never thought that the whole season would be cancelled.

“The takeaway from high school is to not take the sport for granted,” she added.

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