Cora Olsen is a different kind of player.
The Marian Catholic senior doesn’t need hard coaching to motivate her. She doesn’t need a close game to get her blood flowing.
Lacrosse itself is enough.
“I very rarely see girls that are just as self-motivated as she is,” Marian Catholic coach Meaghan Beechin said. “She doesn’t really need any extrinsic motivation. She’s just got it within herself and that’s kind of one of those things that you can’t coach.”
It’s not always easy to stay up in high school lacrosse, a sport where the difference between teams can be vast and blowouts are common. Marian Catholic, consisting mainly of players who first picked up a lacrosse stick in high school, is often at a disadvantage going against teams with players who started the sport at a much younger age. The 21-3 loss to St. Viator on Tuesday might have left some players defeated. Not Olsen.
“It’s really difficult,” Beechin said. “I know it takes a toll on the girls, but Cora is just one of those people that doesn’t let losses or those kinds of situations that are out of her control affect how she plays or affect her love for the game.”
Olsen’s love for the game came out of nowhere, sweeping a basketball player from a basketball state into a year-round lacrosse player.
Olsen, who lives in Munster, attended a couple of camps at Marian Catholic, including a lacrosse camp, while deciding where to go for high school, but that wasn’t why she ended up crossing state lines.
“The first thing that drew me in was my mom and my uncles. They all went to Marian, so it was in my family for a long time,” Olsen said. “Marian had a lacrosse team and the public schools in Indiana, a lot of them don’t so that was a little part of it, but it was mostly the community and the family aspect of it.”
As a freshman, Olsen played basketball and had no clear plans on how much she would commit to lacrosse. She was not even certain she would play lacrosse. Her freshman basketball coach, Beechin, convinced her to give lacrosse a try.
“She just was talking to me about it and then I tried it out,” Olsen said. “I just kind of fell in love with it, I guess you could say.”
The game loved her back — without delay.
On a team consisting largely of players who had never played any sport before, let alone lacrosse, Olsen’s basketball experience paid off, especially on the defensive end. The challenge of learning how to catch and pass a lacrosse ball, which Beechin said often keeps a new player on the junior varsity for a full year, couldn’t stop Olsen. A game or two into her freshman season, Olsen was on the Marian Catholic varsity.
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“She picked up catching and passing right away,” Beechin said. “Her biggest thing that I loved with her and one of the reasons I moved her up and started playing her at midfield is because her defensive effort was always there and her ability to kind of pick up where to slide and where to shift and how all of that works was pretty immediate.”
That’s the key, per Beechin. Many players, she said, struggle to innovate on defense. They’re fine within the structure and lost when it breaks down.
“Cora is one of those people that you don’t have to tell her those things,” Beechin said. “She knows where to go and when to go there without a coach telling her those things and that’s just something that’s really been rare for me that I haven’t seen very often.”
She’s also become an increasingly potent scorer, with a knack for driving to the goal. Maybe it’s her past on the hardwood, that ability to dribble through traffic. Sometimes, she looks more like a running back, exploding through a small seam in the defense. Either way, it’s something rare.
“She’s just not afraid to attack under pressure,” Beechin said. “Sometimes it drives me crazy, but she really just weaves her way past several defenders and she doesn’t really care if there’s not a lot of (room). (Most) girls look for a wide-open gap to attack the goal, but Cora doesn’t really care if that gap is there. She’ll make it work.”
With her ability to win draw controls and draw the ball right to herself, Olsen can be hard to stop. As she drives, she’ll switch the stick from hand to hand seamlessly. She has an innate ability to avoid charges, with maybe three over her entire career, according to Beechin.
“If she draws right to herself, she’s pretty much going to goal every time,” Beechin said. “In a one v. one situation, she’s probably going to score every time, and in those times where it’s not one v. one, she kind of makes it a one v. one situation.”
Senior year has brought plenty of new challenges.
Beechin has asked Olsen, naturally on the quieter side, to lead. She has asked Olsen to play on the attacking end, rather than midfield, as she recovers from a minor injury. Olsen also had to deal with a couple of hits to the head, the last of which had her “seeing stars,” per Beechin, and sidelined her for a week with a concussion.
Nothing has been able to stop her yet, as she is the fourth-leading scorer in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and is climbing up the Marian Catholic career record board for draw controls (first), goals (second) and ground ball controls (fourth). She has already topped 100 career goals and ground ball controls.
Through hard hits and hard losses, what keeps her going?
“(My dad has) always been supporting me in all my athletics and sports and so I always want to make sure that he is proud of me,” Olsen said. “Also, I do it because I want to please myself I guess. I don’t want to let myself down because I know what I can do and I don’t want to drop expectations. And then also for my team, I know that a lot of them rely on me to do a lot of things and so I don’t want to let them down either. And my coaches as well. So it’s a lot of things put together that keep me going.”