Chartiers Valley grad Toomer evolves into versatile player for Slippery Rock women’s lacrosse
As ShyAnne Toomer anticipated her junior lacrosse season at Slippery Rock, she knew the team might be looking for help winning draws. A large group of midfielders graduated from the season before, so Toomer prepared herself for the role and called on her mother, Shannon Reichel, for help.
During the offseason, they would go to the field at Chartiers Valley High School, and Toomer would simulate taking draws while her mother hit her with a rolled up yoga mat.
“She loved it,” Toomer said with a laugh, “but I genuinely think it helped me to know where the defender is and avoid and brace for contact.”
Persistence like that is what has helped turn Toomer into one of the more accomplished players in program history. Through the Rock’s April 10 victory over Edinboro, the CV graduate ranked tied for 14th in career points (96), seventh in career assists (37) and ninth in draw controls (78).
This season, the midfielder leads the Rock (5-6, 4-4 PSAC) in goals (18) assists (seven) and points (25).
Kelsey Van Alstyne took over as Slippery Rock’s coach last season, and she was immediately impressed with Toomer’s qualities. She recognized Toomer’s passion for the game, her high lacrosse IQ and willingness to challenge herself.
To that end, Van Alstyne asked Toomer to become more offensive-minded. Last season, Toomer improved her goal total to 30, up from 11 as a freshman, and assists to 17, up from 13.
“I laughed because she told me how much she loved defense,” Van Alstyne said. “But I thought, ‘This kid is going to be an offensive powerhouse.’
“I really like how she’s a threat everywhere on the field. She doesn’t just have a game where she does OK on defense and great on offense or vice versa.”
Van Alstyne encouraged Toomer to work more on draws because the combination of being left-handed and having a quick first step would give her an edge. The coach also has worked with Toomer on becoming ambidextrous so she can score from either side.
“She just has that confidence to drive and finish for us,” Van Alstyne said. “I think she has a whole other level she can go to.”
That, Toomer said, was almost unthinkable when she arrived on campus in 2016. On a roster dominated by juniors and seniors, she quietly went about her role.
Now, she is one of the upperclassmen showing the way for a freshman- and sophomore-heavy group.
“I feel significantly more confident,” she said. “I watch a lot of film. I watch a lot of Division I film. I definitely think the strength and conditioning component … that’s a big difference from when I was a freshman. It has made me a better athlete.”
Toomer insisted, however, she isn’t through with her development.
Recently, she was talking with one of her teammates about working on a new facet of her game over the summer to prepare for her senior season. She said she isn’t sure what she will work on or what it will entail.
Perhaps it will have her mother whack at her with some other object.
Whatever the case, she is intent on finishing her career with a flourish. And though she said she doesn’t think too much about her place in the Rock record book, it’s one more perk that could make her final season special.
“I think there’s a whole element I haven’t tapped into yet,” Toomer said. “I am really excited for my senior year.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .