"30 Features in 30 Days". Former Lewis Mills soccer star Shannon Larkin makes jump to Division 1. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
There’s always an adjustment going from high school to college sports. The game is faster, the players bigger and better, and the stakes that much higher. For Lewis Mills graduate Shannon Larkin, moving from high school to Division I soccer at Hamden’s Quinnipiac University was a challenge she readily accepted.
“I definitely had to adjust to the speed of play going to Quinnipiac and playing Division I soccer,” the sophomore said this week. “Most girls were bigger than me, taller than me, and faster than me on and off the ball and I had to build strength and adjust to the speed of play quickly. I definitely improved on the ball, being more composed and playing quicker as I went from playing left back to center mid in college.”
She continued, “There always is some adjustment to make but luckily for me I found myself playing a lot right away. This gave me the chance to fully submerge myself in the game. I kind of just dove right in and hoped I could stay afloat and eventually it all worked out.”
Larkin has made that adjustment to big time college soccer just fine. She played in 14 games this season, starting five and was a key member of the Bobcats, although her starts were less than when she was a freshman (10).
“Shannon’s strength is her commitment and physicality, which has helped her in training and games,” said Bobcats’ head coach Dave Clark. “She needed to improve her composure in possession of the ball and she has done that. She tended to do things at 100 miles an hour, but she has started to change the speed of her play and it has helped her game.”
He continued, “Shannon was a starter last season and has been involved in most games this year, so she is an integral part of the team. She probably expected to kick on from her freshman year, but like most sophomores there was a bit of a drop off in her progress. The winter training program will really help her and I expect Shannon to have a strong junior season.”
Larkin, who scored one goal as a freshman for the Bobcats, was an All-State and All-Berkshire League player at Mills, helping to lead the Spartans to BL titles in 2008 and 2010 and the Class S state finals in 2010. She was a Berkshire League Scholar-Athlete and played for the Connecticut Football Club United team when it won state titles in 2010 and 2011.
Quinnipiac lost on Oct. 31 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament to Manhattan, 1-0, finishing 3-8-5 for the season.
“The season didn't go as well as we wanted it to in many ways, especially falling short at the MAAC championships,” said the 5-foot-2-inch Larkin. “We entered a new conference and that was a big adjustment to a new style of play against new teams.”
She said her season highlight was “when I ripped a one touch shot with my non-dominant right foot and the goalkeeper had to extend herself fully to tap it out. Though I didn't score it turned my team’s attitude around helping us to play much better in the game.”
Larkin said the speed of play at the college level is “incomparable” to high school.
“When I played in high school I played with some amazing athletes. In college they are all amazing athletes with the ability to play much quicker. Many of my Mills teammates are those athletes that will go on to play college soccer.”
Clark is expecting big things from Larkin.
“Shannon has the ability, potential, dedication and desire to be a starting player and one who plays almost every minute of the game. As a left footed player she provides balance to the team, and with continued hard work she can make the left back position her own for the next two years.”
He called Larkin “a great teammate and very committed to the team.” He added, "She wants every player to be successful. She is a great fan of the game and puts a lot of thought into how she and the team play and can improve. She is a good Division I student-athlete and a great representative of the program.”
Larkin began playing soccer when she was only four years old.
“I like to think I was good right away but when I watch the home videos of me playing I'm just the same as all the other players running in a herd to score goals! Soccer helps me to clear my mind. There is just something special about this sport where you can cross the line and become a different person for 90 minutes. It's pretty indescribable to be honest.”
Larkin, the daughter of Rich and Kim Larkin, said she will be keeping busy during the off-season, working on her cardio and lifting weights. “I’m also going to work on my footwork and keeping my head up to look for options around me.”
She said of her schoolwork, “Classes are good. I am in a hard semester right now in season with some of my hardest classes. I'm doing well but I'm stuck in the library a lot this semester. I really have to work hard for these classes for methods of psych research, abnormal psychology, and criminal justice.”
For relaxation, Larkin likes to do yoga.
“I also meditate a lot, which really helps me to clear my head. I also love watching movies with my roommate and best friends to unwind.”
She keeps in touch with her Mills teammates.
“I still see Paige (Marinelli, who is playing at Endicott College) one of the other captains every break from school. And I run into many other girls and catch up. Those girls were my family for four years so, of course, we are still close today.”
Shannon Larkin has made the jump from high school to Division I soccer, no easy feat. Now, she is poised to become an especially vital player for the Bobcats during the next two years.