Herne’s lacrosse roots help lead Bengals


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Freshman attacker Alanna Herne led the Bengals in points (73) and goals (42), on way to being named second team All-SUNYAC.

Dan Almasi, Sports Editor

Premier athletes are often a product of the culture they were brought up in. Whether it be the All-American quarterback brought up in a football family with a father who played college ball or the star hockey player who had an ice rink in their back yard when they were four and a dad who coached their peewee team, an athlete’s upbringing often defines their entire career.

Freshman lacrosse player Alanna Herne is an All-American in her own right. Native, that is.

This summer, Herne will travel to Scotland to play for the 18 and under girls’ Iroquois National Team. She made the final all-Native 18-woman roster out of a group of nearly 60 tryouts and will compete against many different countries. She has been practicing monthly in Syracuse for the overseas competition.

In some areas of the country where the entire community turns out to rally around the high school football teams on Friday nights, they’ll tell you football is like a religion; it’s part of their culture. In Native American culture, lacrosse is an integral part of their culture as well, but it isn’t just like a religion; it’s a huge part of their religion.

“We play for our culture and we play for the Creator,” Herne said. “That’s the main reason we play, is to give him happiness.”

Herne learned to play lacrosse at a very young age from her father, Scott Herne, who played college lacrosse at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake, NY, and her cousins.

“My dad was probably my biggest inspiration in lacrosse,” Herne said. “My dad was my coach throughout my younger years. He taught me everything I know. Lacrosse is like my whole culture pretty much. It was definitely how I bonded with my family.”

After being recruited to play basketball at Buffalo State, Herne opted to play lacrosse, walked on and finished her freshman campaign as the team’s leading scorer in points (72) and goals (47), figures which landed her in the top of the conference scoring leaderboard as well. Herne was tied for third in points and was seventh in goals in the SUNYAC at the end of the regular season.

She accomplished all of this her freshman year despite having not played organized lacrosse in over a year, not knowing many of the college lacrosse rules and feeling physically unprepared going into the season.

“Coming in freshman year, I didn’t really know where my body had to be,” Herne said. “I was definitely out of shape coming into the season.”

The box lacrosse Herne was used to playing was much more physical and less regulated.

“I wasn’t familiar with all the rules,” Herne said. “There’s offside and you can’t cross across the body. Like in box, I would hit a girl, or just crosscheck them.”

Herne played for the Buffalo Lacrosse Academy the summer after her junior year in high school, but that was the last time she had played organized lacrosse before stepping onto Coyer Field over a year later.

Of all the disadvantages Herne had as a freshman player who had very limited field lacrosse experience, the advantage of being exposed to lacrosse at a young age outshined them.

“Any time you have a student athlete who’s been playing that much longer, they’re obviously going to have an advantage,” head coach Lindsay Abbott said. “I realized the potential she had the first day I saw her play. I knew that she was going to be something special for us her first year.

“She can see those cuts and I think playing in the box game she played in beforehand, she was playing in tighter quarters. Even when we’re in tight with our offense, she’s still able to see some of those cuts that some of the other athletes don’t.”

Herne was playing in a 16 and under Ontario box lacrosse league when she was just nine.

She excelled on the basketball court as well and was named the Tonawanda News Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year and was a Buffalo News All-WNY Honorable Mention her senior year after leading Tonawanda High School to their first sectional title in program history, when they beat Wilson here at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.

A versatile and talented athlete, Herne also played softball and soccer in high school, and played hockey for the Buffalo Bisons. But of all the sports Herne played and shined in, she always held lacrosse closest to her heart.

Herne had the option to play both lacrosse and basketball for Buffalo State, but chose to focus solely on lacrosse.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Herne said, “because if I had chosen to play basketball and lacrosse, I don’t think I would have done as well at lacrosse.”

Herne led the Bengals to a 4-12 record in she and Abbott’s first year with the program. Buffalo State secured the sixth and final playoff berth, but fell to Geneseo in the quarterfinals, 12-3.

Senior teammate Meghan Farrell, who has been with the program for four years, had never seen a freshman realize such success.

“[Herne] coming in and being that good was surprising” Farrell said. “She has a strong work ethic and she really loves the sport. She’s very hard to stop for other teams. She can shoot from anywhere.”

With seven graduating seniors including Farrell, Herne looks to step up into a leader role her sophomore year.

“I definitely want to be better in playoffs,” Herne said. “The whole mental and personal part of the game with my teammates is what matters the most. I want to be able to take the team together to the playoffs, and not just make the playoffs, but do well in the playoffs.”

Set aside the mediocre record and this season is telling of a bright future for Buffalo State women’s lacrosse. The team made their first post-season appearance since 2012, Abbott should see improvement with a year under her belt at head coach and Herne looks to be a force for seasons to come.

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