Michigan women’s club lacrosse freshman Samantha Zetlin had no intentions of playing high school lacrosse, much less trying it at the collegiate level.
That is, until her high school lacrosse coach paid a visit to her freshman gym class. She persuaded the avid soccer player to get her feet wet in an unfamiliar sport.
Zetlin’s passion for soccer soon drifted to the lacrosse field, as she found love with the sport and developed dreams of competing at the next level.
“As I went through high school, (I) saw that the competition is so vast throughout soccer all across the country that it was something that I wasn’t interested in,” Zetlin said. “I just didn’t love (it) as much as I did before.”
But there were bumps along the way. Zetlin suffered a torn ACL that sidelined the attacker for her entire senior season.
But the injury hasn’t slowed down the freshman one bit in her rookie season with the Wolverines. Not only has Zetlin scored a goal in 13 of 15 of Michigan’s games, but she also has netted multiple goals on 11 occasions.
The Framingham, Massachusetts native is arguably the Wolverines’ best player, leading the team in points (45), goals (35) and draw-controls (21).
Her goal and point totals are by far the most for a rookie in the program, shattering the numbers put up by current senior Amy Johnson.
Zetlin has scored eight hat tricks this season and registered multiple assists in four games. But more impressive is her shooting efficiency. The freshman’s .636 shooting percentage ranks second on the team among players with more than one shot.
It’s not difficult to miss Zetlin during the team’s late night Tuesday practices, as the attacker is usually charging at the net with a full head of steam — it’s that intensity that makes her so tough to defend.
“Her goals hurt,” sophomore goalie Emily Scheidt said. “She comes fast and hard to the goal and she knows she’s going to score. Playing against a player that is that confident is tougher. There’s a mental game between the goalie and the attacker and she definitely always tries to win the mental game.”
It didn’t take long for Zetlin to adjust to the collegiate game, and in her first game for the Wolverines, she tallied the team’s first goal of the season in a 12-9 loss to No. 10 UCLA.
In just her second game, the freshman notched the first hat track of her collegiate career. The goals gave the Wolverines an 8-3 advantage over No. 3 Colorado at halftime, though the Buffaloes mounted an impressive 7-0 run to take the game, 10-9.
And in her third game, on a pass intended for fellow freshman Ani Shekerjian, the ball sailed over Shekerjian’s outstretched stick and found the back of the net to surprise the goalie, further impressing her teammates and coaches.
But nobody’s surprised that Zetlin has emerged as a leader on the squad.
“We heard things about her coming in,” Michigan coach Jen Dunbar said. “You never really know exactly what to expect but we knew after the first week of tryouts that she was going to be an impact player. She’s truly a person we look to for huge things on offense.”
With her impressive season, Zetlin is up for the national Rookie of the Year award. And though the freshman was reluctant to take control of the offense at the start of the season, that, according to her coach, has completely changed.
“At the beginning she might have been a little hesitant to attack the goal,” Dunbar said. “Now, she doesn’t hesitant at all. She’ll take the ball to the goal herself and she’ll look to do draw-downs and give-and-go’s. Good attackers always want the ball in their hands because they want to put the ball in the net. She wants the ball and she wants to do big things with it.”