MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2013
Ellyn Spangenberg Featured in The Navigator
Ellyn Spangenberg & the Dolphins host Vanderbilt on Sun. Feb. 3 (Photo by Bill Spangenberg)
Ellyn Spangenberg & the Dolphins host Vanderbilt on Sun. Feb. 3 (Photo by Bill Spangenberg)

January 23, 2013
By George Wahl, The Navigator


Passion is a thing of beauty. It is not something that is instilled in everyone. Those who are truly passionate about what they love are those who standout from the crowd and are destined to excel and lead.

All of this can be said about 22-year old Jacksonville University senior lacrosse star Ellyn Spangenberg.

Spangenberg grew up in the small central Florida town of Oviedo with her parents Laura and Bill and siblings Rachael, Gabrielle and Landon.

While Spangenberg may look like a natural playing lacrosse, it was not her first sport of choice. Ellyn participated in gymnastics until one day, her dad urged her to try something new.

“In fifth grade I was a competitive gymnast and my dad suggested trying lacrosse instead to back off a bit on the demanding schedule of gymnastics. I had never seen the sport and few girls in my area were playing because it was relatively unheard of in Florida,” Spangenberg said.

So like any fifth-grader would do after being told not to do something they enjoyed, Ellyn put up a fight, or so she thought.
“After complaining about quitting gymnastics my dad bought me my first lacrosse stick and I gave it a try. Ironically I fell in love with lacrosse in my first season. I’m so grateful my dad introduced me to the sport,” Spangenberg said.

Lacrosse started as a hobby but quickly turned into her passion in life.

“The people who play lacrosse and the kids I coach inspire me. I’m lucky to be able to go out and do what I love everyday and I love sharing that happiness with others, “ Spangenberg said.

After finding her love and passion for lacrosse, Spangenberg went on to play in middle school despite one major obstacle. The middle school she was set to attend did not have a team. So Ellyn attended school in the neighboring town of Winter Springs.

The obstacles of playing lacrosse and growing up in Florida did not stop there for Spangenberg. There were no club teams in Florida, which meant minimal experience and exposure. Ellyn got her first opportunity to be on a club team when Mindy and Paul McCord started a program her freshman year of high school.

Following an outstanding career at Oviedo High School that saw Ellyn be named High School first-team All-American in 2008 and 2009, Spangenberg chose to attend JU, who happened to be preparing for their inaugural season of lacrosse and were ironically being coached by the McCord’s.

“JU gave me a unique opportunity to be a part of an inaugural women’s lacrosse team. I knew it would be unlike joining any other team and it would challenge me and teach lessons that I wouldn’t be able to learn elsewhere,” Spangenberg said.
Ellyn was looking for a chance to make an immediate impact and to have a chance to get on the field as a freshman and make a difference.

Ellyn, who is now entering her fourth season with the JU lacrosse team has been the captain of the team since her arrival and has had the honor of being named captain each year since. Up to this point, she has yet to miss a game and is a vital component to the Dolphin’s success.

Along with her outstanding performance on the field, Spangenberg puts forth the same effort and dedication in the classroom as well. She was named to the National Lacrosse Conference All-Academic team in both 2011 and 2012.

Ellyn is an Exercise Science major and a Psychology minor. Her goal for the future is to become either a physical therapist or occupational therapist for children.

Post-graduation, Ellyn would one day like to attend graduate school to get her masters in physical or occupational therapy but is not putting a time table on it.

“This dream might not happen right after graduation,” Spangenberg said. “Since I love coaching, I might look into being a graduate assistant for another college team. Lacrosse is more then just a sport and I know I need to keep it in my life one way or another.”

In the beginning, lacrosse was scarce, especially in the south. Four years from being the first division-1 team in Florida, women’s lacrosse has seen a nation-wide surge of programs. Just this year, the NCAA expanded the tournament to 26 teams.

“Together we make things happen.”

This is the motto of the JU women’s lacrosse team. It couldn’t ring more true as the Dolphins went 15-4 a year ago and captured the NLC championship. Since their first year, they have gone from losing in the conference semifinals, to losing in the finals, to finally capturing the championship last year.

The team has in fact made things happen with much help from Spangenberg since becoming the first D-1 team in the state.
“I consider myself a trailblazer, being among the first girls who played and grew the sport in Florida. I was given the opportunity to be one of the first players of a now thriving club team and I am now leaving a legacy for a college program to build on,” Spangenberg said.

No matter what has gotten in Ellyn’s path along the way she has taken it head on and overcame many obstacles. Whether it was as simple as trying to find a place to play or a more serious battle with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis to continue chasing her dream and doing what she loves, she has done it all every step of the way.

“I had a vision of being a college lacrosse player and I achieved that through hard work and determination to fulfill a dream. I draw inspiration from those that I love and these inspirations help me set goals that I work hard to achieve.”