Morton’s Passion, Work Ethic, Keys to Lacrosse’s Rebuild
Sam Tapper – Sports Writer
Everyone wants to win in sports, and it is never easy for any athlete when there is very little winning. However, for Owls’ lacrosse goalie Laura Morton, her love and passion for the game serves as inspiration to her coaches and teammates, no matter the result.
“She’s one of the most hardworking girls I know – very dedicated to the sport, dedicated to the team,” said teammate Hailey Gordon, a junior, of Morton. “[She’s a] complete team player and is just really about the team chemistry and getting involved with everything. She lives and breathes lacrosse. It’s amazing.”
Morton, a junior, has been the starting goalkeeper for the Owls since first stepping foot on Jess Dow Field in the spring of 2018. A native of Somers, Conn., Morton has always been involved with sports, playing basketball and soccer as a kid, as well as being a black belt in karate. However, it was not until she was 13 years old that she picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time.
“I had just finished rec basketball, and [my dad and I] were in the car, he had seen all the signs on the side of the road saying: ‘sign up for spring sports,’” Morton said, “and he just looked at me and said, ‘you’re going to play a spring sport.’”
Once her dad spoke those words to her in the car, Morton had a choice – softball or lacrosse. While she says she loves to watch baseball and softball on TV, she knew that was a sport she did not want to play herself.
“I hate playing slow sports,” said Morton. “So, I was like, ‘I don’t want to play that,’ so I decided to play lacrosse. My sister had played a little bit when she was younger but only for a few years. I had friends that played so I figured, ‘yeah, why not?’ We signed up and my dad ended up being a coach that year and once I started, I got even more invested in it and it just went from there.”
Morton also said that she knew very little of the rules of the game, other than that you played with a unique ball and a stick with pockets. Since it was so new to her, she was open to trying anything and everything. And one of the first things she had the opportunity to try was being a goalie.
“I went to the first practice, and a close friend of mine’s dad is a goalie coach,” Morton said. “When you’re in youth you don’t just have one goalie, you always have multiple ones, and they were like, ‘does anyone want to try it?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know how to play this anyways so I might as well try.’”
After she tried it and after a lot of hard work, it was clear that Morton had found her niche with the game. She went on to play for a successful Somers High School program, where she was a two-time All-Conference selection in the North Central Connecticut Conference, received the Connecticut Sportsmanship Award and was a team captain as a senior.
In addition, Morton helped her squad get to the conference championship game in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016, as well as reaching the Class S State Championship game in 2016.
Her work and accolades at Somers each year did not go unnoticed, as she was twice selected to play for the Connecticut Women’s National Team, which features the best female lacrosse players across the state to represent Connecticut in national competition.
“Every year U.S. lacrosse holds a national tournament for freshman-through juniors for boys and girls. Basically, it’s to get all the best players in the country together in one spot. Really, it’s just a massive showcase,” Morton said. “That was really exciting to be able to say, ‘I am one of the best players in the state,’ especially because I had only been playing for four years at that point.”
Before she knew it, it was college decision time and her options were open. Southern was one of the schools that really wanted her, and it eventually checked all her boxes as a place she was comfortable with calling home for the next four years.
“The big thing for me [about Southern] was just the atmosphere with the team, everyone I had met,” said Morton. “I really enjoyed the campus, I really enjoyed the area, and mostly it was just the support that I had gotten, for academics as well, to be able to say that you’ll be able to get the support and you’ll be able to pursue the career that you want as well as play your sport and enjoy the people that are with you.”
Since she became an Owl, Morton’s impact was felt on the team. Despite the 4-12 record her freshman year, Morton was named to the NE10 Conference’s All-Rookie Team. In 14 starts, Morton registered a .431 save percentage and tallied 178 total saves on the season — the second-highest single-season save total in Southern’s history.
As a sophomore, Morton’s consistent production continued. While the team struggled once again, Morton recorded 166 saves and a .415 save percentage in 17 games in Kevin Siedlecki’s first year as head coach.
As Siedlecki continues to build a winning culture around Owls lacrosse, he has had high praise for Morton, calling her a top-five goalie in the loaded NE10 and giving him great confidence knowing he has an anchor in goal.
“The NE10 could be a Division I conference [for lacrosse], and we have a couple girls who belong here, at that level of play, and [Morton] is one of them,” Siedlecki said. “If we had that wins above replacement (WAR) statistic in lacrosse, she would be the number one girl in that. She is as good at her position as anyone on our team.”
Siedlecki’s progress in the rebuild had been evident this season, as his Owls were 2-3 and incredibly competitive through the first five games before the season was called off due to COVID-19. Before the season was cancelled, Morton recorded 52 saves and a career high .468 save percentage.
While the records through her first two years and the circumstances surrounding her third year could rightfully be discouraging, Morton uses it as fuel to the fire with her motivation to continue to be better personally and as a team.
“It was definitely a change from high school because in high school we were a much better team,” said Morton. “It definitely gives you a chip on your shoulder and gives you something to motivate yourself. Saying, ‘OK, I am one of the factors that can change this program and make people want to come here.’”
Morton will be one of 17 Owls to return to the team next year, and there will be multiple recruits to add to the mix, including two goalies for her to mentor. The 2020 team was considered by many in and around the program to be a magical ride that never got to be, but in Morton’s eyes, that ride has been postponed to 2021, and she believes she and her teammates can shock many people come next season.
“Oh yeah, especially with the circumstances,” Morton said, “it definitely motivates you, that you had most of your season taken away, and now we really have something to prove.”