Women’s Lacrosse: Cleveland signs with Catamounts

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

SPRING MILLS, WV - Playing hockey for eight years, taking on lacrosse was a pretty easy transition for Spring Mills' Holly Cleveland.

In fact, Cleveland made the switch so well that she's taking her lacrosse talent to the next level after recently signing with Potomac State.

"It is really similar. I do slash a lot. I've gotten banned from checking, but I had to learn how to not charge. I had to learn how to not to flick people's sticks up. In the end, it helped me because I have hard shots, and I can place pretty well," Cleveland said.

Cleveland picked up lacrosse about three years ago, and taking the sport to the collegiate level was something she never though would happen.

"I did a couple clinics and camps before I actually started playing because I was going to play for Pride, but then the school happened to get a lacrosse team. I was like, 'Oh cool, I can play for the school,'" she said. "I didn't expect to play in college. I actually went down to Potomac State for a college visit, and I actually ended up running into the lacrosse coach and I happened to have my (Spring Mills lacrosse) jacket on. He's like, 'Oh, you play lacrosse?'

"He was really cool and gave me a tour of the field, the locker rooms. It was more welcoming. That's really what got me to play. I was like, 'OK, this is a coach that wants me there to have fun.' When I got signed, I got super excited because I never thought that I'd be playing."

Cleveland has experience at pretty much every position on the field, seeing time at middle, defense and attack for the Cardinals. She's sure that knowledge will help her transition to the next level of play, but she'll have a little extra support on the team to get her exactly where she needs to be.

Cleveland will be joined by Spring Mills teammates Emily Astrayka and Tori Myers.

"It's hard when you go to a new sports team. You have to figure each other out. Having three of us there...I mainly play attack. Emily does midfield, and Tori does a lot of defense," Cleveland explained. "We know how to work together on all three. The chemistry's there for us, and I think that'll help us intermingle, understand other players as well as continuing to bond with us three."

Cleveland decided to give the new sport a try after realizing how close it was to her first love: hockey.

"It was like hockey," she laughed. "I wanted to play for Pride because I was like, 'Hey, it's a sport that's similar to hockey. I think I'll fit right into it.' I picked up swimming. I use swimming to condition for this. I've actually used my other sports to my advantage to excel in this sport."

The small campus at Potomac State made Cleveland feel right at home, helping her make an easy decision.

"It's a lot like home. I was thinking about going to the University of Pittsburgh and going there in the city. I grew up around Gaithersburg and Poolesville, so I kind of grew up in the city. I moved here when I was 4," Cleveland said. "Going up to (Pittsburgh) was confusing, all the noises; the freshmen dorms were like towers. It was crazy.

Then going to Potomac State, it was condensed. Everybody smiled at you. People hold doors for you. The classrooms are literally the size of a high school, and professors know your name. It's homey there, and that's what I like about it."

When not on the field, Cleveland will be studying pre-occupational therapy.

"I'm majoring in pre-occupational therapy. I had a cousin that got into a really bad wreck when he was about 9 years old. It was amazing the work that they did. I want to do it in a hospital aspect because they basically made a kid that had so many pins in his legs and arms and was basically lame the rest of his life.... It was amazing to see that he can run faster than me because they did such good work," Cleveland said. "They taught him basically how to walk with a lame leg, and also, my mom is a firefighter in Montgomery County (Maryland), and she hurt her elbow really bad. The work actually helped her learn how to help her do daily tasks.

"I thought about physical therapy, but I was like how about touching people more at home? I don't want to temporarily repair an athlete because I've done PT, and it's only temporary. I want to do something that I can teach people life skills they can keep moving forward."