That word aptly describes Kelly Larkin as both a player and person.
In two seasons as a starting attacker for Navy women’s lacrosse, Larkin has almost the exact same number of goals and assists. The crafty left-hander has already amassed 115 goals and 108 assists in her brief career.
“Kelly is definitely a very unique player in that she can score and pass equally well. She is very dynamic in the sense she can go to cage, but also has the vision to see open players,” Navy offensive coordinator Aly Messinger said. “Kelly is just a very selfless player who wants to share the ball and does a great job of setting up others. That being said, when there is an opening she is very dangerous driving to the goal or taking a shot.”
Close friends and teammates say that balanced approach also informs Larkin’s personality. She is a tough, fierce competitor on the field and a kind, caring individual off it.
“I would say that Kelly is very confident and really funny. She can be sassy every now and then, but she is truly one of the nicest, sweetest people in the world,” Navy midfielder and fellow sophomore Kayla Harris said. “I think that balance you see with the stats really speaks to the type of person Kelly is. She is so selfless as both a person and a player. She will pass more than she shoots because she wants her friends to succeed and score.”
Larkin was a two-time US Lacrosse All-American at Bishop Ireton in northern Virginia and earned a slew of scholarship offers. The Alexandria resident considered Colorado, Florida and Princeton, but knew deep down she would end up at the Naval Academy.
“I committed to the Naval Academy pretty early because I knew from a young age that is what I wanted to do,” Larkin said. “I could not turn down all the amazing opportunities that come from attending a service academy. It’s not a typical college experience and I liked that. Plus, I’m kind of a mama’s girl so I didn’t want to go too far from home.”
Larkin, one of the highest-rated recruits of head coach Cindy Timchal’s 11-year tenure, stepped right into the starting lineup as a freshman and was simply sensational. She could not have been any more balanced as an attacker – scoring 54 goals and setting a freshman school record with 54 assists as the Midshipmen made a magical run to the NCAA semifinals.
“I knew the coaches had set high expectations for me. Coming into a team that already had such amazing players it wasn’t going to be easy to start. So I realized that I had something to prove every single day,” Larkin said.
En route to being named Inside Lacrosse Division I Rookie of the Year and Patriot League Rookie of the Year, Larkin displayed a penchant for coming up big in the most important games. She dished off a season-high six assists in Navy’s stunning upset of defending national champion North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals then tied a season-high with six points against Boston College in the semifinals at Gillette Stadium.
Larkin has taken her game to an even higher level this season and leads Navy in scoring with a whopping 115 points, second-highest single-season total in program history behind Jasmine DePompeo (127 in 2013). The sophomore standout has netted 61 goals to go along with 54 assists and ranks sixth nationally with 5.48 points per game.
“We’re all about being as balanced as possible offensively and Kelly kind of epitomizes that philosophy,” Timchal said. “She is an excellent playmaker who does a very good job of setting up teammates to score, but is a fantastic finisher as well.”
Larkin was named first team All-Patriot League this spring after receiving second team honors as a freshman. On Wednesday, the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association named Larkin first team All-South Region.
Larkin normally operates behind the net on the right side of the field and is a formidable two-way threat when dodging to goal-line extended. If the slide comes, the lefty will look to pass to a cutting teammate. If no defender helps, she will turn the corner and either fire a hard sidearm shot or charge to the cage for an easier point-blank opportunity.
“Honestly, I just think of doing whatever is needed to get the best outcome for the team. Whether that involves me scoring or assisting or just making that extra pass, it doesn’t matter,” Larkin said. “Driving into my defender and pushing toward the crease from behind the goal kind of opens up the passing lane or provides an opportunity for me to dodge and finish.”
Messinger acknowledged that having a true left-handed attacker is a real advantage and likes that Larkin is comfortable operating at various spots on the field.
“I think Kelly is most effective working from behind, but she is versatile in that she can also play on the wing or up top,” Messinger said. “That is huge because it allows our offense to attack from different angles.”
Timchal said opponents have face-guarded Larkin in an attempt to keep the ball out of her stick. That tactic has not worked too often as Larkin has recorded at least one point in 44 games she has played and has multiple points in all but two.
Larkin was at her playmaking best in last Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament victory over eighth-seeded Loyola, repeatedly driving from behind the cage to make things happen while finishing with three goals and four assists. All four assists went to Harris, her classmate and season-long road roommate.
“Kelly puts those feeds right on your stick. I don’t even have to look – I could close my eyes and know that ball is going right into my pocket,” Harris said. “Any time Kelly has the ball in her stick she is a threat.”
Larkin already ranks second all-time at Navy for assists and is well on the way to smashing the school record held by DePompeo (167, 2010-2013).
“I just tend to be in a position where I feed a lot. I really don’t have to do too much because we have so many great players that are always working hard to get open. It’s my job to find them and get them the ball,” said Larkin, who stands seventh in program history for points.
Navy players and coaches have nothing but praise for Larkin’s attitude, work ethic and overall demeanor.
“Kelly is a wonderful teammate and a great player to coach because she is so dedicated and hard-working. She is looking to get better every day and always trying to learn more,” Timchal said.
“Kelly is an awesome person with great character. She is always listening and being a learner,” Messinger added. “Other kids feed off Kelly’s energy and playmaking ability.”
Harris has become quite close with Larkin and the Broadneck High graduate values that friendship.
“Kelly Larkin is one of the best friends, best teammates and best classmates you could possibly ask for,” Harris said. “She is someone you can go to for anything and I’ve been very lucky to have her as my roommate for every away game this season because I really enjoy hanging out with Kelly.”
Larkin has been blessed with a new source of support this season as older sister Jill is serving as a team manager for Navy women’s lacrosse. Jill Larkin, who is three years older than Kelly, enrolled at the Naval Academy this school year as a prior-enlisted member of the service.
Jill Larkin enlisted directly out of high school as a hospital corpsman and spent seven months training in San Antonio. She was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, before applying and being accepted to the Naval Academy.
“It is a dream come true to be attending the Naval Academy along with my sister,” Jill said. “I love going to school with Kelly and being able to see her all the time. She is such an amazing person, my best friend and someone I look up to.”
Jill Larkin, who as a plebe is in the odd position of being outranked by her younger sister, is not at all surprised by the success Kelly is having on the field.
“Honestly, I’ve always known that Kelly was a special athlete. Watching her throughout high school, she always had an incredible gift for lacrosse,” Jill said.