Elite female lacrosse player hopes to make a statement at NAIG 2017

By Shayne Morrow, April 19, 2017

Laurana Karlsen will be heading to NAIG 2017 as part of the Team BC Lacrosse tearm

Port Alberni — 

Two-sport athlete Lauranna Karlsen will take to the field at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto this summer as a member of Team BC, in the first-ever Women’s box lacrosse competition.

Karlsen, 17, is a Grade 11 student at Alberni District Secondary School.

Karlsen started playing lacrosse seven years ago – mostly co-ed, with the boys. Like many elite-level athletes, she says when she first picked up a stick, “it felt right.”

“But hockey is actually my prime sport,” Karlsen said. “I play Midget level through the Port Alberni Minor Hockey Association.”

Heading into her Grade 12 year, Karlsen said she is actively pursuing an athletic scholarship in either sport. She is hoping that the exposure this summer at NAIG will put her on the radar of colleges that offer scholarships for female athletes.

“I have looked into it,” she said. “There are more scholarships for women now than when I started looking.”

North Island College now offers athletic scholarships for women, as does the University of Victoria.

“And I’ve looked at the [NCAA] colleges in the U.S., too,” Karlsen said.

She is well aware that prospective scholarship students must present a high grade-point average to be eligible for enrollment.

While she describes her grades as “decent,” she quickly adds, “I made the honour roll last semester.”

Karlsen practices with Team BC once a month in Vancouver, for two days. That has meant missing the occasional hockey game, but the season is now ended and she can give lacrosse her full attention.

Karlsen noted that she is fortunate that she is still able to play both sports.

“I injured my knee and I had to have surgery,” she said. “It was a total year off sports

The injury happened in her last game of the 2015 lacrosse season.

“She scored a goal and tore an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) at the same time,” mom, Sandra Thomas explained.

“I tried to convince our trainer that he couldn’t pull me out of the game,” Karlsen said.

Fortunately, the surgery and physiotherapy was successful, and Karlsen was able to take up both sports again. It has meant some changes to how she approaches both games.

“I am a lot more careful in what I do. I don’t want to re-hurt it,” she said.

Well, in practice, anyway. Karlsen said she is well aware that in order to compete at the highest level, an athlete cannot play it safe in a game situation. Or sit back when your teammate is being abused, she noted.

“It was nice to get back into hockey. This was my second year in Midget. It’s a bit more violent, but it’s fun.”

NAIG takes place in Toronto from July 17 through July 23. Karlsen said she hopes to make a statement at NAIG, and, hopefully, improve her prospects of acquiring an athletic scholarship. Then it is back to ADSS for her final year, and to focus on her academics.

“My long-term goal is to go to medical school,” she said.

“If we can get her through pre-calculus,” Thomas interjected.

“Pre-calculus is tough,” Karlsen agreed.

Karlsen is a member of Cook’s Ferry First Nation, which is based in the Spence’s Bridge area in the B.C. Interior. Growing up in Parksville and moving to Port Alberni in 2012, she admits it has been hard to maintain any cultural connection with her nation.

“Not as much as I’d like,” she said, adding that she has been welcomed to participate in Nuu-chah-nulth cultural activities.

“I go to the Slam-It on Wednesday nights. That’s Tseshaht, and it’s put on by Gail Gus. And I like lahal,” she added.