South Western’s Sydney Szparaga.
South Western's Sydney Szparaga.

Sydney Szparaga could've easily been upset when her club coach benched her in the fall of 2010.

The previous 24 months had been painful: a torn ACL in her right knee, a long rehab, a torn ACL in her left knee, a long rehab. And now the time away had cost her a chance to start.

But she refused to be angry. Instead, she asked her coach how she could improve. When the coach said to jump rope and improve her agility, Szparaga did just that.

"It lit a fire," she said. "I became better than what I was."

The improvements showed immediately for Szparaga, the Evening Sun Lacrosse Player of the Year. She scored 83 points her sophomore season before finishing with 64 this season, her senior year.

Taking the maturity she displayed off the field three years ago to the field, Mustangs coach Jim Kopenhaver believes, was key to playing well enough to earn a scholarship to Siena College.

"She's a very intense, emotional player," he said. "If she was in a game where it was physical, she would take that to the next level and get herself in trouble fouling the other team. I think she made it through the season with maybe three yellow cards. Last season, she might have had double-digits."

Szparaga's development paralleled that of her team, which began in 2009. When she took the field as a freshman in 2010, the Mustangs made the District 3 tournament but lost in the first round. They earned the first district win in program history this season, bringing Szparaga to tears of joy.

"It's a really cool feeling," she said. "It's really neat to be part of the program that just started."

Their season ended with an overtime loss to Penn Manor in the quarterfinal round. In addition to her offense, Szparaga won 48 draw controls, forced 23 ground balls and caused seven turnovers.

She plans to study political science at Siena in hopes of becoming a lawyer. She'll play either midfielder or defense after having been a center midfielder all four seasons at South Western.

"South Western allowed me to hone on all my skills and master my left hand and catching and throwing accurately," she said. "I think I'm going to take away all the skills I've learned and the friendships I've made."

Evening Sun
Lacrosse All-Stars
First Team
   Austin Barley, sr., Spring Grove
   Tiffany Brzenk, jr., New Oxford
   Carly Castle, sr., New Oxford
   Mitch Fuhrman, sr., South Western
   Callie Kavanaugh, jr., South Western
   Jessica Kopenhaver, sr., South Western
   Braxtin Reddinger, fresh., South Western
   Laura Silver, fresh., South Western
   Amy Spigelmyer, sr., South Western
   Matt Staub, sr., New Oxford
   Sydney Szparaga, sr., South Western
   John Wallace, sr., New Oxford, 637-3736 ext. 139; Twitter: @DanielPaulling