By Chris Goldberg
TopLaxRecruits,com, Posted 7/27/13
Nikki Ortega said she felt like a “pro athlete” and Claire Quinn said it was “surreal” while competing Monday and Tuesday at The Ride, a Nike showcase held at its headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
“The treatment I received at The Ride was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” said Ortega, a 2015 attack from Middle Country. “I loved the individual attention the staff gave to me. The constant surprises and clothing they gave to the players was like nothing I expected.
“Of course I knew we were going to get some clothing but I didn’t expect to get everything from socks to sticks. I felt like a pro athlete.”
Quinn, a 2015 defensive midfielder from Manhasset, agreed: “The whole experience was surreal! We were treated with great respect and surrounded by professionals (Nike as well as respected lacrosse athletes) who wanted to teach us how to become faster, stronger players.”
Ortega and Quinn were among 42 girls and 35 boys that competed in the event, created to get Nike more into the lacrosse game. Players engaged in skills competition (SPARQ), received instruction from either pro players or top college players, played in an All-Star Game Tuesday and take home duffel bags of free gear. The players also had their own lockers, which were filled with new gear after every event.
Ortega was named the Best Attacker for the event after scoring four goals in the All-Star Game.
TopLaxRecruits also interviewed a third Long Island participant in the event, Ryan Keenan, a 2014 attackman from Smithtown West who earned MVP honors for the boys’ event.
Ortega and Quinn said they received an education in lacrosse.
“I learned so much from The Ride,” said Ortega, who has committed to Notre Dame. “Just playing against the best in the country strengthened intangible aspects in my game such as heart, dedication, and determination to keep improving to be better than these top players.
“The Ride also taught me new situational tactics like offensive looks and varying moves I could do in different situations. The SPARQ training will also make me a stronger athlete and help my physical game since I plan on improving on my combine scores and doing the exercises I was taught.
Two of the coaches included Kara Cannizzaro, the hero for NCAA champion North Carolina; and Syracuse All-American Michele Tumolo.
“Both coaches opened my eyes to new things I need to improve on and I learned so much from not only having them coach me but also watching them play in the drills,” said Ortega. “The game Tuesday taught me a lot about myself. I learned how I play against top competition, competition I wouldn’t ever get playing in tournaments over the summer or during school ball.
“I thought I played very well and I received the Top Attack award. However, I know I still need to improve a lot and can never be satisfied with my efforts.”
“Even though my team lost, there were lots of opportunities to show my defensive skills,” added Quinn. “There was no doubt that the girls at The Ride were among the best players in the country.”
Quinn and Ortega enjoyed seeing the girls get the same special treatment as the boys. For the first time, girls were delivered SPARQ training and testing – an intense warmup, followed by combine testing in a 20-yard sprint, a 5-10-10-5 shuttle run and vertical leap, 5and high-level training that focused on improving power, speed and change of direction.
“Girls’ lacrosse is a fast growing sport and I think the pace of the girls’ games is what attracts new fans,” Quinn said. “We are getting pretty close to the boys in speed so anything can happen!”
“The SPARQ techniques taught were new to me and I learned from them to never be satisfied with my game, and that there is always something more I can be doing to become the best that I can be.”
“I loved getting treated just like the boys!” Ortega added. “I knew that Nike has held boys lacrosse events like The Ride in previous years and I honestly wasn’t expecting to get the same treatment considering the girls were new to the program. I loved how we got similar gear and it made me feel like I was just as important as the guys.”
Ryan Keenan (Penn State commit) answered these questions:
How do you describe the way Nike treated you?
Keenan: “Yeah it was like Christmas. Nike gave us everything and more. I felt like I was a professional athlete having my locker done after every session.”
What did you learn that will make you a better lacrosse player?
Keenan: “I learned a lot from this camp and new things from the best players in the world like Kyle Harrison, Max Seibald and Jeremy Thompson.
“In the SPARQ testing I finished pretty well in the speed categories as well the vertical jump but the ball toss is something I need improvement on and I will continue to work on my strength as well as my speed.”
How did the All-Star Game go?
Keenan: “It was great playing with this caliber of player because we walked on the field and it was like everyone had played with each other before. We played to each other’s strengths.”