Odds are, Whitney Horton is the first player that you'll notice on the lacrosse field. No, it's not because she is one of only two lefthanders on Penn's squad. And no, it's not because of the red and blue ribbons tied up in her hair. The reason that you'll notice this sophomore is that she's smack in the middle of the field, taking the draw for the Quakers. And that's no small feat, considering how Horton had never taken a draw in her life before her freshman year. "It was pretty random, actually," said Horton, laughing at the thought. "Last year before the William and Mary Tournament, [coach] Karin [Brower] all of a sudden realized that somebody was going to have to take the draws. So she was like, 'Whitney, come out to practice 30 minutes early.' And I think I lost every single draw in the tournament. "But I started figuring it out after that." Indeed, Brower, who was a center herself during her collegiate days, has nothing but praise for Horton -- in her draws, and as a midfielder. "The main thing that I see in Whitney is that she's a real team player, and she distributes the ball really well," said Brower, citing Horton's left-handedness and strength as reasons for having her take the draws. "I think she has a real midfielder mentally." After the faceoff, Horton may not be the most flashy player on the field, but she still remains a vital cog in Penn's offense. As a freshman, Horton was fifth on the Quakers with 11 goals, and just past the halfway point this year, the midfielder is seventh on the team with four scores. "I've never been the type of player to take 10 shots in a game, and Karin always talks to me about that," said Horton, who was out on the field after practice ended yesterday, working with Brower on her shots from the eight-meter line. "And I've had some shots this year that I just haven't scored on." But scoring is not necessarily the only important facet of the lacrosse game. Horton -- along with Penn's other draw specialist, Crissy Book -- is one of three Red and Blue players who goes full-time on both offense and defense. And this after Horton was out of commission and on crutches for five weeks with a sprained ankle in the fall. "She's one of my hardest workers, endurance-wise, and I know that she can go goal-to-goal," Brower said. Early in the second half at Columbia last Friday, Horton showed she could indeed go to goal. The sophomore broke a 3-3 tie just 2:49 after the break and poured in two more goals in Penn's convincing 13-5 victory. Horton, who describes herself as "loud" when she's on the field, can be heard directing the Quakers through the midfield and on attack, and always appears in control when on the field. "Whitney and Christy Bennett are our most vocal leaders," Brower said. "I pulled them aside after the Harvard game last year and told them the team needed some more vocal leadership. And they've done a great job. They've maintained their talking on defense, and they're two of the hardest workers on the field." Perhaps Horton's confidence can be attributed to the 23 collegiate starts in 23 games that she has under her belt. Or it might be that she has full faith in her teammates -- after all, she lives with two of them. Six of Penn's top eight scorers in 2001 are sophomores -- Horton is one, and her housemates Lindsay Smith and Alison Polk-Williams are two others. "I think our class is really close," Horton said. "The sophomore class has such individual personalities and such individual playing styles, and we all play pretty well together. I feel like we just got lucky that we got so many of us in one year." And despite the enormous amount of time Horton puts into lacrosse, her housemates know there's a lot more to her than what can be seen on the field. "Whitney is the most well-rounded person I've ever met -- she does well in sports, she does well in school, she's fun, she's cool," Smith said. "She's a very intense person who works hard at everything she does." After conferring with Smith, teammate Jayme Munnelly agreed, "Whitney is very intense. You should name the article about her 'intense'". Horton's close ties with her team don't end with her housemates -- she played high school lacrosse and soccer with Quakers freshman Christine Perakis. The elder Wilton, Conn., native actually hosted Perakis on a recruiting trip last year, and is one reason why the freshman chose to follow her to Penn. Only a sophomore, Horton has two more years ahead of her. That's at least 35 more games of taking draws, passing to housemates, scoring goals, and listening to her father yell, "Give it to Whitney," from the stands. And it's also two more years of work towards an International Relations major, which Horton got into just a few weeks ago. "I was really excited. I e-mailed my mom and was just like, 'Mom, I got into my major!'" Horton said. "I knew my dream job was to work at the U.N. or something along those lines, so I was trying to find out what major would go well with that. And everyone said that Penn had a good I.R. program. "I came in undecided, but from the minute I got on this campus, I was sort of along the path to applying to become an I.R. major." For the present, though, Horton would just prefer to focus on the task at hand for her team. And that comes in the form of Saturday's game against a beatable Harvard (5-3, 0-2 Ivy) squad. And if Horton has any say in it, Penn will control the game right from her opening draw.Comments powered by Disqus
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