One-on-one with Ellie Carson '20
Ellie Carson ’20 leads the Big Green in scoring with 24 goals and 7 assists.
Ellie Carson ’20 has catalyzed the Dartmouth Women’s Lacrosse attack this season, leading the Big Green to a 6-1 record and a No. 19 placement in the Division I NCAA rankings. After starting only six games last year as a first-year, Carson has already surpassed that total this season, starting all seven games and scoring a team-leading 31 points.
The team has had remarkable success so far this season. What do you think has contributed to this improved team success?
EC: This is head coach Danielle Spencer’s second year, so I think last year we had to understandably focus on a totally new foundation of what she wanted. We spent a lot of time on the basics last year, and I think that this year we’ve been able to delve into more complex offenses and defenses because we understand more of what she expects of us. The fall training was definitely more intense than last year, so that contributed because we were practicing almost every day, which really made a difference for us. Our overall motivation and competitiveness has translated into games and made us stronger.
What have been some games this season that you felt were particularly impressive?
EC: Our first couple of games, besides our first game against the University of Massachusetts, we didn’t play top teams. Our two most notable games were Jacksonville University and Princeton University. Jacksonville was definitely the strongest team we had seen so far in the season. We started out a little slow, and it ended up being a really close game, but we came out on top. I think that was really crucial before going into Princeton who is our biggest rival. Princeton was ranked No. 16, so we knew they were going to be a really tough opponent, so having Jacksonville before Princeton was super helpful in playing a really competitive team. For Princeton, we had been preparing mentally and physically for a very long time. They smoked us last year, so we were looking to get some revenge, and then we really came out strong and surprised them. Everyone on the field was playing their role: our defense was making their stops and our offense was making their shots. It all just came together. We were definitely controlling the pace of the game.
Dartmouth recently broke into the top 20 Women’s Lacrosse D-1 rankings for the first time since 2013. What does that mean to you?
EC: That is huge. Since I’ve been here we haven’t been ranked, and last year we were 7-8, so we didn’t really think we could be ranked last year. This year, having all of the really tough fall training and preseason actually translated into wins, and having the hard and motivated work ethic that Coach Spencer has ingrained in us pay off is such a rewarding feeling.
You’re leading the team in goals so far this season, already tripling your total from last year. Why do you think you have been able to achieve such success in these first several games?
EC: I think that our offense is very dynamic in that we don’t have a lot of selfish players. That’s really crucial to having a high scoring attack because you can trust anyone in our attack to either feed or drive to goal and score or cut inside and catch and finish. The seven of us on the field are very dynamic, and having that trust in each other results in a much more successful attack. For me personally, we have such good feeders down low that I like to play inside and cut. Having great feeders that I know will hit you right on your stick make it very easy to score for everyone else.
Looking ahead, what are your team goals for the season?
EC: Our overall goal usually is to win the Ivy League Championship. We’re definitely setting ourselves up better than we did last year. In terms of actual Ivy play, Princeton is always our biggest rival, and I feel like we have the most passion for that game, so that was also a subgoal. [It] was awesome that we beat them. Overall, [our goal] would be to win the Ivy tournament, and if we do, [we would] get a bid into the NCAA tournament which would also be awesome since it’s been a while since we’ve gotten there.
What are your personal goals for your sophomore season?
EC: I would say to try and be consistent. We’ve come out really strong and I don’t want to get overconfident in our abilities but rather just to think about what we’ve been doing and continue to work hard and make those adjustments after every game. Personally, I want to be consistent and not just having a couple games where we shine through — being able to perform every game and help the team, whether it’s causing turnovers, assists or goals.
What was your lacrosse experience like before coming to Dartmouth?
EC: Before I came to Dartmouth, I went to a high school that was very intense with lacrosse. We were No. 2 in the country and known for breeding lacrosse players from a young age. My high school coach has been coaching for over 30 years. She’s an incredible coach. I’ve been playing since second grade, so I’ve been in the game for a long time. My older brother played too, so in my area and in my childhood, it was a very large portion of my life. My high school was very successful and intense, so we lifted multiple times a week and had practices for two to three hours each day after school, so in high school I was already in a pretty committed program. Obviously it wasn’t as much in college, but it wasn’t a massive change from high school to college for me in terms of hours and work put in.
Can you describe your recruiting process to Dartmouth?
EC: I started being recruited my freshman year of high school, which is crazy to think about. It was just starting that early; that wasn’t just me. My freshman summer and sophomore fall were the big times when I would actually start interacting with coaches and going up for visits. I was looking at Dartmouth, Duke University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania mainly. I wanted to pick a school based on academics versus lacrosse standings because I knew that would last me longer than the sport itself. It came down to Dartmouth and Penn, but I liked the size and home feeling of Dartmouth’s campus and I felt like Dartmouth would be a good place for me.
Do you have any lacrosse role models that motivated your early playing career?
EC: In terms of famous lacrosse players, I didn’t watch a ton of lacrosse when I was much younger. I looked at the role models at my own high school because my mom started taking me to high school games starting in fourth or fifth grade. I knew all of the big names at my high school who went off to play at the University of Maryland, University of North Carolina and University of Virginia — all top schools. I watched them grow up, saw how they played and looked up to those girls. Those goals seemed more attainable because I knew they were being coached under the same high school coach.
What would you say is your favorite part about playing lacrosse?
EC: Definitely the people that I’m with. I don’t mean that to sound cliché but it’s so true. Coming to Dartmouth, I immediately had a group of friends, which is pretty rare coming into a college scene. It’s been so true throughout the past few years that my team is my best group of friends. For all of the work, tough and gritty times, conditioning sessions and early mornings that you put into lacrosse, having that translate into winning games with your best friends is the best all around experience you could ask for because you’re playing the sport you love with the people that you want to be with all the time. It makes it all worth it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.