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Female kicker tries out for Hokies
Spotsylvania’s Lauren Luttrell was kicking soccer balls at practice last spring when assistant coach Adwela Dawes suggested she try kicking footballs this fall.
Luttrell chuckled, got back to kicking soccer balls and figured that was that.
But this summer, when she was in the gym getting ready for volleyball practice, Dawes, who is also an assistant football coach, persisted.
So Luttrell put down her volleyball and put on her cleats and walked to the football field.
Her first extra-point attempt wobbled into the soccer goal rather than over it.
“I figured there was no way this would end well,” Luttrell said.
But she was intrigued. So she came back the next day, and the next.
And then her kicks started soaring rather than sputtering.
Dawes told Knights head coach Ben Lawrynas he might have found a kicker. Except she had a ponytail and played volleyball and was a girl.
“I told him I don’t care if I’ve got a three-headed alien as our kicker,” Lawrynas said, “as long as it goes through the uprights.”
Luttrell’s parents didn’t believe her when she came home and said she was joining the football team, while also continuing to play volleyball and travel soccer.
It concerned them at first, because what parents want to worry about their daughter being pancaked by 230-pound boys?
But it did not surprise them. This was the same girl who tore her anterior cruciate ligament last November, then returned to the soccer team midway through its season last spring.
“Once we got over the shock,” Luttrell’s mother, Terry, said, “we were really excited about it.”
Luttrell said the first time she put on a helmet she felt like a life-size bobblehead doll.
When she arrived at her first practice, Lawrynas told the 71 boys on the varsity and JV teams that they had a new sister to watch after.
During team stretching before Spotsylvania’s scrimmage against Fredericksburg Christian, a captain was going around the circle and bumping players to get them pumped up, as football players often do.
“So he grabs me by the shoulder pads and head-butts me in the helmet,” Luttrell said, laughing. “Then he realized it was me and he felt so bad. But it was OK.”
Luttrell said she was so nervous when she trotted out for her first extra point that she was shaking.
The kick was true, the pressure dissipated, and the excitement set in.
A friend in the stands later told Luttrell that she saw a tear of pride stream down her father’s cheek when the ball sailed between the posts.
Lawrynas invited his friend Dan DeArmas, a former all-ACC kicker at Maryland, to watch that scrimmage and offer some pointers.
“I went over afterward and asked him what she needed to work on,” Lawrynas said. “He just goes ‘Nothing whatsoever. Just tell her to keep her head down, but other than that, there’s nothing to fix.’”
Last Friday, Luttrell drilled her first extra-point attempt in a regular-season game, as the Knights lost to Massaponax.
Afterward, the cheerleaders made big “L’s” with their arms, and later, when the Knights went for a 2-point conversion, parents chanted her name and hoped Spotsylvania’s coaches would change their mind.
“It’s pretty cool to come off the field and have 71 guys congratulate you,” Luttrell said.
She has managed to balance three sports. Most days she goes to volleyball practice before going to the football field and kicking for an hour.
When the Knights’ volleyball team has matches, she sometimes comes to football practice earlier.
She also has travel soccer practice twice a week, with a game each weekend.
She keeps a day-planner with her at all times, and her mother attaches her schedule to the refrigerator each week.
Luttrell has become increasingly comfortable kicking a football. In practice, she has made field goals from as long as 40 yards.
“I just want to make a touchdown,” Luttrell said, before shaking her head quickly, as if there were flies on it. “No, I don’t mean a touchdown! A field goal. I just want to make a field goal that, like, makes a statement. Not the longest field goal ever, but one people notice.”
Lawrynas said he would not hesitate giving her that chance.
“I’d love to see a 40-yarder,” he said. “I’d love to see a 50-yarder. I’d do it the whole game.”
From Adam Himmelsbach at Fredericksburg.com.