The Navy women's lacrosse team already had plenty of offensive firepower coming back from the 2016 squad. Four of the Midshipmen's top five scorers returned from a team that averaged 11.3 goals during a 15-5 campaign.
With the addition of freshman attacker Kelly Larkin, Navy has lifted its offense to a higher level.
During the first half of the 2017 season, Larkin has emerged as the top offensive threat for a Navy squad that ranks eighth in the nation at 14.7 goals per game. The Alexandria, Va., native leads the 7-3 Midshipmen in scoring (44 points) and assists (19). Her 25 goals are good for second on the squad, behind junior midfielder Jenna Collins' 28 goals.
Larkin's productive first season at Navy has put her in contention for the Patriot League's Rookie of the Year honor. Larkin has earned the league's Rookie of the Week award five times during the season's first eight weeks. Her five Rookie of the Week accolades have set a Navy freshman standard, breaking the previous record of four set by former Midshipmen greats Aimee Gennaro (2011 season) and Loren Generi (2012 campaign). Generi and Gennaro went on to become the top two goal scorers in the program's history.
"The biggest thing for me coming in was having such a great coaching staff," Larkin said. "[Assistant coach] Aly Messinger is out there every day before practice for 30 minutes working with us, and she's pushed us to get better."
While teammate Andie O'Sullivan scored a career-high seven goals during Navy's 16-9 league win at Lehigh March 29, Larkin continued her steady season-long effort with two goals and four assists. The 5-foot-6 Larkin has been a model of consistency, totaling multiple goals in eight of Navy's 10 starts. She began her collegiate career with three goals and four assists during a season-opening 20-3 win against Longwood Feb. 5 and posted her best career effort with five goals and three feeds during a 17-5 victory against Villanova Feb. 22.
Larkin came to Navy after a stellar prep career at Bishop Ireton High School. She earned US Lacrosse All-America recognition during her junior and senior seasons and was a three-time All-Virginia selection. Larkin decided on the Naval Academy for several reasons.
"I had a few different options," she said. "But I tried to think about what would put me in the best position for life. The opportunity to have a set job when I graduated sealed the deal. So far, I've had an amazing experience here."
Larkin stepped into a seasoned offensive unit that knows how to get to the goal. Junior midfielder Jenna Collins (28 goals, 12 assists) and her sister, junior attacker Julia Collins (18 goals, 15 feeds), have been standouts since their freshmen campaigns. Senior attacker Morgan Young (24 goals, six assists) and sophomore midfielder Meg O'Donnell (21 goals, five feeds) are also major contributors.
While the Collins sisters and Young are among the top 15 scorers in Navy history, Larkin has become the catalyst for head coach Cindy Timchal's 2017 Midshipmen. But the freshman attacker credited the veteran core of the team for aiding in her quick transition and early success in the college game.
"We were playing Lehigh, and I wasn't hitting my shots," Larkin said. "I talked to Julia, and she told me to just keep shooting. Some people might have said that it's just not your day, but my teammates had that support and confidence in me."
Larkin and her teammates can solidify their Patriot League standing against archrival Army West Point (4-7, 0-3) when the Cadets travel to Annapolis for an April 1 meeting at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy is tied for third place with Boston University and Lehigh, just one game behind league co-leaders Lafayette and Loyola Maryland, which defeated the Midshipmen, 13-9, March 18.
The Midshipmen will visit Boston University April 15, and travel to Lafayette April 29 for the regular-season finale. The top six finishers qualify for the Patriot League playoffs, which begin May 2.
"There's going to be highs and lows," Larkin said. "But the most important part is to be playing well coming into the playoffs."