Recent Mahtomedi graduate Hannah Shands started playing lacrosse in fourth grade and “instantly fell in love with it,” she said. Then she promptly told her dad: “I am ready to sacrifice my body for this sport.”
A few years and many games later, Shands will head to South Carolina in a couple of weeks on a partial scholarship to play lacrosse at Winthrop University.
But lacrosse isn’t the only sport that’s had her heart.
“I’ve been playing tennis for as long as I can remember,” Shands said. “I’ve never wanted to quit.”
The reality is that lacrosse will be her sports focus in college, and Shands won’t have time to hit the tennis court.
“I wish I could,” she said.
Though she loves both tennis and lacrosse, playing Division I lacrosse was her goal since she was an eighth-grader. That competitive level was a key factor in making a decision. If she wanted to compete at a lower level, she could continue in both sports, she said.
“Lacrosse was the sport that I wanted to give my all in,” she said. “It kind of came down to it that I had to pick one, and lacrosse was the winner.”
Shands played varsity tennis and lacrosse at Mahtomedi in eighth through 12th grade. Shands and doubles partner Emily Cooper won the Class 2A tennis consolation title last fall, “which is really cool because we wanted to get a title,” she said.
In the Class 2A team quarterfinals, it came down to Shands and Alex Kent against a Rochester Mayo doubles team. They made a three-set comeback (1-6, 6-3, 6-4) to help the Zephyrs to a 4-3 victory.
“It was nerve-wracking because it was all up to you,” Shands said.
Mahtomedi’s team took home third place, the best result in three state appearances when Shands was on the team.
She also was a lacrosse defender for Mahtomedi and the Minnesota Elite Club teams. While nothing in particular binds tennis and lacrosse together, there’s one thing that’s important to both.
“You need footwork,” Shands said.
Madison Fernandez played tennis and lacrosse with Shands. The two were co-captains for the tennis team the past two years. Fernandez approached Shands often for help with her lacrosse game. Shands was a good leader who was always trying to help teammates improve, Fernandez said.
“With lacrosse, I’d always look up to her because she knew what she was doing,” Fernandez said.
In her senior year, Shands won the Athena Award, something she had no idea she was up for, she said.
“I was speechless,” Shands said. “It was an award that I secretly wanted so bad. … But there were so many great athletes.”
As she looked at colleges, Shands said she knew she wanted to attend a school on the East Coast, where lacrosse is a big sport. She knows the style of play might be a little different, but she isn’t worried about a transition.
“They’re way more aggressive,” Shands said. “It’s super physical. I’ve seen a girl’s shaft broken in half.”
Fernandez knows her friend will succeed behind her excellent skills. Shands “really likes to push herself to be really competitive and a really good player,” Fernandez said.
Her experience with the club team has helped her prepare, Shands said. Plus she’s trained this summer with a workout packet from Winthrop. Lacrosse season is in the spring, but with essentially a year-round commitment, she knows tennis would be too much on her plate.
Just maybe, there could be room for both at some point, even if tennis becomes a recreational hobby for her.
“I don’t want to cut tennis completely out of my life,” she said.