BY MICHAEL KELLY
DURHAM, N.H. — It took Cat Sexton one, maybe two, practices to notice how much of a jump it is to go from playing high school lacrosse to the college game.
“Everyone is really good. You really have to show up to practice every day ready to play,” she said. “Practices are very competitive. That’s something that’s very different [from high school] because you’re always fighting for your spot because everyone is so talented.”
That includes Sexton, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of New Hampshire who graduated from Niskayuna High School in 2015. In her first collegiate season of women’s lacrosse, Sexton has shown she belongs at the Division I level. Through her first 11 games, the freshman had earned four starts and scored 11 goals. She’s twice been named the America East Rookie of the Week, and has also earned an overall Player of the Week nod.
“When we were recruiting her, we knew she had great potential as a player. She’s super athletic,” New Hampshire head coach Sarah Albrecht said. “We were expecting big things from her.”
“I was hoping to play right away,” Sexton said. “Before the first game, I had a feeling I’d get some playing time. I got lucky with timing, openings for spots, and chemistry worked out well.”
Sexton was one of the major catalysts of the historic run by the Niskayuna High School girls’ lacrosse team last season. As a senior, she helped lead the Silver Warriors to a program-record 18 wins and a Section II Class B championship. Most of her role a year ago revolved around finding her teammates. An assist machine, Sexton keyed the Silver Warriors’ attack with her playmaking skills and deft passing touch.
As a freshman at New Hampshire, Sexton has seen her role in the team’s offense change throughout the season. But what’s stayed the same during her freshman season is that Sexton’s college team relies on her more to provide scores than helpers.
“That was hard to get used to at first, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Sexton, whose younger brother James is on the Niskayuna boys’ lacrosse team and older brother Matt is a member of the Penn State University men’s lacrosse program.
“She’s been finding her spots really well … and her teammates have been able to [find] her,” Albrecht said. “She’s been a great finisher for us.”
Off the field, Sexton said she has not yet declared a major, but is close to picking to study health care management policy.
“I want to help people,” she said.
As a member of the women’s lacrosse team, Sexton has to spend at least eight hours a week in team study halls. That means even more time spent alongside her lacrosse teammates, a group of people she’s grown to depend on both on and off the field.
“There are times where you’re super exhausted and that’s when you have to push through — but that’s where your teammates come in,” she said. “My teammates have helped me out a lot.”
New Hampshire’s home games are played approximately a four-hour drive from Niskayuna, and Sexton said her parents have been able to make her games throughout the season. Seeing familiar faces from home more often this spring has been welcomed, but Sexton said she is starting to feel more at home at her new school.
“The first few months were really difficult because you’re not in your normal environment, but during the time I’ve been here it’s gotten easier and easier,” she said. “My team is like my family now, I’m with them all the time, and they help get me through.”