There was a chill in the night air and snow on the sidelines at Greenbrier Stadium as Yorktown girls lacrosse coach Anne Bodnar discussed the approaching 2010 season.
The Patriots had just completed a scrimmage in early March and Bodnar was answering a reporter’s questions about her three returning all-district players: Hope Barrazotto, Libby Kane and Ashley Fredericks. When asked if there were any other individuals she’d like to highlight, Bodnar mentioned a senior.
"I’m really optimistic for Olivia," she said.
What’s Olivia’s last name?
"Oh gosh, I knew you were going to ask me that," the coach said with an uncomfortable laugh.
Bodnar’s momentary memory loss was understandable. After five years with the school’s JV program, she was preparing for her first season as varsity head coach and Olivia, whose last name is Shipley, did not play lacrosse in 2009. Shipley showed flashes of ability during tryouts and scrimmages, but her time away from the game made it difficult for Bodnar to know just how much of an impact the senior would make.
"She’s got a little catching up to do," Bodnar said, "but I’m expecting to see good things from her this year."
Jump ahead to an early April evening at Greenbrier. The air is cool — but not quite as frigid as that night in March — and the Patriots are hosting rival Washington-Lee. The midfielder Shipley runs free through the General defense and fires a shot past the W-L goalkeeper to give Yorktown a 7-0 lead. Moments later, Shipley receives an outlet pass near midfield and sprints down the left sideline. She then snaps a pass across the field to senior Meghan Albrittain, who deposits Yorktown’s eighth goal of the first half.
Minutes later, Shipley scores again for a commanding 9-0 advantage.
So much for being rusty.
BODNAR’S VISION of success for Shipley has been surpassed in the early going. The senior scored a team-high 16 goals through five games, including three in an 11-2 win over W-L on April 9. The four-time defending National District champion Patriots won four of their first five contests and, with 14 seniors on the team, appear poised for another title run.
Shipley, a standout field hockey player and swimmer at Yorktown, did not play lacrosse last year because from January to May of 2009 she lived in New Zealand with her mother and four siblings. The purpose of the trip, which Shipley said was planned the previous summer, was to visit her uncle.
Shipley attended school while in New Zealand but did not play lacrosse. When spring season rolled around in 2010, her preparation was hardly thorough.
"I tried to pass it around before tryouts," Shipley said. "I kind of hung out this summer and tried to pass it around with people. That was about it."
Shipley had to reacquaint herself with the game.
"When she came back she was nervous, she had a lot of questions," Bodnar said. "She was asking me a lot of questions [about] things I expected her to remember, but I understand she’d been gone for a year."
It didn’t take long for Shipley to get comfortable. She scored a team-high five goals during the Patriots’ season-opening win over West Potomac on March 16.
"I felt a little bit behind everyone, but I picked it back up," she said
"After her questions she got right back into the flow," Bodnar said. "She’s a great team player, has a great shot, great endurance [and] stamina. She fit right back in. It didn’t seem like she missed a beat at all."
Shipley played lacrosse as a sophomore. Kane, a two-time first-team all-district goalkeeper, said athleticism helped Shipley return after a year away from the game.
"Even when she tried out for sophomore year, she had never picked up a stick before," Kane said. "She just picked it up. She’s a natural athlete for anything. She swims on my swim team. She barely trains year-round and then gets in the pool in the summer and beats kids who train twice a day."
One of the main differences Shipley noticed while in New Zealand was her schooling. She took a test at the end of the quarter but said she had no homework and did not receive grades. Shipley said she realized how much she missed her friends, often communicating with them through Skype, a software program which allows voice and video conversations over the Internet.
WHEN SHE RETURNED to the United States, Shipley brought back some shirts which led to humorous confusion.
"She did come back with a few interesting T-shirts [with] weird sayings on them," Kane said. "I guess they were New Zealand sayings. We’d [say], ‘What does that even mean?’ She’d [say], ‘It’s a New Zealand saying!’ We’d [say], ‘Yeah, but we don’t get it.’"
On the field, Shipley’s offensive talents have helped ease the pressure on senior midfielder Barrazotto, the 2009 National District Player of the Year.
"She’s definitely always there for me," Barrazotto said. "She’s definitely one of the people I go to. She’s really good at cutting back to the ball — a good team player. She knows how to play."
Shipley is off to a hot start, but Bodnar said she can get better. The coach said Shipley can be too aggressive at times, placing too much of an emphasis on scoring. Still, Shipley has emerged as another threat on a team that already had high expectations.
"Olivia’s trying to prove that she’s back and she’s part of this team," Bodnar said, "and I think soon she’ll probably realize that she doesn’t need to score as many goals every single game. She’s also a team player, but I think she still needs to work on that a little bit more."
While Shipley has room for improvement, her abilities are now clear.
"Everybody knows about Hope, and Olivia’s kind of been that hidden gem," Bodnar said. "She’s shining now."