December 29, 2010

This article appears in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, which mails to US Lacrosse members this week. Don't get the mag? Join USL and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

Jaeger Grew Up Playing Boys' Game

by Joel Censer | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

TCNJ's Ali Jaeger, the LM Preseason Player of the Year in Division III, credits her unique style in part to growing up playing boys' lacrosse.

© Steve Smith

When Ali Jaeger first picked up a women's stick, throwing and catching didn't come easy.

It wasn't because of a lack of coordination or experience. Jaeger, a self-professed tomboy, had played lacrosse for two years. But she had grown accustomed to a deep pocketed boy's stick because there were no girls' youth programs in her pastoral corner of northwest New Jersey. Determined to play anyway, the Hampton native had suited up for the Bethlehem Township Warriors, cutting her lacrosse-playing teeth against the boys.

Jaeger joined a girls' squad in the sixth grade and transitioned to tighter strings and the 8-meter. Now a senior midfielder at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Player of the Year, Jaeger cites those early rough-and-tumble years playing with the boys as the reason she first fell in love with the game.

"I really liked the physical aspect of it," Jaeger said. "I was pretty reluctant to give up my shoulder pads and helmet."

In high school, she was a four-year starter and catalyst for a fledging North Hunterdon squad whose record improved from 3-9 during Jaeger's freshman season to 17-3 by her senior year.

Despite generating interest from Division I schools, Jaeger landed at in-state Division III power TCNJ, drawn by the opportunity to play right away and compete for national championships.

Jaeger was the second-leading scorer as a freshman and by her sophomore year was a first-team All-American. Last year, she again garnered first-team laurels, scoring 86 goals and dishing out 25 assists for a 16-4 Lion squad that fell to eventual champion Salisbury in the quarterfinals.

Jaeger's evolution into a dominant force is traced in part to her dogged work ethic. Her shooting prowess? Refined by hours working on the cage. The athleticism between the 30s? Helped by significant time in the weight room and on the North Hunterdon track. And those slippery dodges from X? Inspired by watching hours of tape of showstoppers like Katrina Dowd and Mike Powell.

As much as Jaeger revels in those one-on-one battles, it's clear that individual accomplishments only go so far as she seeks to lead TCNJ to their first championship since 2006.

"Everything's directed to my team making the national championship," she said.

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