Fruita trio signs college letters
Jenni Sneddon hates cold weather, so Arizona is the place for her to continue playing softball, a sport she’s not ready to leave just yet.
Corey Henricksen is willing to deal with the cold weather that Wisconsin embraces in order to get the intense coach and pressure he likes to feel when playing lacrosse.
And Lauren LaBonde hopes to show Missouri she can shoot 3-pointers and play the in-your-face defense she loves on the basketball court.
The three Fruita Monument High School seniors, about three weeks away from graduating, signed national letters of intent during a ceremony in the high school’s south gym Wednesday. Sneddon chose Gateway Community College in Phoenix; Henricksen picked Concordia University in Milwaukee; and LaBonde selected Park University in Parkville, Mo., near Kansas City.
Sneddon’s eyes watered, and her voice cracked with emotion as the All-Southwestern League pitcher (10-3 record) and first baseman (.350 batting average) spoke of the role one of her softball coaches, Deke DeCrow, had in her decision to continue playing the game. DeCrow passed away in November 2011 at age 31, but not before frequently telling Sneddon she should play college softball.
“I wouldn’t have done this without him,” she said.
She was thinking about not playing the sport past high school, but DeCrow’s words and spending last summer away from the sport that dominated her previous summers reminded her she loves the game.
“I’ve been playing this sport since I can remember,” Sneddon said. “Every summer, every other weekend, we were traveling to tournaments. It seemed like that was all I did. ... When you’re doing it, it feels like forever and ever, and when I took the summer off I realized I missed it.
“I’m just not ready to give it up yet, so this is a perfect opportunity.”
LaBonde sees an opportunity to play right away at Park University, an NAIA Division I school. She said the Pirates give out eight scholarships each year, and those eight players get the lion’s share of the minutes on the court, and she will be one of those scholarship players.
LaBonde said she visited the school in mid-March and “just loved it and wanted to go.”
She described Park coach Ken Cooper and the program as “really awesome,” and she said they told her they needed a guard who can make 3-pointers. LaBonde knows she can do that, making a team-high 26 3-pointers last season as the Wildcats qualified for the Class 5A state playoffs, and she was selected the Southwestern League’s player of the year.
The Pirates’ philosophy on defense is 40 minutes of hell, LaBonde said, adding, “I love that.
“(Cooper) switches defenses every two possessions, and it’s always in-your-face. If you’re not in their face (on defense), you’re not playing.”
Henricksen’s lanky, 6-foot-6 frame screams basketball player, but when Fruita Monument started a lacrosse program several years ago, Henricksen got involved as a freshman, which was his last year of basketball. He started out as a midfielder in lacrosse but became a goalkeeper, where he started as a junior and senior on the varsity.
He will remain in goal at Concordia, but he doubts he will see the field much in his first year, a concept he’s OK with, but it will be a transition.
“It will be hard for me, not ever seeing the bench my junior and senior year,” he said, adding he was the starting goalie on the junior varsity team as a sophomore.
Henricksen will be part of another fledgling program as Concordia is in its third season of men’s lacrosse.
One of the draws for Henricksen was the Falcons’ head coach, Jeff Roberts.
“I visited in November, and the coaches really impressed me,” Henricksen said. “Their coach is really intense, and I kind of liked that.”
That makes sense, given one of the draws to goalkeeping for Henricksen is the pressure that comes with the position.
“Just the responsibility, everything is on my shoulders, the pressure is on me,” he said. “I like having pressure.”