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  • Joshua Lehrman

Summer Spotlight: Ellie Walsh’s Unwavering Desire to Compete

At the beginning of every Cornell Women’s lacrosse season, each player chooses one word that will characterize what they bring to the team on a daily basis. This season Ellie Walsh chose “compete.” She pledged to show up to practice and challenge her teammates on every ground ball, draw, and drive. Once their season was cancelled, players were asked how they would continue to use their word.

During quarantine, Ellie has demonstrated her drive to “compete” in various ways. For one, she would compete against one of her older brothers. They worked out together and motivated each other to stay in shape. Yet, going from competing against the best players in the country to having one older brother to go up against was quite a limitation. To Ellie, however, this potential obstacle was no excuse to stop competing. Instead, she understood that her greatest quarantine competition would be herself, and so every day Ellie strove to beat what she accomplished the prior day. If she ran a certain time on Monday, she knew that time had to be destroyed on Tuesday. Through this mindset, she continued to better herself during quarantine.

Ellie is entering her senior year at Cornell and has already secured her legacy in the Cornell Lacrosse Program. When asked about her proudest accomplishment as a Cornell student-athlete Ellie answered with: “Being able to play with such driven and inspiring people.” She didn’t mention earning Second Team All-Ivy as a sophomore, or leading the team in assists, points, ground balls, and draw controls. Instead, her greatest accomplishment was simply being a part of the Cornell Women’s Lacrosse program. As a player, she has the opportunity to be surrounded by such well-rounded and high-quality people all the time. Ellie explained that she is inspired by her teammates and that the intelligence of everyone on the team in turn motivates her to do well in the classroom. Ellie also mentioned that being elected a junior captain this year meant a lot to her, saying, “Being able to step up and take that role was great.”

Of course, being named captain comes with greater responsibility. Luckily for Ellie, she had two amazing co-captains that took her under their wing. Mary Kate Bonanni and Caroline Allen, who were also both junior captains, showed Ellie the ropes and made sure she understood her role. When asked about the transition to being captain, Ellie stated that “the biggest transition was understanding my role. I had to step up as a leader.” She also mentioned that there are “lots of little things that you don’t think about.” She was responsible for booking field space and making sure everything was set up for practice. Most of the practices during the fall are captain-led, leaving them with even more responsibility.

Captains must also focus on accountability. On one hand, a captain must hold themselves accountable for any mistakes they are responsible for. On the other hand, they must be able to hold their teammates accountable without causing any rifts.

Ellie describes her method to holding teammates accountable: “The main thing is doing it yourself and hoping they follow after you.” As a captain, Ellie had to “connect with teammates emotionally off the field in order to bring the whole team together to make sure everyone was on the same page.”

Even as one of the leaders on the team, Ellie was still able to take away several valuable life-lessons from her teammates. Soon after news came out that the season was over, the team came together to discuss their situation and the future ahead. Although everyone was taken aback, the seniors made everyone keep their heads held high. The team made it clear that this season would not be marked as the “Covid Season.” Ellie recalled that “Everyone realized how special this team was and all the amazing things we accomplished.”

The seniors reminded Ellie to persevere. She mentioned how “The graduating seniors took it so well. They wanted to leave their legacy no matter what. They reminded us that we are teammates for life, we are all part of this little family, and it’s more than just lacrosse.”

Ellie also emphasized the lessons she learned from the freshmen on the team. She went on about how “the freshmen were committed to being their best self. They always brought so much energy. They encompassed the ‘It’s great to be here mentality.’”

Aside from lacrosse, Ellie enjoys giving back to the community. Ellie creates time for community service while balancing Ivy League schoolwork and competition at an elite Division I Women’s Lacrosse program. During sophomore year, she volunteered with Big Red Buddies, spending time with elementary school children every Tuesday after school. She has also volunteered at Loaves and Fishes, a local soup kitchen in Ithaca, several times, and has written letters to prisoners. This year, Ellie also suggested that the team participate in Yards for Yeardley, a fundraiser organized to educate young people on healthy and unhealthy relationships. Thanks to her recommendation, the Cornell Women’s Lacrosse team ran/walked/biked more than 5 million yards (~2,800 miles) to fundraise during the month of April.

In addition, Ellie was nominated by Coach Jenny Graap to be in the Red Key Athlete Honor Society, a community service organization for Cornell varsity athletes in which members “coordinate and participate in service events throughout the year.”

Even though this season was cut short by COVID-19, Ellie and her teammates have many great accomplishments to remember. The 2020 season taught the Cornell Women’s lacrosse team to never take competition for granted. Meanwhile, Ellie still has some unfinished business she’d like to take care of before graduating. Her biggest goals for next season include beating two lacrosse powerhouses in Princeton and Syracuse. While this season ended prematurely, Cornell lacrosse fans have a lot to look forward to next year.

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