Navy women’s lacrosse senior attacker Kelly Larkin recently talked to PressBox about her plans to be a Naval Flight Officer, her favorite thing about Annapolis, Md., and more. Larkin, a native of Alexandria, Va., has posted three consecutive 100-plus point seasons, including 121 (69 goals, 52 assists) in 2019.
PressBox: How did you become interested in lacrosse?
Kelly Larkin: I would say that growing up, I had an older sister who’s less than two years older than me, so we were pretty similar in age and I kind of just looked up to her a lot – did anything that she was doing. She started playing lacrosse a couple years before me. It was just something I got into basically from her. It made it a little bit easier on my parents, too, having me and my sister do the same sports. We ended up being on the same teams and stuff. My older sister, Jill, she was just a role model for me, someone that I looked up to. She started playing lacrosse before me, and then I eventually picked up a stick just playing in the backyard. Eventually, my parents let me try out.
PB: What are some of your favorite memories playing with Jill?
KL: Obviously, there was a little bit of a sibling rivalry to start, and then on top of that I’ve always been a pretty competitive person, so I would just say on the field we were always really competitive. Even though she was my big sister, you still want to kind of show her up. Just stuff like that, being able to play on the same youth league team growing up. We didn’t go to the same high school. She’s always just been a role model, mentor that I looked up to, and it’s actually pretty cool because she’s at the academy with me now, so there’s a little bit more of that sibling rivalry here, too. She definitely has me beat in the classroom, but I think that I have her beat on the field. It’s pretty funny. And just little memories like that, getting to play in the backyard with her and also put on a jersey and play with her, stuff like that.
PB: How cool is it for you to be at the Naval Academy with your sister?
KL: It’s really special. My sister, Jill, she actually is just a manager on the team, but still having her around at practice every day knowing that you have your biggest supporter and No. 1 fan that you get to share a lot of the experiences with is really special. And then also the kind of stuff that we go through here is a little bit different from your ordinary school, so having someone to kind of rely on and look to when you’re struggling or need someone to talk to, having a sibling just makes it all the more special. Obviously, I have a lot of really close friends here and people that I go to but just having a sister, someone who you know is always going to have your back, has been really special and definitely unique for me. I’ve been super fortunate to have Jill here at school with me. She is a second-class, so she’s a junior, which is pretty interesting because she’s older than me but she’s actually in the grade below me. She’s a prior enlisted hospital corpsman, and then she applied to the academy after I committed to play lacrosse here. It’s kind of funny the way it worked out, but we both ended up here.
PB: What are some of your favorite memories at Navy?
KL: There’s one that I always go back to. I know it was my freshman year, but being in the Final Four, it’s really hard to top an experience like that. Getting to play at Gillette Stadium and having an opportunity to play against such high-caliber athletes, that’s definitely my No. 1 biggest memory during my time at Navy. Beating UNC [in the 2017 NCAA Tournament] was also an incredible experience. And then since then I would say Patriot League tournament, Patriot League championship, just getting to beat Loyola has been really special memories for me. Honestly, I just really enjoy traveling with the team, getting on the road, staying in hotels, getting close with the girls and traveling, getting to do that kind of experience I would say has been super memorable to me as well.
PB: What made you want to come to Navy?
KL: I obviously played lacrosse in high school. I was being recruited, looking at other schools. But the thing about Navy was that it was something that was just way bigger and more important than just playing lacrosse. I could’ve easily gone to another school and focused on lacrosse for four years and who knows what I would’ve done after. But being able to come to a school where you’re not only being challenged on the field but also just in every other aspect in life I think was just really cool. I also am one to know that I need a little bit of structure in my life. This was something that was kind of perfect for me, where I was going to be on a schedule in the classroom, on the field, just something that was really pushing me to the next level and challenging me in every aspect of my life was something that was super inviting to me when looking to come to the academy. And then also just the amazing opportunities that come out of the school. I’m going to get to go to flight school. I’m going to get to travel, serve in the Navy. [Doing] all that kind of stuff was just something I felt like for me was an offer I couldn’t pass [up]. And it was definitely a hard decision to make, being a high school female. You want to go to a school and have fun and hang out, play lacrosse. But just understanding that coming here is so much more than that, once you get past all that you realize how rewarding the experience is going to be. It hands down has been one of the best experiences of my life and definitely super happy to have had the opportunity to come here.
PB: What are some of your long-term goals for after lacrosse?
