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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Steph Kelly breaks all-time assists record

Kelly currently sits second on the Hawks’ all-time points list. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

From the first women’s lacrosse game of the 2021 season, Rebecca “Bec” Lane ’19 realized that her record for career assists in program history wouldn’t stand for long. 

The former Hawk player and current assistant coach knew that senior attacker Steph Kelly was inevitably going to shatter her record by the season’s end. While some former alumni would be upset to see their record broken, Lane has a unique vested interest in Kelly’s success, more so than the typical relationship between a player and a coach, or even former teammates. The two women were childhood friends. They lived ten minutes from each other and even played youth lacrosse together at Footscray Lacrosse Club in Melbourne, Australia, more than 10,000 miles away from Hawk Hill.

“To be able to pass her record is really cool,” Kelly said. “I think it’s a testament to where we both come from. We’re both from Footscray, both from Australia and both from St. Joe’s.”

Lane said she has watched Kelly grow into a poised and athletic leader on the field.

“Her record breaking season is a culmination of all her hard work,” Lane said. “She has earned this success and I am just so happy for her.”

Kelly set the record for career assists seven minutes into a 12-10 win over Duquesne University on April 3. As of April 16, Kelly ranks tied for 14th nationally in total assists and tied for seventh in total points. She leads St. Joe’s in goals, assists and points, totaling 65 on the season so far.

Still, Kelly said she prefers doing the “little things” on the field to spark a goal or an assist and these plays have come to characterize her career on Hawk Hill. 

“I love to assist, I love to see my teammates end up with a goal,” Kelly said. “I think that sometimes I’m just in the right position at the right times. When I’m in that position, it means that there’s players on the inside that I’m hitting at the right time.”

Kelly’s passing vision and willingness to contribute to the team’s success in any way mirrors the identity of Australian lacrosse, according to Lane.

“Australian lacrosse really prides itself on its creativity and intuition on the field, as well as how gritty and relentless we play,” Lane said. 

Unlike in the U.S., there are no youth leagues or high school lacrosse in Australia. Instead, players often learn the game through their local club teams, like Lane and Kelly did with Footscray. On such teams, players could be as young as 12 playing with 30-year-old women.

Kelly and freshman midfielder Bonnie Yu, also from Melbourne and Footscray, are the two Australians on the Hawks’ 2021 roster. According to Head Coach Alex Kahoe, this experience leads to a strong knowledge of the game and a high propensity to be a leader on the field. 

“I always find that the Australian players have the ability to be leaders on the field right away,” Kahoe said.

Kelly’s leadership is reflected in her ability to put her teammates in positions to succeed. She knows when and where players on the attack like to receive passes, according to Kahoe.

“She plays within the offense, but also takes the time to really get to know her teammates,” Kahoe said. 

Playing alongside Kelly is senior attacker Sam McGee, who is third on the team in goals and third in points with 38. McGee said having a teammate with passing vision like Kelly’s enables her more opportunities to score. 

“If I know the next pass is going to go to Steph [Kelly], I know that’s my time to cut,” McGee said. “She makes it easier to think two passes ahead.”

McGee receives many of Kelly’s assists because she is a reliable target when cutting through the defense, according to Kelly.

“When I see her cutting through the middle, I’m [passing] the ball in there,” Kelly said. “I know she’s going to catch it and I know she’s going to finish it. Our attack works as a unit and works so cohesively that it’s just perfect timing.”

Though Kelly now owns the record for career assists, she remains focused on the team’s collective success, embodying the team mentality so present in Australian lacrosse.

“We need to get better to be able to win the A-10 Championship and get to a place where we’re all breaking records,” Kelly said. “I’m just here at the right time.”

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