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Three Brighton Players Commit to NCAA D-II Schools

Brighton Bengals

Brighton Girls Lacrosse captains Elise (Ellie) Carpenter, Katherine (Kate) Speare and Janzen (Jam) Vertner have committed to play for NCAA Division II programs for their inaugural 2012-2013 collegiate academic year. Fort Lewis College (Durango, CO) will benefit from Ellie Carpenter and Jam Vertner while Lindenwood University (St.Charles, MO) is going to be home to Kate Speare.

Brighton Midfielder Ellie Carpenter
Ellie Carpenter
Senior Midfielder Ellie Carpenter is planning on studying business and art at Fort Lewis. She lettered in each of her three years as a varsity starter and is a two-time varsity captain. During her junior campaign, Carpenter garnered US Lacrosse All-American status and All-Conference honors. She is a two-time team MVP recipient and currently the team leader in goals, caused turnovers, draw controls and co-leader in ground balls.
Carpenter was a team captain on the Utah/Idaho Region National Team at the 2011 Women’s Divisional National Tournament in Stonybrook, NY, a premier recruiting event for the top high school players in the nation. Fort Lewis Head Coach Kelsey MacDonald said, “Ellie is a very strong midfielder – athletic, smart with great lacrosse skills and knowledge including good attacking and defensive concepts. These are things we look at when recruiting lacrosse athletes for Fort Lewis.”
Also joining the Fort Lewis women’s lacrosse team is Senior Midfielder Jam Vertner. Vertner said of choosing Fort Lewis, “During my visit, I felt a real connection to the campus, the town of Durango and am very excited to play lacrosse as a member of the Fort Lewis team.”  Coach MacDonald said, “When we found out about Jam and had her send us game footage, we were very excited because it looked like Jam and Ellie are players that like to find each other on the field. Jam is a very smart attacker and has a nose for the ball. She seems to always know how to find [the ball] whether it’s a ground ball or a draw control and she also knows how to put it in the goal. Jam is a player who can play on the defensive or attacking end and in the midfield. Her versatility is what we look for to play at Fort Lewis.”
Brighton Midfielder Jam Vertner
Jam Vertner
Vertner lettered in each of her four years on varsity and was selected as team captain in her senior campaign. She currently leads the team in assists, has been decorated with All-Conference honors and as a freshman helped the Brighton Varsity team win the 2009 Girls D-II State Championship. MacDonald concludes saying, “We are very excited to have Ellie and Jam join our squad next year. They will be a great addition to the program both on and off the field and in the classroom. They are a dynamic duo; we can’t wait to get them onto our lacrosse field.”
Senior Midfielder Kate Speare signed in November with Lindenwood University. Lindenwood Associate Head Coach Brian Smith said, “We saw Kate at the Adrenaline Showcase in Santa Barbara in July. Not only does Kate have vision on the field to see her teammates, she knows how to personally go through players for the score.  Probably the number one asset we saw in her was her ability to move the ball around, transition and score.”
Speare lettered in each of her three years on varsity and is also a captain in her senior campaign. She has been decorated with All-Conference honors, led the team in assists in 2011 and is the 2012 team leader in points per game. Speare said, “I chose Lindenwood because of what I saw in the lacrosse program and school as a whole. The coaches were a huge part in my decision because I really wanted a strong program with consistent coaches. I also loved the campus and the size of the school, as well as the strength of the athletic training program which is what I will be studying. I’m very excited to be a Lion next year and play my teammates!” Coach Smith echoed her sentiment saying, “We are excited to have Kate be a part of our team and hopefully, to be a part of our continued success as a first year Division II team.”
Brighton Midfielder Kate Speare
Kate Speare
Brighton Varsity Coach Courtney Lennon said,”I am so happy these three girls are playing at the next level. They are so ready for it and will be such an impact on their college teams. I can’t wait to see how good they will be after four years of collegiate level [play]!”
Carpenter, Speare, and Vertner are not just Brighton teammates, they also play for the Utah Mamaci Elite club team. With Mamaci, they have traveled to tournaments around the country competing along with some of the best players from Utah while showcasing their skills under the scrutinizing eyes of a wide range of college coaches. Coach MacDonald said, “I saw Ellie and the Mamaci team at the Vail Shootout – this tournament is a great opportunity for recruits since most of the Division II college coaches from the Colorado schools attend.” Carpenter underscores that statement, “The Mamaci program has had an enormous impact on developing my skill sets.  Not only did I make lifelong friends, the exceptional Mamaci coaches taught me so much about lacrosse with their breadth of experience, constructive critiquing and unflagging support.  Competing in tournaments with Mamaci opened recruiting doors and gave me opportunities that I might not have had otherwise. And not just on the lacrosse field – they’ve developed abilities and desires in me which will serve me throughout life.”
These Brighton players have put their love of lacrosse and dedication to the game to work for the next generation players by choosing to follow in the footsteps of former Brighton varsity players and continue the long standing Brighton tradition of varsity players coaching youth teams.  Brighton youth parent Ken Hekking said, “A few years ago, my daughter came home from middle school and told me the Brighton High School varsity players had conducted an Intro to Lacrosse clinic so she wanted to play lacrosse. We went to the first youth practice coached by the varsity players and it was quickly apparent how much the high school players connected with the young players. I find it remarkable that these player-coaches play such a vital role in the foundation and future of lacrosse.” Carpenter began coaching the Brighton youth in the fall of 2010 with Speare and Vertner picking up coaching duties in the fall of 2011 and all three players will continue to coach their youth teams’ spring 2012 season alongside Brighton Coach Lennon.
Niki Harding, Utah Lacrosse Association Girls Program Coordinator, has nothing but praise for Brighton’s high school players who dedicate their time to coach saying, “Brighton’s use of varsity players to help coach the youth teams has been an excellent model on what makes a program successful. They are actively demonstrating volunteerism and helping build the future high school level teams. And while coaching positively affects their program, the youth participants and our chapter, the greatest effect is on these varsity players themselves – coaching increases a player’s overall lacrosse IQ which, in turn, makes them better players. I am very happy that Ellie, Jam and Kate are going on to play in the NCAA and am confident they each will be strong contributors to their college teams.”
Hekking’s final thoughts, “This year is a perfect culmination – my oldest daughter Taylor is now a freshman and back-up goalie on Brighton’s varsity team. Last week I witnessed Taylor get her first varsity game minutes and at the end of the game, the first person to meet her was Ellie – the high school girl who mentored Taylor and became her friend, the gentle coach who taught her lacrosse fundamentals and honed her abilities, and finally, as her teammate celebrating a hard fought win with her.”
Fort Lewis and Lindenwood are both in the NCAA D-II Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association conference. These former teammates will face off against each other for the first time in the spring 2013 season – a game which will find many fans in Utah rooting for both teams.
Photos courtesy of Ray Johnson

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