Zach Winn

Equinox Staff


A year ago to this day, freshman Kaitlin Nolan couldn’t have told you what college she was going to be attending in the fall.  Committed to majoring in physical education, when Nolan toured schools she was always more interested in academic programs than athletic ones.  At the time, her future in lacrosse seemed uncertain, if not in doubt.

But her past uncertainty has only made her current success with the lacrosse team all the more impressive.

“She visited [Keene State College] very late,” Coach Katie Arsenault remembered. “So we’re already behind in the process and she said she wanted to find a school first and worry about lacrosse later, to make sure she fit.”

Portrait by: Michelle Berthiaume / Sports Editor

Portrait by: Michelle Berthiaume / Sports Editor

Everyone agrees Nolan’s visit went well, but in the fast-paced culture of college recruiting, her unique situation didn’t exactly inspire confidence in Arsenault.  So you can imagine the coach’s surprise when she received an email from Nolan in late April saying she had decided to come to KSC.

“I decided to come to Keene mainly because when I met [Coach Arsenault] she seemed like a great coach,” Nolan said.  “I wanted to come for physical education and they have a great program, the school’s great. By the end it was an easy pick.”

One of the intriguing things about Kaitlin Nolan as a recruit was the success she had at the high school level.  Nolan comes from lacrosse powerhouse Mahopac High School in upstate New York.  In fact, Arsenault had been scouting two different girls on the team before she had even heard of Nolan.

But all that changed when the coach watched Nolan play, and she was quickly invited to KSC’s recruit day, where the college brings in what they consider to be their top recruits.  The rest is history, and Coach Arsenault admits it seems like it’s been a long time since she got that surprising email.

The move from the high school to college level in all sports generally means a faster pace, smarter competition and a whole lot less room for error.  Freshmen making this transition can respond to those changes in one of two ways.  Some need time to adjust to the cranked up rhythm of the game; they struggle with the quicker decisions of teammates and faster reactions of opponents.

Others thrive as the quality of play rises.  Things make more sense for them as the high IQ of their teammates makes the game more predictable.

In her short six-game career as an Owl, Nolan seems to have fallen into the latter of those two categories.

After contributing four goals and two assists in her first four games, including a three-goal explosion in a win against Westfield State, Arsenault was confident enough in Nolan to give the 5’6” midfielder a starting position.

“She’s started the last two games because she was working hard,” Arsenault said.  “One thing I look at is not near the goal but everywhere else, and she started working hard everywhere else on the field.”

Since getting the starting nod, Nolan hasn’t looked back.  She justified the coach’s decision with a two-goal performance in her first start, then followed that up with three more goals against MIT on Thursday.  But even more importantly, the Owls won both games to bring their overall record to 4-5.

“[Nolan’s] played great all year,” junior attacker Julie Trombetta said.  “Coach put her in the starting line up and she hasn’t missed a beat.”

But Nolan isn’t anywhere near content. When talking about her game with the coach and Nolan, it’s hard to believe they’re talking about the same person. The coach talks up Nolan’s ability to place her shots with pinpoint accuracy and play away from the goal.  Yet when asked what areas she needs to improve in, shot location and defensive positioning are at the top of Nolan’s list.

“I could definitely improve on a lot of things,” Nolan said.  “The whole team just gets so much better every game.”

It seems Nolan’s competitiveness won’t allow her to be satisfied. She’s never felt the game she’s been playing since elementary school has come easy to her.  Now, riding the momentum of back-to-back victories with half the season left to play, the team hopes to harness that competitiveness and ride it into the playoffs.


Zach Winn can be contacted at

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