Elise Hennessey is a freshman goalie for UNC from Londonderry, NH. She attended Brewster Academy, where she played for years of lacrosse, field hockey, and ice hockey and was a team captain in all three sports. Although she had to miss some of junior season and all of senior year with a knee injury, she earned All-America honors as a sophomore, and selected three times as an NEPSAC All-Star.
Keep reading to learn more and receive great insight from Elise!
How long have you been playing goalie/lacrosse?
I have been playing lacrosse for 14 years total, but I have only been playing girls lacrosse for 8 of those years. I grew up playing boys lacrosse first, before taking up girl’s lacrosse in the 7th grade.
What drew you to the position?
I had always played ice hockey growing up and wanted to be a goalie. I was already too far into being a forward, so the next sport, lacrosse is when I finally decided I wanted to try and play goalie. My parents didn’t believe that I would actually commit to being a goalie, so they made my purchase all the equipment myself when I decided I wanted to try it.
What’s your favorite part about playing the position now?
My favorite part about being a goalie is that it’s a unique position to the field. So, there are so many styles you can adopt and skills that can always be learned. Not many people knew how to actually coach goalies when I was growing up, so it turned into a lot of self experimentation. That is my favorite part about playing is the creativity and ability to find a style that works for each individual. There is not a goalie mold.
What’s the hardest part about the position for you? How do you try to manage or handle that aspect?
I would say the mental piece of playing the position is the most difficult aspect for many goalies, including myself. In order to effectively manage your thoughts, I think it can take so much time and training to learn how to accept negative events of thoughts and to push past them. It’s a process of turning the negative past into a positive future, which isn’t easy and definitely takes practice.
In close games how do you stay focused?
I would say in a close game there is always one thought on my mind and it’s “do your job”. Because in that moment you can’t play every position and take care of everyone else’s job. The only thing you can do is do your job which will in turn give your teammate the best chance to successfully perform their job. If everyone is doing this job to the best of their ability, it heightens the chances for a more successful unit.
When things start going south in game, like consecutive goals without a save, how do you rebound and stay confident? What about when things aren’t going well defensively as a unit?
Something that we all stick to is poise in tight situations and common attitude among the people on the field. I think many times it’s easy to get flustered and panicked in situations that aren’t exactly going your way. The best way to deal with consecutive goals etc. is staying positive, locked into the moment, and having poise.
Do you have a favorite drill or one that has helped you the most in goal, with and without someone else?
Something that is often emphasized is the use of wall ball. Many times, we have been told to continue to work on wall ball and it ends up just being something that goes in one ear and out the other as it’s always a suggestion to get better. However, I stand by wall ball whole heartedly, especially when it comes to working on low and off stick side hip shots!
Where do you think you have grown the most in your game from high school to college and how did you do it?
Something I think I have grown the most in is in game IQ. I think a lot of times in high school you run one defense and run that same defense or transition the whole season. In college, you have to understand what defensive set the team is in, where the ball should be placed in the clear, and assist in sending slides here and there. I think in high school I never understood how much better an individual can be simply by understanding and studying the game from a different point of view. In college, the way I was able to grasp some of these schemes is watching a lot of film and the girls who were older than me. This allowed me to gain a much thorough understanding of the game and take some things from people who had more experience than I did and apply it to my own style.
Something you could tell yourself now when you were first learning the position?
Something I would tell myself now when I was first starting to play goalie was to just take a piece of everyone’s goalie advice and write my own book. In the first few years of goalkeeping, there are many people who believe that they were “experts” on the position, often times people that had never played before. So, for a while, I was trying to do everything that one specific coach was telling me on one day and trying to do something completely different another day with a different coach. There weren’t many people, especially women, who specialized in goalie training when I was playing youth lacrosse. However, what I was able to do is take pieces from all the individuals and find pieces (big or small) that I found to benefit my playing. With that I was able to develop my own style of play which worked and felt most comfortable for me.
I am not a huge ritualistic person or someone that has superstitions. I am a huge fan of having consistent habits though. Habits create a consistent routine and set of things that I like to do before a game. I think that a lot of times if a teammate forgets their headband or lucky hair tie, it’s almost as if they cannot focus on what is in front of them. Where as habits are things you like to do before a game but are not imperative to playing well or having a good game (ps. success comes from working hard and usually isn’t just simply luck).
