The benchmark for a quality scorer in high school lacrosse is 100 career goals.
So what does it say about Jaelyn Bennett that she has nearly half that total— at age 13!
The Stuart County Day School freshman – whose intelligence allowed her to skip a grade in elementary school – led the Tartans with 48 goals and 15 assists this season, and she scored a career-high seven in her first Mercer County Tournament game against Robbinsville.
“I kind of surprised myself with my confidence,” Bennett said. “It’s interesting, because I skipped a grade when I was young I’ve always been a little bit younger than everyone in my grade. I also have a late birthday so that adds to it. But this year I’ve been able to step it up Coming in as a freshman and still working with my team has been really important in helping me get the goals. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the rest of my teammates.”
The Pennington resident has attended Stuart since her family moved to New Jersey from the Netherlands when she was in second grade. Veteran Stuart coach Missy Bruvik has watched her grow up and knew she was getting a good player this year.
“I’ve known her since she was young,” Bruvik said. “She’s always been a good athlete. She does track, she was on the basketball team. With all the time she’s spent with a lacrosse stick in her hand, and with all those other sports she plays, it helps make her a good player.”
Bennett’s father, Sean, was born in the lacrosse hotbed of Baltimore and actually played semi-pro. Is it any wonder that when Jaelyn was brought home from the hospital, there was already a lacrosse stick in her crib.
“It wasn’t as much a choice as it was ‘Here ya go, you’re gonna play lacrosse,’” Bennett said with a laugh. “If I didn’t like it, of course I would have had other options because I play multiple sports, but I love lacrosse and I’ve been playing it since I was a baby.”
Her career got put on hold as an infant when the family moved to the Netherlands. Although she did not play lacrosse in Europe, she was there long enough to learn Dutch. That didn’t help much when they moved back to America.
“I was fluent in Dutch along with English,” Bennett said. “That was nice but it was interesting. Coming here I was looking for people to speak Dutch with, and it’s very globally useless. No one really spoke Dutch so I lost it very quickly after I got here.”
Exit Dutch, re-enter lacrosse.
She began playing with Sean in the backyard, and quickly joined the Princeton club program, where she remains to this day. At Stuart she abandoned basketball to run indoor track, and also does cross country. Watching her streak around the field, it’s obvious that track has helped with her speed.
“Definitely,” Bennett said. “I think dodging has really assisted my speed, but without speed I wouldn’t really be able to dodge at the frequency that I can, and I wouldn’t actually be able get open off of faceguards and cut into the middle and get assists.”
Bruvik feels the countless high-profile tournaments that Bennett has played in had her ready for high school lacrosse. She burst on the scene with hat tricks in each of her first two games and scored goals in the first 10 games of her career. She had consecutive nine-point games against Steinert and Lawrence, scoring five goals and four assists in each. During a stretch of seven games, she had five or more goals in six of them, and four in the other one.
While goal scoring is her forte’ Barrett will defend if need be.
“I’m an attacker but I can play anywhere my coach really needs me,” she said. “I’ve just been trained in all areas so I can adapt.”
Bruvik feels her wealth of big-time tournament experience combined with her natural ability has made her this good this fast.
“She’s got great stickwork, speed, knowledge of the game,” the coach said. “She’s been playing a long time at a solid level with kids and has been competing. She plays year round, she’s passionate about the game. She’s put in a lot of time and effort to be able to do what she does out here and we’re thrilled.”
Bennett credits her support system for a lot of what she does.
“I think our coach has been a big influence,” she said. “My dad has been huge for me because he has the experience and we have the tools at home. Any time I don’t have a good game, he can tell me what I need to work on and I can go out in the backyard and do it. But it’s definitely been the team’s hard work that’s helped me to improve my skills and leadership.”
When she’s not playing sports, Bennett likes to bake, and proudly notes that cheesecake is her traditional contribution to the family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. She also enjoys recreational photography, saying “I shoot mostly minimalist things, I think they’re very nice. Also nature; just a lot of things that are pleasing to the eye. “
That will remain a hobby, however, as she already has a career goal.
“I’m more interested in medicine,” Bennett said. “I’ve wanted to be a surgeon for most of my life.”
Hey, if you can score nearly 50 goals at age 13, you’re certainly old enough to want to be a surgeon.