Jacksonville faces No. 13 Denver at 4:00 pm on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
By Jim Nasella ~ Special to www.judolphins.com
Senior attacker Amanda Hurley knew heading into the season
that she had gotten better at prioritizing and managing her life and figured it
would translate into some on-field success.
She didn’t realize just how much, and heading into Friday’s
first-round NCAA tournament match against No. 13 Denver she still seems almost
dumbfounded at her season.
Some of her amazement is based on from where she came.
Columbus, Ga., generally isn’t mentioned in the same sentence as lacrosse hot
bed and she didn’t start playing until high school.
“I can’t believe I led the team in scoring,’’ she said. “I’m
from Georgia; we barbeque and do redneck things all the time. Not play
As the astonishment fades, Hurley, who has perhaps the
hardest shot in the Division I game clocking in at over 80 mph, is able to
classify a combination of ideas as to how she got to where she is with a
team-best 43 goals and a .642 shooting percentage.
“I think it has a little to do with getting life straightened
out and setting priorities,’’ she said. “This is potentially my last year to
play the sport I love, at this level at least. That was a reality check. This
semester is was easy to focus on what I love, working in physical therapy and
coming to practice and it was easier to prioritize.’’
Part of setting those priorities came in seeing what others
have gone through and to clearly see the final goal.
“Seeing some of my teammates go through injuries that ended
their careers or people who quit the team, it makes me think I’m here for more
of a purpose and have a deeper meaning
for playing this game,’’ Hurley said. “I think that all came into this semester
and it’s a gradual increase so you want to peak at the NCAAs. That’s the
hardest thing; you don’t want to shoot the gun too early. I think we’ve all
done a great job doing that and that includes the coaches who have done a great
job managing us.’’
Apparently, some of the priority also was to improve upon
her weaknesses to go with a natural advantage of being a left-handed shooter.
“I’d have to say being left handed is an advantage,’’ Hurley
said. “We all wish we were ambidextrous. I think left-handed is an advantage
especially now because a lot of people don’t realize I’m pretty good at using
my right hand. I would tell myself I’m very good at it. A lot of times
defenders will take away my left hand but I just go to my right hand.’’
“She was very consistent the first three years,’’ said JU
assistant coach Paul McCord. “She was a power player whose feet were very
average and two things happened.
“The first thing was she worked on her speed, her quickness
and her feet. She worked on her weakness instead of just doing power shots all
day. Her feet are very good. And, a lefty (transfer Taylor McCord from Florida)
came in that can feed her. (Attacker) Ali Hoffman and Taylor are finding her
because now that she has an extra step, not only is she a better dodger, she’s
really tough to defend as a cutter. Instead of being that stationary power
shooter, now she’s on the move. It’s the difference between what’s better: a
rocket that’s sitting there that everyone can take a shot at or one that’s on
the move and camouflaged.’’
Another key aspect to the breakout was confidence, according
to Hurley, who last week got a degree in exercise science and has her sights
set to being a Navy rescue swimmer at the end of the summer.
“The coaches showed they had confidence in me and that meant
a lot,’’ she said.
McCord said the show of faith in Hurley was merely a
reflection of what she was doing.
“I think confidence overall (was a key),’’ he said. “I don’t
know what her priorities are, but I know her feet are better and when you’re
moving better and people aren’t taking the ball from you, you’re going to be
more confident. The diversity of her being able to dodge and cut makes her a
very good inside player. If you get the ball into her stick, you ain’t getting
it out; she’s going to shoot a blistering hard shot on your goalie. We tell the
girls this … they give us confidence by their play and we give it back to them.
We don’t just blow smoke at a kid. We don’t give them false confidence, they
earn it. She earned it.’’
As her career winds down, Hurley says she clearly made the
right decision heading to JU.
“Definitely,’’ she said. “In high school it was between
volleyball and lacrosse and I met (head coach) Mindy (McCord) my freshman year
when I just started playing. She completely turned around my perspective of
lacrosse. I had no idea what this weird sport was and she put a really nice
perspective on it and a nice outlook for the future. We were just acquaintances
and now she’s still my coach, but we have a mother-daughter bond. I’m so happy
I made this decision. The first couple of years were very rocky for me, trying
to fit in, trying to work out my classes, the future, it was just stressful. Now,
I can’t see myself playing any other place or any other sport."