A year full of surprises for Worcester
Jess Worcester (green and white shirts) shares a laugh with teammates at a recent practice. Play Video
Jess Worcester (green and white shirts) shares a laugh with teammates at a recent practice.
This time last year, Jess Worcester was getting ready to start what would be a record-setting senior high school lacrosse season that had a pretty big surprise when it ended.

Fast forward to today, and in what would appear to be a quantum leap, Worcester is getting ready to start her JU freshman college season against fourth-ranked Florida Wednesday.

A year ago, the midfielder was getting settled in for a her final season at St. Mary’s Ryken in Leonardtown, Md., and getting settled in seeing her dad, Jeff, as head coach after spending the previous year as an assistant with the team.

“I was fortunate enough, my dad became the coach,’’ she said “I had always complained to him because he had coached the boys team at St. Mary’s so he coached both my brothers (Greg and Kevin). I was like ‘you never coached me, why can’t you just come to the girls’ game?’ He finally transferred to the girls’ game and it was a completely different tone of voice and level of playing in practice.’’

Dad showed no favoritism and daughter thinks because he was coaching her lacrosse life was a little harder than it had been.

She clearly remembers one particular practice in which she described herself as “being lazy’’ and Coach Dad apparently saw the same thing.

“He decided to use profanity on me,’’ she said, still seemingly a little taken aback.

From then on, she decided she wasn’t going to be belligerent.

“I knew that wasn’t going to fly,’’ she said and resigned herself to the idea she “was going to get ridiculed on the field or ridiculed at home.’’

Whatever the formula, it worked in record-setting fashion.

She set a school record for single-season goals with 61 and single-season points (95) and led the team in five statistical categories. She was the 2011 Ryken lacrosse Most Valuable Player, won the school’s Spring Female Athlete Award and was the first girls’ lacrosse player from Ryken to be unanimously voted to the high-powered Washington Catholic Athletic Conference All-Conference team.

She was named Athlete of the Year by Southern Maryland Newspapers and had an added surprise when Jeff was named Coach of the Year when the team finished 10-6 and 5-3 in conference.

“I didn’t expect that,’’ she said. “I assumed that not being as strong as the other (WCAC) teams it would be hard to be recognized at that high of level.’’

She learned the news while at a friend’s house and couldn’t get her dad on the phone to tell him. In the end, she said, he was low key with his celebration.

“He doesn’t like to boast,’’ She said.

Looking back, Jeff knew at the time it was special moment.

“It was the icing on the cake for me,’’ he said. “I had coached our boys and she tagged along, so when I got to coach her that was special. When we both won I thought ‘wow, that’s really cool’ but (coaching her) was already special for me.’’

Soon after the season ended, Jess’s college career became in doubt when she suffered a severe right ankle sprain in a club game when she collided with another player.

She sat out most of the summer and thought her dream of playing Division I evaporated and was looking at Division II and III schools and was crushed when she saw JU coach Mindy McCord at one of her team’s tournaments as she was still hobbling on her crutches.

“I thought ‘oh, I wish I could be out there to show her what I can do’,’’ Worcester said.

Not long after, one of her club team’s assistants suggested Worcester talk to the Dolphins because JU still was interested.

“I was like ‘I didn’t play, how could they be interested in me?’ ’’ she said. “My coach told me it wasn’t the skill they were looking for but the heart I was showing still being there with my team.’’

Worcester came aboard and in her first game of fall ball met the Gators.

“It was a nerve-wracking day,’’ she said. “The whole bus ride to Gainesville I was trying to stay calm and listened to music.’’

And, she survived the mighty Gators and looks forward to a return engagement Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at UF as one of eighte freshmen on the team. The others: Holly Ventimiglia (midfield) Bay Shore, N.Y., Tori Seitz (attack) Towson, Md., Lily Yednock (defense) Worthington, Oh., Lauren Hincks (defense) Edgewater, Md., Asia Moore (goal keeper) Spartanburg, S.C., Casey Schilling (defense) Annapolis, Md. and Cecelia Matthews (defense) Morristown, N.J.

“It’s a little easier this time, I know what to expect,’’ she said. “It’s ironic because we played Florida in my first fall game and now in my first college game. It’s very exciting. This time last year, I never thought I would have the chance to play them.’’

- Jim Nasella