KL: I just recently, before winter break, service selected Naval Flight Officer. So after graduation, I’ll be heading down to Pensacola, Fla., for flight school where I’ll eventually get my wings and be stationed somewhere with an aircraft squadron. So I’m super excited for that. Definitely not wishing the time away — I’m excited for this whole semester and this season, but definitely something cool to look forward to after graduation as well when I don’t have lacrosse anymore.
PB: Is there anyone in your family who was a flight officer? What intrigued you about that route?
KL: No one in my family was in the Navy, but my mom’s brother — [Uncle Mark] — he did ROTC in college and was a jet pilot in the Air Force, and he retired after 25, 30 years of service. He was definitely a mentor to me, someone that I remember phone calls with leading up to service assignment just talking about the aviation community and whether or not it was something that I wanted to pursue. He, hands down, was kind of like a deciding factor for me that it was just an opportunity that I could just not pass up. I look at the aviation field a lot like I look at lacrosse. In lacrosse, you practice, you play every day and you become kind of like the subject-matter expert at that one specific thing. In a way, the aviation community is really similar. I’m going to be able to focus my shift from lacrosse a subject-matter expert at this new thing that I’m doing. I think that was something that also drew me in was just the focus and putting everything into one thing. Just being dedicated to one thing was something that I really admired about the aviation community, and having my uncle kind of back me up on that and tell me just so many great stories and stuff that I really couldn’t pass up from him. It was kind of the solidifying factor for me.
PB: What’s your favorite thing about Annapolis and the Naval Academy?
KL: My favorite thing about Annapolis and the Naval Academy would probably have to be just how close the campus is in proximity to everything else. The campus is really cool. One of the things that I love about it is you can get from one point of campus to the other in less than 15 minutes, so it’s a quick, easy walk between my classes. And then also, as soon as you leave The Yard, you’re in downtown Annapolis where there’s a ton of amazing restaurants, bars, a lot of fun, different things to do. It’s right on the water. So it’s definitely a really, really good college town to live in. Just being at the academy, I would have to say the relationships that I’ve made since I’ve been here. We all live in the same building, so all of my teammates are less than a five-minute walk from each other which I think has made it really cool. It’s kind of in a good way forced us to bond and spend a lot of time together on and off the field, so that’s something I, looking back, am really, really thankful for is just being so close to everyone and making a lot of relationships that I know are going to last me way past my time at the academy.
PB: Who are some of the lacrosse players at Navy you looked up to early on?
KL: I’d have to say Jenna and Julia Collins. As soon as I got here as a freshman, they were impact players and just all-around stud athletes. I really had them to look up to, and they challenged me in a lot of different ways to be a more diverse player just because coming in they were obviously more dominant shooting and scoring roles. I came in as a freshman and I had a lot of developing and learning to do, and so I definitely learned a lot from them. I became more versatile on the field, moving from playing up top to down low and becoming more of a feeding role as a freshman, so I think that they really, really switched up my game and I learned a lot from them. It was super great to be able to be on the field with both of them for two years because I also got to watch them grow and kind of stand out, so definitely those two. Morgan Young was also my senior captain when I was a freshman. She was a super speedy, versatile player as well, so I had them to look up to, mostly on the offense. There’s obviously a couple defensive players that I just loved to watch, like Blake Smith, Megan Hughley, Caitlin McLaughlin, girls like that that were really inspiring players and I think just pushed me every day to kind of build my game and become a better player as well.
PB: Growing up, who was the biggest influence on your game?
KL: I would definitely say just my mom was always my No. 1 supporter. She’s the one, thinking back to my early lacrosse years, that was driving me to every game, every practice, to every tournament. Bu besides obviously my mom, I would have to say my high school coach, Coach Rick Sudfield. He was also my youth league coach for a couple years growing. He, I would say, had a big influence just on me developing as a player through high school. He just kind of pushed me to that next level, made me work hard every single day. He has one of the best lacrosse IQs that I’ve ever met. He played men’s lacrosse in college. Just his eye for the women’s game was really, really impressive and I learned a lot from him, and I think honestly if it wasn’t for him and my high school team at Bishop Ireton, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I had coming out of high school.
PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
KL: I would just say to not be afraid to make mistakes on the field. There’s a lot of room to learn every single day. Even someone that could be considered one of the best players in the country can say that practice never hurts. There’s always opportunity to get better, and it’s really cool. There are always going to be people on the field who are going to challenge you and push you to work a little bit harder. Just keep working hard every day, and I guess follow what you want to do.
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics
Originally published Feb. 18, 2020