It’s no surprise to see River East’s Kaitlynn Anderson win the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League’s top division’s scoring title.
It’s her second time topping the list as she accomplished the feat two years ago when she was in Grade 10 (last season was canceled due to the pandemic).
What is surprising is the fact hockey isn’t even Anderson’s best sport. Even though opposing teams try to zone in on her every time she touches the puck, Anderson is actually more well-known for her talents in Canada’s national sport — lacrosse.
Anderson has accepted a scholarship offer to play lacrosse at UMass Lowell, which is just north of Boston, making her first Manitoban female to play NCAA Division I lacrosse.
“I love playing hockey, but lacrosse, that’s where my heart is at,” Anderson, who has 34 goals and 19 assists in 21 games for the Kodiaks this season, told the Free Press on Wednesday.
“That’s where I wanted to make a career and go to college for. I love the physicality and I’m a very competitive person so lacrosse is the perfect fit for me.”
Anderson turned down Division 2 and Division 3 offers to play both sports because she wanted to play lacrosse at the highest level. She dreamed of playing at Duke when she was younger, and she ended up speaking with the Blue Devils during the recruitment process, but UMass Lowell was her preferred destination.
“Looking at the team at UMass, I really wanted to be involved with them. I ended up talking to them a few times and got an offer for a scholarship and I took it,” said Anderson, who plans to major in exercise science.
“I talked to the other girls to see what the team was like. I just thought this is where I want to go. And then I ended up going to Boston in October and while I was there, it was totally different than what I thought. It was even better… I loved it so much. The D1 athletes are treated like gold there.”
Anderson had to defy the odds to make it in lacrosse because up until recently, the local female lacrosse scene was nonexistent. Anderson, who first started playing lacrosse when she was eight, grew up playing against boys. She also played hockey with boys, but that was more of a preference.
“A few guys in my class were trying lacrosse so I wanted to try it, too. It was mostly the hockey guys because I played hockey with guys until I was about 14. They were all trying it out, so I decided to try it, too… They all eventually quit after the first year, but I decided to stick with it and get better,” said Anderson, 17.
“… With hockey, the guys respected me. It was on and off. It didn’t really bother me or anything. But with lacrosse, we all have a good connection and are all super supportive of each other. I’ve been playing with these guys for so long that I consider these guys brothers and they consider me a sister. It’s a special bond that we all have.”
In 2018, Anderson made Team Manitoba’s bantam team for the 2018 national box lacrosse championships. It was the first time Manitoba Lacrosse executive director Matt Mason saw Anderson in action. It didn’t matter that Anderson was the only female on the team, she fit right in.
“She’s an excellent player,” Mason said.
“She’s aggressive and highly skilled. I know she used to have videos up on her social media accounts doing stick tricks. She’s one of, if not the most skilled female that Manitoba has ever produced.”
While she still plans on beating up on the guys, the attacker can now also play with females. This year’s Canada Summer Games in Niagara, Ont., will feature women’s lacrosse for the first time ever and Manitoba is sending a team — led by Anderson, of course. It’s a massive step in the right direction.
“It’s huge… She’s kind of a pioneer for the sport,” Mason said.
“That Canada Games team has a lot of girls that have played lacrosse before but it’s mostly girls that are brand new to the game. I can’t even say how big it is for those girls to see Kaitlynn at their practices and watching her skills up close. She’s been a huge part of their development so far, for sure.”
The lacrosse team has been training together since September, but for right now, Anderson is determined to end her hockey career on a high. River East (10-11-1) will meet Center scolaire Léo-Rémillard (13-8-1) Monday for Game 1 of their best-of-three quarter final series.
“It’s very sad. I’ve played hockey for so long and it’s to an end… We have two coming practices left before the game and honestly, we have a lot of work to do, but I know we can do it,” Anderson said.
“I trust everybody on our team. We have to come to the rink prepared, use each other and work as a team and not as individuals.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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