Junior Conley Ersnt is expected to be the starting goalkeeper this year for Women’s Lacrosse, which will open its season this week against SUNY Geneseo. Last year, Ernst started 14 of 15 games, with a 6.78 goals against average, which was 13th in Division III among all goalies. Her season also ranked in UR history for single-season wins and goals against average, and she also earned Liberty League All-Academic honors.

How did you get interested in lacrosse?

I started playing lacrosse when I was 9, because my parents gave me a choice of continuing to play softball or trying  a new sport — and I really hated softball. Actually, I hated most sports in general. I was that kid who would sit in the middle of the field and pick the grass. I liked lacrosse but didn’t love it until one fateful day in fifth grade. Back then everyone had to play every position on the field but no one was volunteering to play goalie. So, my coach at the time said he would buy ice cream for whoever volunteered. I heard the words ice cream and my hand shot up. I played my first game as goalie and I was hooked. I loved it, partially due to finding I had a natural talent for blocking things and partially due to my newfound ability to run full speed through anyone on the other team because I was the only one in pads. Lacrosse became a major component in my life and has been something I have devoted myself to for over 10 years. Nothing beats the feeling of a save.

What do you enjoy most about lacrosse at UR?

I love competing with my team. When you devote so much time and effort to training, the feeling of finally getting to compete is remarkable. I love nothing more than getting to play with my teammates and see all the little pieces come together.

How do you balance sports and academics?

The time commitment involved with athletics is hard to describe to someone who doesn’t experience it firsthand. Lacrosse is my hardest class; it’s all year, several hours a day, and has 15 exams. I am a computer science and digital media studies double-major, so I carry a pretty heavy course load every semester. Needless to say, it is sometimes very difficult to balance academics and athletics. But I can do it because of the support of my teammates. We are all in the same boat and support each other everyday. We’re known to take over a table in the library, or a studio in Gleason. We hold each other accountable and push each other to be the best students we can be.

What was your highlight of last season individually and for the team?

My highlight of last season was our game against Union. Going into the second half, we were down 2–5 but we were able to turn it all around in the second half. We won 7–6, and this victory secured our spot in the playoffs for the 2017 season. My personal highlight was making a save on a free position shot in the final 43 seconds that helped secure our victory — the feeling of making a save in one of the most high pressure situations in lacrosse is indescribable. Additionally, I have worked with the Union coach before and one of my teammates from high school plays for the Dutchwomen — so I go into the season most amped up for our game against Union. The feeling of winning this game was exhilarating and has been one of the best moments in my lacrosse career so far.

What do you most look forward to for this season of lacrosse?

I am most excited to play games this season. More specifically, I am super excited to play conference home games — we play Skidmore, RPI, Ithaca, SLU, and William Smith at home this year. I love traveling with my team, but nothing beats playing at Fauver.

How does your coach help the team succeed?

Our coach helps us succeed by both pushing us and believing in us. She pushes to be the best student-athletes we can be both on and off the field and truly believes in our potential. As a result, I’ve been able to achieve things both on and off the field that I never thought I would be able to accomplish. One of the biggest things she has helped with me, personally, is pushing me to trust myself as a player and to stop overthinking the game.

How have you grown as an athlete throughout your collegiate career?

One of my biggest roadblocks as a collegiate athlete has been overthinking how I play. I play best when I just relax and play my game — the minute I start thinking about the details is when things start to go wrong. Additionally, I am a highly emotional and momentum-based player, so I feed off of playing well, but fall quickly if I start messing up. So something I have worked on during my time here has been how to channel the adrenaline and learning to let go of my mistakes. Coach Behme and Coach Sessler have really helped me with this, telling me to let it go and to just play my game. Lacrosse is a high-scoring game, which can be tough as a goalie, but having the mindset that every ball is a new ball can completely change the course of a game.   

Who is your favorite professional athlete and why?

Tom Brady. I am not only a huge Patriots fan but Brady also keeps pushing limits and breaking his best.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I would say rice cakes and peanut butter. They’re a delicious combination of carbohydrates and protein. I eat them everyday before practice. If not rice cakes, then grilled vegetables and chicken. It’s my go-to meal and pretty much all of my favorite foods are vegetables.

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