*laxabunga (lak sǝ buή´ gǝ) exclam. [slang] used as an exclamation of delight and laxifaction by laxers (lacrosse players). See also laxaholic.

Senior Ally Carey is one of 10 players from Maryland on the women’s lacrosse team.
Senior Ally Carey is one of 10 players from Maryland on the women’s lacrosse team.

Ally Carey grew up with a soccer ball attached to her foot.Following in her soccer-oriented father’s footsteps, she played the sport all the way through high school. At a young age she had it all planned out. She was going to emulate her childhood idol, Mia Hamm, and play soccer for North Carolina and then—she hoped—Team USA.

“I didn’t want to give up soccer at all,” she says. In the fourth grade, however, Carey started playing lacrosse. Beginning with a wooden stick—most club teams use aluminum sticks with plastic heads—she began to develop a connection with lacrosse.

Her fondness for the sport grew at John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Md. Summers and falls became dedicated to soccer. When winter hit, she took out the lacrosse stick. As her high school days wound down, Carey faced a difficult decision. She could try to play both soccer and lacrosse in college, but she feared it would be too much to juggle. So she made up her mind, which turned out to be surprisingly easy.

“I had more confidence in lacrosse than soccer—and definitely made a good choice.”

Vanderbilt certainly thinks so. Last June the 5-foot-8 midfielder became the first Vanderbilt lacrosse player to be named a first-team All-American twice. She is the school’s all-time leader in draw controls (183), and last year she ranked nationally in the top 10 for draw controls, caused turnovers and ground balls, which are similar to steals. She was a nominee for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given annually to the top men’s and women’s lacrosse players in the country. And last November Lacrosse Magazine announced her as one of four finalists for its Preseason Player of the Year Award.

“We’d like to take credit for a lot of [her success], but what she has accomplished as an athlete is because of her drive,” says Vanderbilt Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach Cathy Swezey. “She is just a gifted kid with a tireless work ethic who really has made a great difference in our program.”

Carey is only the most prominent example of how Vanderbilt benefits from Maryland’s historic strength in lacrosse. Maryland has contributed 10 players to the current squad, six of whom are seniors, and one-third of the early signees for next year also hail from the Old Line State.

Carey at age 10, as a wing player for the Abingdon Football Club Tornados
Carey at age 10, as a wing player for the Abingdon Football Club Tornados

Even before she arrived at Vanderbilt, Carey was soaking in experiences that many dream about. As a junior in high school, she was picked to compete with Team USA in the International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Associations’ U-19 (under 19) World Championship in Canada. Despite being one of the team’s—and tournament’s—youngest players, she earned Player of the Match honors in the semifinal against England. She then helped her teammates claim the gold in dominating fashion over Australia.

Goosebumps climb her arms as she recalls chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” with the crowd in Ontario. “I can’t even put into words what it feels like to have ‘USA’ across your chest,” she says. “The red, white and blue in the stands just makes you so proud to represent your country. It was an amazing experience.”

Carey wants to experience that feeling again—on an even bigger stage. She is one of 36 players on the US Lacrosse women’s national senior team, along with Vanderbilt assistant coach Amber Falcone. The squad participated in a tournament during October and reunited in January. Come July, though, everyone must try out again and crack the final 18 in order to play in the 2013 World Cup in Canada. More immediately, as a senior captain, Carey is focused on helping the Commodores win an American Lacrosse Conference championship and reach elite status nationally. “I’m still wanting that national title,” she says.

Carey graduates in May with a degree in human and organizational development and a minor in marketing. She hopes to land a job at Under Armour, a sports clothing and apparel company based in Baltimore where she interned last summer. Eventually, she would like to work with the company’s new lacrosse product line. “They are extremely efficient, but they also have a great time,” she says of the company. “It is totally the place I want to be—a perfect fit, kind of like here at Vanderbilt.”

Jerome Boettcher is a sports reporter for Nashville City Paper.