Women’s Lacrosse: Astrayka inks with Catamounts

By Jessica Manuel - Martinsburg Journal Sports Writer (jmanuel@journal-news.net) , Journal News

SPRING MILLS, WV - Emily Astrayka knew a thing or two about lacrosse when she joined Spring Mills a season ago.

She transferred from a school in Columbia, Maryland, where she played a few years of the game. However, coming to West Virginia helped her reach a level of play she wasn't sure she'd ever see.

Astrayka recently signed to play with Potomac State when she heads off to college in the fall.

"I didn't really think I was going to play beyond high school until maybe last year, at the end of the season," she said. "I was just super excited to get it...I don't want to say finished because it's not finished; it's just starting but getting all the pressure over with.

"I played field hockey freshman and sophomore year in the fall, and I played lacrosse in the spring in Maryland. Honesty, I just never saw it as going this far in Maryland because there are so many other girls. When I moved here and there was no field hockey, (lacrosse) was my main focus. It was my only sport. Really, West Virginia, its small level of lacrosse has really made me realize that it's more of the focus for me, and its part of the reason I do so good in school is for lacrosse. I think I've excelled a lot more since I've been here. It gave me more opportunities because there's so much competition where I'm from. I'm actually thankful I was here."

Astrayka is grateful for the sport for being there because it's helped her be dedicated to her schoolwork.

"If I didn't play a sport, I would want to try to do so good. Last year, at the end of the season, I started realizing, 'Hey, this is what's going to get me to college. This is what's going to get me through good grades and passing,'" she said.

In fact, Astrayka's hoping to take the work ethic she's learned both on the field and in the classroom to Potomac State, where she believes the small atmosphere will be perfect for her learning style.

"It's quiet. It's secluded, away. I can focus on school there, and I think that's really good. I really didn't want to sit in a class at WVU with 300 students. I can't focus like that," Astrayka explained. "I have focusing issues, so I think with 20 students in a class would be good for me. It's kinda like a higher high school there, a bigger high school, and I like that.

"I went for a weekend in early December, and I loved it there. It's small. It's cute. How could you not like something so serene? It's in the middle of the mountains. Why wouldn't you love it?"

In the classroom, Astrayka plans to study social work, either looking to become a case worker or clinical social worker.

"I was in the system when I was younger. I had a social worker growing up, and she was always someone to look up to," Astrayka said. "For me, I want to be that for other kids."

As excited as Astrayka is for college, knowing she'll be there with friends has her even more pumped. Teammates Holly Cleveland and Tori Myers will also be playing lacrosse for Potomac State in the fall.

"We can give each other that look. I know Holly's giving me that look on the field, and I know I'm passing to her and she's going for it," she said. "I know we'll get a lot more playing time than playing for a four-year because they don't usually put freshmen in as starters.

"I think we take a lot of pride in playing for Spring Mills and building up the program. I think that's why we're so happy about all playing together at Potomac State, and I think that will carry us along next year and the year after. I really do see next year being a good year for Potomac State because of the reasons why we take such pride in playing for Spring Mills. We're going to have such a good connection on the field."

Thanks to Astrayka's time at Spring Mills, she's looking forward to getting time on the field no matter what position she needs to play to help the team.

"If you put us in defense, we'll be totally OK with it. We won't have any issues. Put us at midfield, put us at center, attack, we're pretty much all-around players," Astrayka said. "That's pretty much (Spring Mills coach) Annie (Fitts). I give all credit to Annie because she coaches us to be able to play almost every position."