Jaylen Rosga first picked up a lacrosse stick in fourth grade with a St. Paul program.
It was not love at first handle.
“I think my first day of practice, I cried,” Rosga said. “It’s not an easy sport to start as a fourth grader, because you’re like, ‘(the ball) won’t stay in my stick. What am I supposed to do?’ ”
But the Rosgas family has a policy: If you commit to something, you fulfill that commitment. So there would be no during a season. Love it or hate it, Jaylen was going to stick with it.
Then she fell in love with it. Rosga realized lacrosse was a combination of all of her sports — basketball, cross country and soccer — and found it to be the perfect fit.
“It’s amazing when you can catch the ball, how much more fun something is,” said her mom, Julie.
Jeff Rosga still remembers his daughter crying that first day.
“Fast forward, and it looks a little bit different,” he said. “You just don’t know where it might take you and where it might lead. … It’s been, certainly, a blessing where she’s been able to take her skills in lacrosse.”
Now a junior at Henry Sibley, Rosga tallied 71 goals and 47 assists for the Henry Sibley-Gentry Academy Warriors co-op team this season. Not only is the midfielder one of the top recruits in the country, she is the Pioneer Press East Metro girls lacrosse player of the year.
“She has the ‘it’ factor,” said Jeff Rosga, who also is the Warriors’ head coach. “She’s one of those kids that can make everyone else better, as well as she can thrive in the moment. It’s something that’s really difficult; you can’t teach that.”
That special trait is likely one of the many reasons Maryland — the premier program in women’s college lacrosse — wasted no time reaching out to Rosga when the Terps were allowed to do so. Rosga received an email at midnight on the dot the night her recruitment opened.
The Terrapins have played in 27 Final Fours since 1984 — including 11 straight from 2009-19 — winning 14 national championships.
Rosga is believed to be the first Minnesotan to be recruited to an East Coast power. Usually, those programs don’t cross over time zones. But that’s something you do for a player this good.
This all after Rosga tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus in July 2019, a devastating setback. Her recovery took 12 months, instead of the expected 10.
During her recovery, Rosga’s mom and sister posted inspirational quotes all over the wall of Jaylen’s bedroom. Rosga said her family — flush with impressive athletic credentials, with Julie playing basketball at Syracuse, Jeff playing football for the Gophers and her older brother, Joe, playing basketball for Denver University — is very into quotes and inspirational motivation tactics.
Rosga continued to push forward. She was determined to return to action. When she finally did last summer, she was as good as ever.
“When I did come back, I was 110 percent,” she said “I felt like I didn’t miss a beat, and I was stronger than I’d ever been.”
Next to all those quotes on Rosga’s wall is a bulletin board filled with her dreams and aspirations, ranging from winning a national title at Maryland to competing in the 2028 Olympic Games.
What’s likely going up next is a date: June 10, 2021. That’s the day the Warriors dropped a one-goal heartbreaker to Rosemount in the section final.
In some ways, that might be Jeff’s favorite memory from the season, only because the Warriors trailed by four at one point, and continued to battle back. Jaylen, who was face-guarded in the final two section games, kept her composure and continued to make all the right plays.
Those are the types of things that make a coach, and a dad, particularly proud.
Still, the loss stings. As if Jaylen needed any additional motivation, she has some now.
Lauren Distad, senior midfielder, Roseville: George Mason commit scored 66 goals — 59 percent of the Raiders’ production.
Emily Moes, sophomore midfielder, Lakeville South: Moes has 72 goals and 22 assists while controlling the game for the state-bound Cougars.
Taiva Reinertson, senior midfielder, Apple Valley/Burnsville: Liberty commit had 69 goals and 16 assists this season.
Lorelai VanGuilder, senior midfielder, Hill-Murray: Marquette commit has 55 goals and 23 assists for state-bound Pioneers.
Lindsay Wirfs, junior goalie, Lakeville South: Navy commit is allowing just six goals a game, stopping 55 percent of the shots she faced.