How do you deal with adversity whether it be an injury or not getting the playing time you had hoped for?
There are many things that you can deal with on and off the field that aren’t always things we necessarily want to deal with. Often times we do not choose to go through an adverse situation or something that is difficult to deal with. When I was younger, I would say that I wasn’t always in a state of mind to deal with adversity head on. But, going through college, you’re forced to face these situations and with that I would say that there isn’t much one can control. The only two things you can control is how much work you are putting in and your attitude. The final results aren’t always going to appear right away but staying positive and working hard are two things you can do to achieve your goals and get yourself to where you want to be.
What’s the best part about playing in college? Funniest memory?
I think the best part about playing college lacrosse is that you get to be surrounded by your best friends every day. Every hardship and every success is accomplished with all of your best friends, which makes the ride easier and that much more fun. One memory that I have from this team which was frightening at the time but funny to laugh about now was one of my teammates has broken her neck. She was in a neck brace for about four months and looking back on the pictures of her in that neck brace and her daily struggles like dropping ice cream on the floor unable to see where she dropped it or showering or just having a conversation with her when she is looking straight forward is probably one of the funniest things I can remember.
What’s the most difficult part about playing in college?
The most difficult part about playing college lacrosse I would say is the amount of work that is being asked of you. I don’t necessarily think that it is difficult now, but this is because as you get into the habit of long days, it becomes the only life that you actually know. It is a full time job to play a sport, get your school work done, and balance outside activities. When you are in a constant routine like this, I don’t think I would wish anything different because the busy schedule is the only college experience I have ever had. It does take a lot of work, time and diligence to balance everything, but it is not something that should be feared because I think it’s very accomplishable.
How do you motivate yourself to stay in shape in the off season?
I think the off season is where the best players are made. Without a doubt, it is much more difficult to motivate yourself to get out on the field and run or head to the gym and put in a good workout. That is all easy when there are 32 other girls around you doing the same things because you’re all there to motivate one another. In the off season when you’re home, no one is watching or holding you accountable, which makes it much more difficult. Personally, I have always found people around me who are working toward the same goals, whether they go to a different school and play lacrosse or they are just trying to stay in shape. I am also always surrounding myself who make me want to work hard and stay in shape.
Is it hard to fit in as a freshman and find your place on the team?
I can only speak to the experiences I have had here at Carolina, and that my freshman year was the best year of my life. Every freshman class is different and has their own vibe and their own pace of getting close with one another. For my class, we had an incredible senior class who took us right under their wing as soon as we got there and showed us the ropes. They inspired us and pushed us to our limits but always had our back with anything that went wrong. For my class, everyone came into college just being themselves, so finding a place wasn’t too difficult as our teammates welcomed us with open arms.
If you had to do the recruiting process over again, is there anything you would do differently? Not in your choice of school, but things you considered highly then but might not necessarily now?
I am not sure there is anything I would do differently in the recruiting process in particular. I think for a while I was very clueless about collegiate lacrosse and college for much longer than I probably should have been. I think potentially having an idea of what schools can best fit some of the most important things you are looking for (close teammates, specific major program, big/small school, etc.) is a good idea. I never exactly had a direction where I was looking and would look at any school. If there are things that are particularly important to have at your future college, I would say you should pinpoint those attributes, do your research, and target schools that will be a good fit.
What were the things that were most important to you to look for in a school during your process?
I would say that I was unique in the sense that the facilities, locker rooms or gear was necessarily a pulling force for me when I was looking at schools. I went to a boarding school in high school with about 350 kids, so for me, the most important thing was finding a school and a team that fostered a family-like bond. For me the relationships that I would build and the teammates I would be playing with was the most important thing to me. This was likely because those are the people you are going to have to get along with and fall back on when you need help.
What makes you weird? (Or just a fun fact)
I think there are probably thousands of things that make me weird and I am sure if I asked my teammates they would have an endless list. But, there are two things I think make the especially weird is that I love to watch crime documentaries and I love sour cream.
Anything else you think young goalies would find helpful or interested in knowing?
I would say that my best piece of advice to younger goalies would be to play your style and find what works for you. There is not one specific mold that is going to work for all goalies; there are many different styles and methods of being a goalie. All of which, must work for you. What works for one person might not necessarily work for you, and that is okay. As long as you have an open mind with each person that is teaching you something about the position, you will find small bits of information that will help piece together your own signature style of play.