Being a nursing senior, married and a lacrosse captain isn’t for everybody. But one student athlete loves every minute of it.
Senior nursing major Maria Yanke came to Franciscan University of Steubenville from Danville, Pennsylvania, which she said is “kind of the middle of nowhere.” Yanke is the second oldest of five children, and has played lacrosse for nine years, starting when she was in the eighth grade.
Yanke has been playing attack for the Franciscan women’s lacrosse team for the four years she has been at the school. Although she played midfielder in high school, she says her favorite position is attack.
“I like being on the scoring end,” she said.
Yanke married her husband this past January but says it doesn’t change a lot in her college life.
“It’s more just balancing my schedule out, because I have to obviously make time for my team but also for my husband. … It’s just having a well-balanced schedule,” said Yanke.
The women’s lacrosse team has been a big part of Yanke’s life at Franciscan and she said the community on the team has always been a safe place.
“I mean you can talk to any of the girls, they are so sweet and caring and so welcoming,” said Yanke. “Also, I just love how we put the faith at the center of our sports team, and every other organization outside of Franciscan that I’ve ever played for never did that. And I think it truly changes the dynamics that the team has.”
One of Yanke’s favorite moments playing lacrosse was in high school. She won her district championship game with her sister, Franciscan freshman marketing major Joanna Hilkert.
“My senior year of high school, my sister was a freshman on the team and we both played varsity,” said Yanke. “It was our district championship game, and we were tied 13-13 and had to go into overtime, and it was sudden death. I remember my sister was behind the cage and I was cutting across the eight, and she passed me the ball and I did a quick stick into the goal, got it in and won the championship for my team.”
Yanke has loved the sport of lacrosse ever since middle school.
“One of my classmates in middle school was talking about lacrosse, and it was very new back then,” said Yanke. “I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds so fun, I want to try it!’ The only sport I had ever really played was soccer, so I wanted to try something new, and I ended up loving it. Apparently, the rest of my family did too, because since I started, my sister Joanna started, my other sister started playing, and my younger brother started playing. So, they’re all taking after their big sister.”
When she originally came to Franciscan, Yanke was interested in playing on the women’s volleyball team, but after a run-in with a player on the lacrosse team, she changed her mind and started playing lacrosse again.
“I’m telling you it was meant to be,” said Yanke. “I passed a girl carrying a lacrosse stick and I was like ‘Oh, hey, do you play lacrosse here?’ … And now I’ve played all four years and am captain of the team, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
COVID-19 has affected everyone, but especially college athletes who only have a few years left with the sport they love.
“It was only four years of my college career that I would be able to play a sport, and COVID-19 took away one of those seasons,” said Yanke. “It basically took away an entire year of the sport I loved, and after I graduate, I know I will never play again. So, that was kind of difficult, but just having my teammates there, and the community that we have with each other, and supporting each other through COVID is really helpful, and now that we’re back and playing again it makes me really happy.”
Yanke said she definitely questions her lacrosse career every season. “I am somebody who already has a lot on my plate, being a nursing major, being in household, just getting married — I have a lot going on and I’m not going to lie, I can’t prioritize lacrosse over everything else. I came here to be a student first, and my marriage is more important, so it has definitely been a struggle to kind of balance everything out.”
“But I (always say) ‘This is good for me; I need to stick with it’ and every season I’m just so happy I do.”
Yanke said she loves how welcoming the women’s lacrosse team is, saying the team has had girls who have played for 10 years and girls who have never played before in their life.
“It’s so welcoming to basically everybody,” said Yanke, “it just shows you what kind of team it is.”