In 2017, Connor Kelly became one of the most dominant players in college lacrosse. His wicked shot placement, consistency and overall calmness on the field has allowed him to become one of the top players in the country. Last spring, he was a crucial contributor during Maryland’s run to win the national championship for the first time in 42 years. LaxWeekly was fortunate to talk to Kelly after his busy fall ball season.
Kelly has worked hard during his college career to become a leader for his team. Now as a senior, he is driven to give everything he can on and off the field so his teammates can continue to succeed. Even though Kelly was a first team All-American last year, he was playing in a system with great senior leaders who helped him get to where he is today. Now that they have graduated, Kelly has taken initiative to fill that leadership role. “Over the fall I’ve definitely developed as a leader. With my role changing, I’m trying to focus on the team aspect of things more.”
This fall has been different than Kelly’s previous two years at Maryland. Instead of the usual chip on their shoulder, Maryland is now the reigning champion in division one lacrosse. “We reached our goal last spring, and now we have to get back to the drawing board to get even better because that’s what the other teams around the country are doing.” Maryland seems to be performing well so far in this new position. During fall ball, they showed fire and grit when Maryland lost by one goal to team USA. During that contest, Kelly played for his college team, but he has also been involved with team USA this fall.
As a member of the training roster for team USA, Kelly has been able to play with his lacrosse heroes. “It has been surreal. They are unbelievable talents and can make any play happen at any time.” Kelly is one of three current college players on the 49-man roster. There have been three training sessions so far with one more to follow in January. “Talking to them about the game and where they think it’s headed has been very insightful.”
When I asked Kelly where he sees lacrosse in the future, he talked about how lacrosse has already spread to many non-hot bed areas in the past few years. “In the last 10 years, lacrosse has grown a ton in places like California, Utah, Texas, Georgia and Florida. So many people are starting to realize the doors that lacrosse can open not only in high schools and middle schools but colleges as well.” In the next 10 years, Kelly hopes that the game can continue to grow in more areas, and that more colleges will be able to add NCAA lacrosse to their athletic programs.
Right now, college lacrosse has the largest fan base but after being around the MLL players, Kelly thinks that the MLL will grow its presence in the next few years. “I know the guys are taking it really seriously. They are trying to step their game up to make the MLL better.” The awesome group of players currently in the MLL have a lot of influence on the sport, and with their help the league can reach its full potential.
To continue to get better individually, Kelly says his favorite thing to do is to shoot with one of his teammates. “I try to shoot as much as I can with a partner. This allows me to get better while also making the guys on my team better as well.” It can sometimes be hard for Kelly to find time to shoot in between classes and practice but it pays off for him and the offense on the field.
When asked how he has been so successful to this point, Kelly credits his coaching staff and teammates. “I’ve been very blessed to play at the University of Maryland. I’m also blessed to play under coach Tilman, Reppert and Bernhardt. They are three awesome coaches, but more so, three awesome people. I would not be where I am today without my past and current teammates. They have all made my lacrosse experience great.”
We are excited to watch Kelly and his Maryland team in the spring as they work towards winning another Big 10 and national championship. We also hope to see him on the field during the world games this summer in Israel. Watching lacrosse is more fun with Connor Kelly on the field, and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for the future of lacrosse.