Varsity Q&A with Zoe Stukenberg, Marriotts Ridge, lacrosse

Zoe Stukenberg's versatile play in the midfield has been one of the keys to Marriott's Ridge's emergence as a girls lacrosse power. The senior helped the Mustangs win their first state title two years ago and had an All-Metro season last spring with 67 goals and 27 assists.

Also a soccer and basketball player, Stukenberg led the No. 11 Mustangs to a 19-2 win over Atholton in Thursday's season opener. She scored four goals and added two assists. After years of playing with the M&D Lacrosse club, she now coaches and referees the sport for younger girls.

She signed to play with No. 1 Maryland but didn't commit until last year after savoring the recruiting process and visiting Florida, Georgetown, Duke, Princeton, Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She has a 4.0 unweighted GPA and hasn't gotten a B since middle school.

How did you get started playing lacrosse?

I live in Howard County, so if you're athletic, you play lacrosse. Everyone does. My mom is from Idaho, so she had no idea what a lacrosse stick was until she came to [Johns Hopkins University]. My dad played growing up. Living in Howard County, you get into the Howard County Rec and Parks league. I think I did Tigers when I was like 6. No checking. I'm pretty sure you could only have one person on a ground ball.

When did you decide to focus on lacrosse?

I've always been better at lacrosse than the other sports. I played club lacrosse since maybe sixth grade. I got involved in M&D and I absolutely loved it. Brooke [Kuhl-McClelland] and Tommy [McClelland] are my coaches and they are just the best. I love them. I love the team. Being from this area, it's just awesome because you can play the four best teams in the country and you only have to [travel] 20 minutes.

How do you beat those face guards you often draw?

A face guard really opens up the rest of my team, because a face guard throws off an entire team's slide and in my opinion, if my team is going to beat the other team 6-v-6 with no slide, I don't have to score. As long as my team is scoring goals and we're winning, I don't care how involved I am. Occasionally if I'm getting face guarded, I'll just go to the restraining line and make it 6-v-6, so the offense has more room, but a lot of times my method is to go behind the goal and really use the crease to my advantage. I rarely go up against a face guard that follows me behind, so a lot of times I can get the ball behind and then I can start a play. If a face guard does come behind, in women's lacrosse they can't step in the crease. It gives the offense such an advantage on the crease.

How has your role changed now that you're a senior?

I don't think my role has changed so much. Obviously as a senior, people kind of look up to me maybe a little more in practice, but I've always been pretty vocal. My team can get kind of sick of me. I can get pretty bossy (laughs). I think the difference between this year and last year is my desire and my passion and my determination to win have really rubbed off on people. They see how badly I want it and they want to do it with me. Before I've always had a shot at redemption, so this is kind of a new feeling for me.

How has being a ref helped your game?

I took the reffing class from Ms. [Helen] Moody and Mr. [Steven] Secrest who reffed our Mount Hebron game last year and just hearing their perspective and what they're looking for, I realized that they're not trying to call [a foul on] me every five seconds, they're not trying to put me at a disadvanage. Now that I see what they're specifically looking for, I feel like already I've just made little adjustments to my game and I've noticed that the refs really are responding to that.

Why did you choose Maryland?

I chose Maryland because I feel like that's a place where lacrosse isn't a job. You see some programs where lacrosse becomes a 30-hour-a-week job. You're getting paid to do it. It's still fun. But at Maryland everyone loves coming to practice and the team spirit they have and the sense of we're all in this together, I love it. Not to mention they're awesome. I'm looking forward to competing for a national championship every year. That's something that's important to me and it's also a place where I can succeed in the classroom.

A lot of players are committing as freshmen and sophomores, so why did you wait until your junior year to make a commitment?

To me, it was an important decision and I wanted to enjoy the process. Never again in my life will I have people writing me letters about how much they like me and I'll never have schools trying to court me. That was a cool experience. I was like, 'Why stop it? Visit every school that I can.' I met so many cool people and I had such a great time. I went to all sorts of cities that I had never been to — Boston, I loved Boston. It was so cool. Even though I didn't go to Harvard, I loved visiting. I'm glad I took my time.

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

I'm a big proponent of fun (laughs). I love hanging out with my friends. I have a brother and a sister and my family loves going out to exotic food places. We played St. Stephen's and St. Agnes [in Alexandria, Va.] and I had just read an article in The Washington Post about 40 dishes every Washingtonian must try. One of the places was a mile from the field and it was an Eritrean place. Eritrea used to be part of Ethiopia. So we swung by on the way home. It was a great meal. I couldn't pronounce it. Whenever we go to these places, we just go up to the people and we're like, "We have no idea what we want. Give us five of the best that you've got." They're usually the nicest people we meet all day and they give us a delicious meal. My goal is to try all 40 dishes. Next on my list might be duck fat fries. Don't those sound good? They looked good in the picture.

What's something most people don't know about you?

I'm very superstitious. My family always makes fun of me and my good friends know this about me. I can only take tests with Ticonderogas. I like to wear similar socks and spandex and sports bras every game. When I break a stick, it's heartbreaking, because to me, all the good times I've had with that stick stay with it, so I have to make my new stick lucky. I have to have a good game with it and then it's lucky.

What moment of your sporting life would you most like to live over?

That's tough because that state championship my sophomore year was such an amazing experience. I'm so lucky to have gotten to taste that. I think that's why I'm so hungry for another state championship. That feeling is something that stays with you. And then the first time Marriotts Ridge ever beat Hebron, I was a freshman and we beat them in double overtime. Laura Maskell is my neighbor and she scored the winning goal … There was an an awesome picture of me jumping on Laura. My hair's in the air and everyone's freaking out. That moment was really special, because it proved that we could be a lacrosse powerhouse. Then we go on the next year to win states and become nationally-ranked. That was a huge jump and that was the first step in our process of becoming a lacrosse school.

When you were little, before Marriotts Ridge opened, were you one of those little girls following Mount Hebron lacrosse?

I always thought I was going to be a Viking and win all those state championships and then this school popped up when I was in sixth grade and it was like, 'What's happening?' I saw Jackie Giles play, I saw Jackie Doherty play, I watched Megan Bosica — all those girls who now are graduated from college. They used to be the coolest people in the world. Those girls were untouchable. If they wore high socks, I wore high socks. However they wore their hair, I wore my hair. We all did. It was kind of a shock when I wasn't going there and now I wouldn't have it any other way. I love what we've done here.

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