American University lacrosse is all about family
The women’s lacrosse team has two families on the roster, with another on the way
When Haley Harkins committed to the American University lacrosse program in 2017, she knew that she’d have someone familiar by her side. Her older sister, Casey Harkins, was already on the team.
As the world learned from Dom Toretto in the “Fast & Furious” franchise and Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” a familial culture can glue together even the most unlikely of teams. Two sets of siblings — Casey and Haley Harkins, as well as twins Jennifer and Morgan Schaen — provide the team with a sixth sense and a built-in foundation for the squad.
“It makes the team feel like family,” Jennifer said. “When you actually have family on the team, I do think it opens up possibilities for the whole team to be united.”
That seems to have worked. All four are upperclassmen: The Schaen twins and Haley are juniors, while Casey is a fifth-year senior. Many of their teammates look up to them.
“The Schaens and the Harkins have been such role models,” sophomore Sydney Wender said. “Being on a team with them has definitely allowed me to bond with all of them, and I’m really lucky because they are all so kind and amazing people and players.”
That leadership will be important this upcoming season. Almost half of the players on the team are underclassmen, and since last season was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic, few of this year's sophomores saw the field in early 2020.
“It’s almost like we’re going to have three classes of freshmen next year,” Jennifer said.
“It is really going to fall on us to pass down the team culture,” Morgan added. In a season like this, building a familiar culture and establishing chemistry will be more important than ever before.
Like a family, Casey, Haley, Jennifer and Morgan have their share of differences, but they’re also eerily similar. Among the parallels: Both pairs of siblings have older sisters who started playing lacrosse before them, neither the Schaens nor Harkins planned on attending the same school, all four intend to make a career in the healthcare field, and like the rest of the team, all four of them made the Patriot League Honor Roll in 2020.
For the Harkins sisters, it’s not surprising that they both made Honor Roll. The two actively compete to see who can get the best grades; they compete in everything, for that matter.
The two often face off in practice, but it doesn’t end there. The sisters are still arguing over who won this year’s annual costume contest. Casey and fellow super senior Erica Skowron won, but Haley and the Schaens believe they were robbed for the third year in a row.
The Harkins’ competitive spirit has not gone unnoticed by their teammates.
“It’s noticeable that they’re competitive, which is really funny,” Morgan said.
Casey and Haley’s tendency to lovingly argue has no limit. When asked to describe each other, they playfully debated who is weirder, though their friends say they’re weirder together. For new head coach Lindsay Teeters, the debate encapsulates who the Harkins are as people.
“It speaks to their wild personalities,” Teeters said. “They’re just a great group of girls, and they play great off each other. You see it when they step out onto the field. They’re no longer sisters, they’re enemies.”
The Schaen twins, meanwhile, are defined by their differences. While Morgan said she is more reserved and organizational, Jennifer characterized herself as more spontaneous and energetic. Like the Harkins, the Schaens also use each other for support.
“We’re each other's cheerleaders,” Morgan said. “We definitely use each other as support systems,” Jennifer said. “I feel like we’re less competitive more oh no this happened, but we both go oh that’s okay because we both have an even trait of peaks and pits.”
Teeters said she wants the team to be a family.
“This is a family atmosphere that’s also really competitive,” Teeters said. “We’ll never pin you against your sister, but it’s a great way for us to maintain that competitive atmosphere.”
The strategy seems to have worked. After eight straight losing seasons under three different head coaches, AU went undefeated during the COVID-shortened season, and all four players contributed on the field.
Casey predominantly helped orchestrate the Eagle’s offense. As an attacker, Harkins broke the school’s season and career assist records, led the team in points, broke the single-game record for points and scored the third-most goals on the team last year. However, the pandemic-shortened season was nearly the end of Casey’s collegiate career.
It wasn’t clear if seniors would get to return when spring sports were canceled in March. The NCAA eventually extended an additional year of eligibility to athletes who were affected by the pandemic, but the situation was frustrating and inconvenient for Casey.
“It was really tough,” Casey said. “When we found we could do a fifth year it was very late to apply to grad programs in that sense.”
Ultimately, Casey decided to return for a fifth year, and the team’s goal will be to push for a berth in the Patriot League Tournament.
Haley, Jennifer and Morgan will also be a part of that effort. All three appeared in games last season, but Jennifer missed time with an injured shoulder, and Morgan dealt with a knee injury. With a new season approaching, the juniors hope that they’ll see more playing time.
While this might be Casey’s last season, the lacrosse team’s family is only getting bigger. The 2022 recruiting class features another set of twins, a purposeful move on Teeters’ end.
“We want to continue that. I love that there are twins, I love that there are sisters, and we’ve got another set of twins coming next year,” Teeters said. “We’ve got some players who have younger sisters, and I hope I can attract them to AU.”