By Dalton Ray–
Lacrosse’s Hannah Koloski came to Louisville with the expectations of any other player in her class: to one day contribute to the team’s success. Three years later, Koloski ranks top 10 in program history in goals and points.
“Coming in as a freshman, I shouldn’t have thought this, but I thought that I might not play until a couple years in. I had no idea (my career) was going to turn out like this. I owe it all to the coaches and university,” Koloski said. “Looking back, I wouldn’t have ever imagined this at all. I was just a girl coming out of Minnesota.”
Growing up in Lakeville, Minnesota, Koloski played nearly any sport she could come in contact with. The senior tried gymnastics, softball and hockey but found her passion in lacrosse.
Koloski said her path to U of L was lucky and she couldn’t have found a better home.
“I was fortunate enough to play for a club team in Minnesota, so that got me more exposure I needed,” Koloski said. “Luckily U of L pursued me and I just fell in love. Nothing compares to (Louisville).”
As a freshman, Koloski experienced a casual season with 12 games played and four goals. During the year, Koloski immediately realized how tough playing against this level of competition would be and admitted the program was intimidating at first.
Koloski soon shook off the fear of the big lights and her nonchalant freshman season would be her only underwhelming year.
During her sophomore year, the Minnesota native started all 18 games and bolstered her goal scoring from four to a team-high 51. A 47-goal swing wasn’t expected by the casual outsider, but Koloski saw the writing on the wall.
“Going in sophomore year, I had an idea of what my role would be. I had a lot of confidence going into my sophomore year so I was able to show up,” Koloski said.
The confidence Koloski began to develop during year two is something she wished she had in her first season as a Cardinal. In the later half of her freshman season, Koloski finally started to espy her potential.
“I wish I didn’t play so reserved my freshman year. It took me a little bit to break out of my shell and find that purpose. I didn’t realize how good I was at taking the ball to the net until I started beating some of our better defenders,” Koloski said. “I started getting (positive) feedback from teammates, especially from older ones and the people I looked up to.”
One of the team’s leaders, Koloski mentors the underclassmen who are going through the same things she went through.
Coach Kellie Young can be an intimidating and demanding coach. Young’s demeanor and expectations shaped Koloski into the person she is today.
“(Young) has taught me how to take feedback and be coachable. Sometimes I’m a little hard-headed and get in my own head. She has taught me that I have potential and in order for me to get better, I’m going to have to work hard and listen to what she has to say. That’s going to take me everywhere in life: being able to take feedback, being coachable, learning from my mistakes,” Koloski said.
Koloski admits some people struggle to adjust to Young’s coaching style more than others, but said she wouldn’t nearly be the player she is without Young.
“(Young) is just so driven and passionate about the sport. That rubs off on to everyone,” Koloski said. “As hard as it gets sometimes, it has pushed me and helped me.”
One of Koloski’s biggest attributes is her speed. With the ball in her hands, Koloski is a threat to blow by any defender and penetrate the net. The senior is a headache to opposing coaches and a nightmare for opposing players.
“Once I started playing lacrosse, I was able to run end-to-end in youth (leagues). I was proud of it, but coming into college I expected to be matched up against other fast people,” Koloski said. “As time went on, I was doing what I did when I was younger, just running past people. It’s nice to know it translated to college.”
With her final regular season winding down, Koloski is on track to have her best year ever. Currently, she leads the NCAA with goals, 53, and free-position goals. Her 22 free position goals is already a program high for a season. Koloski is also on pace to crack the top 10 in season-high categories goals and shots on goal.
As a senior, Koloski has thrived after adjusting to opposing teams scouting her. This is one reason for her career-best season.
“(I’ve overcome) teams scouting me. Early double teams and facing guarding, I really struggled with that sophomore and junior year. I was the most emotional person and I would always let it take me out of the game,” Koloski said. “This year, luckily, it’s been a lot different. We have plays that allow me to get out of (double teams and face guarding) or help me contribute in other ways.”
Of her 50 games started to date, Koloski has scored in 46. Koloski currently has 147 career goals and is eight away from passing former teammate Cortnee Daley for fifth all-time.
“I don’t want to take anything for granite at all. I want to win so bad these last few games to extend our season as long as possible. I want to get to the tournament and make it farther than we ever have,” Koloski said. “All of it is very bittersweet.”
As she nears the end her Cardinal career, Koloski looks to her freshman year as one of her favorite seasons. U of L got to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, a record for the program. Away from the field, Koloski will remember the small details.
“I will remember the small things. The trips we’ve taken, like when we saw Niagara Falls. The fun experiences the coaches have made for us when we’re on a road game. Even just bus trips, laughing and playing games with each other. Little things like that are some of my favorite memories,” Koloski said.
A biology major, Koloski is a veteran when it comes to handling the student-athlete life. One of the most important things Koloski has learned is to have an escape from school and athletics. For Koloski, her outlet is drawing and spending time with friends.
Koloski will go down as one of the most lethal offensive players in Louisville history. Koloski said she is lucky to be at this university and a part of this program. The differences between Louisville and other schools is evident when the team hits the road.
“The pride, the atmosphere, the faculty, the academic help is all just different here. You step on campus here and it’s like nowhere else,” Koloski said. “When we go to other schools, it just doesn’t compare. We’re so fortunate here. It’s unbelievable and I’m very grateful.”
Photo Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal