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'Offensive dynamo' holds Seton Hill records

| Thursday, June 30, 2011

There used to be a wooden fence in the backyard of Ashley White's Squirrel Hill home, one that was pelted by so many rubber lacrosse balls that it eventually crumbled to the ground.

When White unexpectedly decided to play lacrosse as a sophomore at Seton Hill University, she would practice catching and throwing in the backyard with her younger brother, Dustin. Almost routinely, White would refuse to stop before accomplishing her goals -- sometimes 10 in a row, later 50 or more -- with the fence taking more than a few errant tosses.

"There were a lot of broken fence pieces when I was learning how to catch," said White, who went to Seton La Salle High School, but never played a minute for one of the area's strongest girls lacrosse programs.

After a year spent learning the nuances of the sport, White blossomed into an offensive dynamo. She holds Seton Hill records for career assists (123) and points (197).

As a senior, despite the fact that Seton Hill finished 7-10, White was named a third team All-American by USA College Lacrosse and was a second team All-East Coast Conference pick for the second year.

"I never would have thought in a million years that I'd be here," said White, 21, who graduated with an accounting degree and is job hunting. "When I was a (high school) senior, I figured I'd just go to Pitt or Duquesne. But then I decided I wanted to go to school farther away. I wound up going to Seton Hill and joining the lacrosse team. I think it was the best choice of my life."

Last season, White led Seton Hill with 105 points and 65 assists, both single-season school records. Her 40 goals were the second on the team, and she added 18 ground balls and 17 draw controls. White ranked second in the conference in points per game at 6.18 and third in assists per game with 3.82.

When White decided on playing lacrosse -- the same sport as her roommate, fellow Seton La Salle graduate Stephanie Lazzaro -- she e-mailed Seton Hill Coach Courtney Tamasitis and was sent the Griffins' summer conditioning program.

And, despite playing basketball and softball her entire life -- though not at Seton La Salle -- White endured a bit of culture shock.

"It would say '4x200' and '40 seconds,' " White explained. "I can remember e-mailing (Tamasitis) and asking, 'What does that even mean?' "

Tamasitis could only laugh when asked about the flurry of e-mails, which would touch on lacrosse, not just conditioning.

"I knew by her e-mailing me and asking different questions that she was interested in getting better and understanding the game," Tamasitis said. "I think that was an incentive for her to succeed."

Eventually, White did improve and even registered 9 points (four goals) during her first year playing the sport.

White said the primary key to her early success was repetition: No matter how arduous something would become, White would perform the same stick drills over and over, refusing to quit until she got it right.

Another important factor was her basketball experience; White said seeing passing lanes on the basketball court wasn't all that different from finding open teammates clutching a lacrosse stick.

With her basketball background in mind, Tamasitis started White as a defender, figuring she'd mark opposing players the way a perimeter defender does an opposing team's point guard.

That experiment, though, didn't last long. White had too much natural ability offensively to play defense.

"For a beginning player, when she first started, she had better stick skills than some of the girls who were on the team for three or four years," Tamasitis said.

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