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  The Digital Collegian - Published independently by students at Penn State
[ Wednesday, Oct. 27, 1999 ]

Larson reflects, looks to future

Collegian Staff Writer

On Nov. 3, 1996, freshman Tracey Larson watched as the Penn State field hockey team honored seniors Tara Maguire and Holly Bollinger at Senior Day. It was an event that seemed eons away for Larson.

Three years later, Larson prepares to play possibly her last game at Bigler Athletic Complex for the Lady Lions today.

The goodbye process began a week and a half ago when Larson and teammate Julie Sposito were honored at this year's Senior Day. That day, in front of her family, Larson assisted on both Penn State goals in a 3-2 loss to Iowa.

PHOTO: Corinne Coulter
PHOTO: Corinne Coulter
Penn State midfielder Tracey Larson smacks the ball downfield in the Lady Lions’ 1-0 win against North Carolina earlier this season.

"I remember my freshman year on Senior Day," Larson said, "and they (Maguire and Bollinger) were old to me. And now I'm a senior and I don't feel like a senior at all. When they said my name and gave me that blanket, I was like, 'I'm not supposed to be getting this. I'm still too young to do that.' "

Tracey has excelled in a leadership role this year, serving with Lions redshirt junior Traci Anselmo as the team's co-captain.

Her 43 points lead the Big Ten and her 23 assists are fourth best in the nation. Most recently, she recorded her first career hat trick in a 4-1 win at Ohio State.

This season has just reflected Larson's overall career at Penn State. Her 105 career points make her the eleventh best scorer in Penn State history, behind such notables as teammate Maegan Galie and Penn State field hockey coach Char Morett.

"She's a hard worker and she gets the job done," Anselmo said. "She always has the hustle. I love the girl."

An elementary education major, Tracey grew up in Morrisville in a household where her two parents, Paul and Joyce, are teachers.

Sports came naturally for her, and she began playing field hockey in sixth grade and continued into high school, occasionally attending summer field hockey camps in between playing soccer and softball.

Before college, Larson excelled at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, where she received honors such as first-team All-Suburban League and team Most Valuable Player. In addition to her a4wards in field hockey, she also made all-state in soccer and ran track in high school.

Tracey made her recruiting visit to Penn State in February 1996, and was invited by the field hockey team to attend a '70s disco party and a concert.

Soon afterward, Tracey said no to Ohio State and Richmond, the two other schools actively recruiting her, despite being offered a larger scholarship by Ohio State.

"I said if I got hurt and couldn't play hockey," she said, "I would rather go to Penn State than go to Ohio State. I think that was a big decision of why I came here."

Expecting to redshirt in her freshman year, Tracey found herself on the forward line when junior Meshann Spratt was bothered by a back injury. She would score five goals that season, including three game-winners, and received Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

Larson improved statistically in her sophomore season, scoring nine goals and registering 28 points. She managed to score at least one point in more than half of the Lions' games.

Although her point output dipped in 1998, Larson continued her reputation as a hard worker and a clutch player.

In an emotional victory against Old Dominion, Larson made a last minute clear on a Monarchs penalty-corner to preserve the win. In a 1-0 win against Massachusetts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Larson assisted on the eventual winning goal.

"She's played at four different positions in four years and she's played them all very well," Morett said. "I hope that other players and other teams put the heart and effort into what they are trying to achieve."

Following the season, Larson tried out for the U.S. National Team and was selected. Her schedule with the U.S. team would interfere with Penn State's 1999 season, and Larson was expected to miss a few games while in Sydney, Australia in late September.

Unfortunately for Larson but fortunately for the Lions, she was unable to travel down under when it was found the trip would cause her to miss more classes than allowed as a student-athlete.

"That week was back and forth because I could go and then I couldn't go and then I could go and they were gonna make me make the decision and kept going back and forth," she said. "It was one of the hardest weeks of my life."

Despite missing the trip to Australia, Larson is still on the U.S. Team and will travel with it to England in late November. After that, she will attend the U.S. Team's annual tryouts in January and will later try to make the Olympic team.

"We'll see what happens with that," she said. "If I make it, I'm going to do that as long as I can, especially with the Olympics coming up in August. If I make it, hopefully things will work out. But if not, I have to student teach in the fall and then get a job. Either way I'm going to do what I love, so I can't really go wrong."

Unless Penn State makes the NCAA Tournament as one of the top four seeds, today's game will be Larson's last in front of the Penn State crowd. After that, all there will be are the memories.

"It's hard because I go to practice and look at the field and look at the team and realize that I could not be back on that field to practice," she said. "I could never put on a Penn State uniform on the field again. And it's a really strange feeling. But it's good because I had a great time here.

"I had a wonderful run."

Field hockey

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Updated 1999-10-27  1:02:42   -4
Requested 2000-8-17  5:54:24   -4