On the lacrosse field at County College of Morris (CCM), something truly unique is taking place on the men’s team. However, you probably wouldn’t even notice it if you watched a game.
And that’s just the way the Titans want it.
That’s because to her teammates and her coaches, the only thing that sets goalie and co-captain Khelsae Andican, of Mountain Lakes, apart is her leadership qualities and dedication, not her gender.
“She’s proved herself above and beyond most of the other players and is willing to do things other won’t,” says head coach Todd Cieri, of Morris Plains. “It’s what’s in your heart; it’s that toughness that you have. She does not get any preferential treatment, performs all of the drills and is respected as much as our other captains, Christian Gutowski and Eric Sarrel.”
The toughness Cieri alludes to is something Andican has displayed since her days at Mountain Lakes High School, when she broke her back between her sophomore and junior years while cliff jumping on vacation in Tennessee. Andican had to miss the soccer season that year, but was able to make it back for lacrosse.
“I knew I’d make a full recovery,” she says. “The whole time I had full range of motion. I did the physical therapy necessary and wore a back brace for three months.”
Her CCM experience is similar to her middle school days, when she played on boys teams from grades 6-8. She said she chose to play on those teams because she believed the experience was more fun.
As a Titan, one way Andican has shown her leadership skills is by switching positions. Traditionally an attack on offense, this year she took over in goal to allow the team’s former goalie, Paul Bokun, to play attack, where he adds a left-handed shot and an offensive spark.
Andican’s first game in goal was a victory over the College of Southern Maryland, a double-overtime victory on March 5. Cieri believes it may be the first time in collegiate history a men’s team won with a female in goal.
“When I first had women come on the team, I wanted to educate myself,” he says. “I found one other woman who played in Louisiana, I believe for a Division II school. She said the guys on the team were fine, but the coach just wasn’t playing her. She ended up getting an internship somewhere and felt it was best for her to pursue that. So, to my knowledge, last year Khelsae and Sarah (Majerscak) were the only two females to complete a full season. And now, for Khelsae to play in goal, make some good saves, and win after four quarters and two overtimes, that’s historic.”
Carli Vieldhouse was the first female to join last year, but ultimately decided not to complete the season and ended up joining the CCM basketball team this winter. Andican and Majerscak joined the team soon after Vieldhouse. Andican decided to join after learning from lacrosse player Derek Zacatenco that there was a team on campus. She says she would have tried out even if there hadn’t already been a woman on the squad. She also says she never found any resistance from her male teammates.
“They are totally accepting and ready to follow my lead,” the co-captain says. “They don’t question anything.”
The second-year student-athlete has also enjoyed her time as a criminal justice major, and is the president of the Criminal Justice Club at CCM. Her goal is to someday work for a federal agency. “Any three-letter organization,” she says.
Andican says joining the Titans lacrosse team has made her feel at home at CCM.
"It’s the best decision I’ve made,” she says. “I know I can find someone to spend time with if I have a break between classes. I can pretty much go anywhere and have a friend there. It makes school better.”
# # #Photo: County College of Morris (CCM) lacrosse player Khelsae Andican stands with head coach Todd Cieri. Khelsae is holding a traditional wooden lacrosse stick that serves as a rivalry trophy for regular season games against Union County College (UCC). UCC is coached by former CCM head coach Jay Roussey.