St. Paul's (N.H.) senior Ellora Sen says lacrosse opened doors for her — except when it came to college recruiting.

The Under Armour All-Star Who Never Got Recruited

In fifth grade I attended my first club lacrosse tryout, and I remember being terrified. At one point, I received a pass that was so hard that it broke the lens of my glasses, which I wore beneath my goggles. It was one of the last tryouts of the season, and there were only two older girls besides me. I was in awe of how they switched flawlessly between their left and right hands, wondering if I’d ever be capable of such feats.

Somehow, the coaches took a liking to me and selected me to play for the club. I was beyond ecstatic. Little did I know, it was the start of a long journey.

Both of my parents grew up in India. The first contact they had with lacrosse was in the children's books they read growing up. British girls would wave around long nets called “lacrosse sticks” at their beautiful boarding schools. So when my mom saw our town (Lexington, Mass.) had a lacrosse league, she signed me up, excited to recognize a sport she had only read about as a child.

After I joined the club team, my parents got an email from a parent who lived in our town. He was organizing a carpool for his sixth-grade daughter to attend a summer camp, hosted by the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse coach. He suggested that we sign up in January before it became full. When my mother found out the price of that camp, she was shocked. It was her first glimpse at the early steps people took for college recruiting. My naive, immigrant parents didn’t realize the purpose of camps or their importance. To them, becoming a better player simply entailed doing wall ball and going on runs. My mom remarked that the money was better off spent feeding a village in India. College camps and clinics seemed like overpriced activities, when one could simply become a better player in her backyard. But these views would soon change as my parents and I would discover the path to college recruiting.

“Well how about that?” he says proudly. “An Indian playing with an Indian stick.”

My father, who grew up holding a cricket bat, has taught himself to handle a lacrosse stick so he can pass with me. He does cheat, though, using a boys’ stick to make it easier to catch. One time, we were vacationing in Montreal on the St. Lawrence near a Mohawk reservation. I was having fun passing with my dad, and a passing truck stopped in its track. A Kahnawake Mohawk native emerged with a wide grin and a handmade wooden stick and joined us. He let my dad try his hand with the gorgeous stick. We bought it from him and brought it back home. Sometimes I catch my dad playing with it.

“Well how about that?” he says proudly. “An Indian playing with an Indian stick.”

Lacrosse opened doors not only for me, but also for my family. It has shown us a frontier and culture of America we never knew existed. Our summer vacations have consisted of long car rides to upstate New York and New Jersey. Lacrosse has given me some of my best memories — setting up tents, team cookouts and sweaty games beneath the glaring sun. It has immersed my parents within a side of America they never would have experienced. They have grown to love the sport alongside me.

One summer tournament, held at a beautiful school with incredible facilities, led me to the next stage of my journey — prep school. 

I entered my private school as a young and naive freshman. Subliminally, I knew I was entering a rarefied atmosphere with connections and privilege. But I had come seeking growth at an institution as renowned for its sports teams as its academics.  It was at my prep school that I felt the pressure and presence of college recruiting for the first time. I was aware that many players would commit to schools and assumed one day I would be one of them.

College lacrosse had been a faraway concept that I figured would come naturally. So when spring tryouts arrived, I was faced with these realities and became a bundle of nerves. Our team was full of big, strong and athletic girls that were committed to various Division I programs. For the first time, I found myself among athletes who were in their prime. They were products of attending numerous college camps and clinics, thus fully developed and confident in their skills. Many were repeats and would eventually attend five years of high school, providing them with more experience and time to get recruited.

But my freshman insecurities soon were overshadowed by a true calamity. Spring lacrosse tryouts ended for me with a torn ACL that required surgery and a yearlong rehabilitation. It took me nearly two seasons to return to the sport I so desperately loved — one season to return physically and another to catch up with the skill level of my peers.

During this time, it seemed the window for Division I recruitment had passed and there I was, playing high school lacrosse for the first time during my junior year. My love for the game had never diminished. My passion forbade me from quitting. I had come too far and enjoyed it too much to ever give up.


Sen competed for the New England in the Under Armour All-American games last summer, earning all-tournament team honors.

The summer before my senior year, in June 2016, I made the Under Armour New England team. Traveling to Maryland, I found myself surrounded by some of the best players my age, and alongside them I still learned and improved with every game.

At the end of the tournament, I was nominated to the all-star team — a select list of 12 players from all of the teams. But the pleasure of this national accolade soon became bittersweet. Except for me, nearly everyone on the UA team had committed to colleges. It seemed the recruiting window was over, and there was no space for a late bloomer like me.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t pursue robotics or debate club like other Indian kids growing up in this country. It would have been so much easier and I would have never felt ostracized or different — the short, stocky Indian girl amongst a sea of long, blond ponytails. As my mother always said, she never had any trouble locating me on the field. Maybe that path would have resulted in a better alternative to chasing college recruitment. But I never question the journey or regret my choices, because I’ve loved every minute of playing lacrosse.

This spring, I will savor every game. I will treasure every moment of holding that stick, because I may never play lacrosse after this season. Right now, the brilliant green turf beckons with endless possibilities. The spring breeze tickles my nose as it carries a hint of rain along with the excitement of turnovers as I yell, “I got ball!”

Ellora Sen is a senior lacrosse player at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire who also competes on the Nordic ski team and is an aspiring mystery novel writer. She plans to take a post-grad year and apply to colleges in the fall. Check out her blog here.

The NCAA Division I Council votes this week on legislation proposed by the IWLCA and IMLCA that would curb early recruiting in lacrosse. To learn more and find links to past coverage by US Lacrosse, click here.