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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
In 2017-2018, Westwood resident Allie Damren will look to accomplish one of the hardest feats there is in collegiate athletics, and that is to play on two athletic teams (hockey and lacrosse) while also balancing her studies as a biology major at one of the nation’s toughest academic institutions, Wesleyan University.
A graduate of Westwood High School in 2016, Damren originally committed to Wesleyan to play hockey. Upon her arrival at Wesleyan, Damren also decided to give lacrosse a try as a walk-on. During her time at WHS, Damren saw great success on both the Westwood girls hockey and lacrosse teams. As a sophomore in 2013-2014, Damren helped orchestrate the Wolverine hockey team to a Division II state championship, scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals in the final 2:11 of the opening round as well as assisting the game-winning goal in the state semifinals. During the spring, Damren served as an attack-man on the Westwood High varsity girls lacrosse team, and was part of the 2014 state champion team, the 2015 DII Eastern Mass champion team, and the 2016 state champion team her senior season.
Following her sophomore year at WHS, Damren elected to play hockey for the Walpole Express of the NEWJHL, with the ultimate goal of being able to play in college. She immediately gained a leadership role and captained the team to a league championship appearance. The following season, Damren joined up with the East Coast Wizards, another NEWJHL team, and got to play overseas against the German and Austrian national teams before returning stateside and winning a state lacrosse title with Westwood High in the spring.
Damren says that growing up in Westwood and playing at such a high level on the WHS girls hockey and lacrosse teams under legendary coaches such as Leslie Frank were major factors in allowing her to go on and play in college.
“I honestly would not be the athlete I am today without Westwood sports,” said Damren. “I grew up playing almost everything under the sun, whether it was soccer, basketball, lacrosse, as well as hockey and baseball with both boys and girls. I love playing multiple sports, but hockey always had my heart from a young age and I knew I always wanted to continue playing it. I’ve had so many great coaches throughout my years playing sports in Westwood, whether in youth hockey or lacrosse or at the high school level. I formed great friendships through Westwood High and Westwood youth sports and I honestly cannot thank both programs enough. The most memorable coach to me is Leslie Frank. Leslie coached us to be a unified team, and honestly, playing under her during my senior year was one of the most fun and best teams I have ever been a part of. I have the utmost admiration for coach Frank as she influenced me to be a better athlete, a better lacrosse player, and a stronger woman.”
Unfortunately, a serious rib injury, which Damren played through for six games, ended up costing her a significant portion of her freshman hockey season in Middleton after the injury went undiagnosed until her holiday break in December. After rehabbing the injury to the point where she could return to the ice, Damren came back and played in Wesleyan’s final three games, notching a goal in a 4-2 defeat at NESCAC rival, Amherst, on February 19. Instead of suiting up and attempting to give lacrosse a go in the spring, Damren opted to sit out the 2017 season in order to get her body healthy and get stronger for the upcoming season.
Now, heading into her sophomore year, Damren says that she hopes all of the hard work, training, and taking good care of her body that she’s done throughout the offseason will translate into a successful and healthy winter on the ice and spring on the lax field.
“Huge expectation this season, for me at least, is to not get injured and to make sure I am as healthy as I can possibly be,” said Damren. “After missing out on a lot of last year, I am even more dedicated to pushing myself to be the best I can for my team. Wesleyan plays in a very competition division in the NESCAC, and every game is really a toss-up. It all comes down to who wants it more in the third period. I hope to be healthy enough to play for the Wesleyan women’s lacrosse team as well. I wanted to play for them this past year but I, instead, took the spring off to try and get healthy and come back stronger than ever this season.”
Damren also says that she and her teammates are thinking big in 2017-2018, as alongside her three captains, the Cardinals are a team full of leaders who are passionate about supporting one another and holding everybody who puts on the Wesleyan sweater accountable, all while being led by an excellent staff of coaches.
“I think our team holds a very cool dynamic in which we have three great captains this season, yet they aren’t the only leaders on our team,” said Damren. “Our captains are the main form of communication to our coach. However, everybody on the team holds one another accountable, which I think is necessary in order to have a complete team dynamic. We make sure that each person is hitting the necessary reps in the gym or touching the line on sprints and pushing themselves as hard as they can each day. My coach, Jodi McKenna, has an incredible hockey sense and she knows the specifics of how the team flow should be, as well as individual player skills. But she also knows how to instill confidence into every single one of us. Jodi and assistant coach Tara Connolly worked with me one-on-one each day when I was trying to get back into shape, and they both pushed me really hard, which in the moment I wasn’t happy about, but looking back, it is exactly what I needed. Our other assistant, Mike Finola, was my rock last season. He checked in with me at a constant when I first arrived on campus, to when I was out with injury, and then helping me manage my emotions once I came back. Mike and Leslie Frank have definitely influenced me in ways that I could have never imagined. Unfortunately, we won’t have Mike or Tara this year, so I’m looking forward to building relationships with our new assistants and gaining whatever knowledge and skills they bring with them.”
Hockey players are tough, but Allie Damren is a different breed of tough, especially after everything she’s had to deal with and play through during her athletic career. She battled back from micro-fractures in her tibias during her junior lacrosse season only to help bring home the state title the following season. She played through a brutal rib injury, rehabbed it, and returned to the ice to score in her second game back.
Now, she’s attempting to play two varsity sports this upcoming season.
The passion, the commitment, and the grinding through both the physical and mental struggles that come with being a collegiate athlete are what make sports so special. Allie Damren is doing all of that and then some, and it is only a matter of time until this young woman becomes the face of Wesleyan athletics.
Best of luck to Allie as she enters her sophomore season down in Middleton. You’ve made Westwood extremely proud.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.