Liberty Flames Women’s lacrosse junior dominates across several sports
Featured Photo: KJ Jugar | Liberty News Service
Lady Flames Junior Jenna Joyal has grown familiar with sports throughout her life due to having three athletic brothers.
“Sports were the thing to do,” Joyal said. “I think I’ve pretty much tried every sport.”
Joyal excelled at lacrosse, diving and field hockey in her time at Canterbury Preparatory School in New Milford, Connecticut, and committed to Liberty University on scholarship for lacrosse in 2016. But once she set foot on campus, she decided to undertake a challenge.
Joyal spent her freshman and sophomore years competing for the lacrosse team and the diving team, a rarity at the collegiate level. One would think that balancing a social life, two sports and her major of Interdisciplinary Studies would be exhausting.
However, Joyal said that balancing these commitments was not as stressful as it seems.
“I think it was easier in a sense because I knew I would be juggling more, so I had to stay focused,” Joyal said. “I had everyone behind me supporting me and helping in any way I needed.”
Swimming and diving coach Jake Shellenberger was one person who was behind Joyal. When Joyal expressed interest in joining the team in the 2016-17 season, Shellenberger was thrilled to accept her. The problem was Liberty did not have an official diving coach, team or sufficient facilities to accommodate a diving team at the time.
This hurts a swim team’s scoring at a meet. A team earns points through their placement in individual and team events, but if a team has no divers, they will automatically be in a 32-0 deficit. Joyal helped make up some of the deficit, and recorded team-best scores in one-meter and three-meter diving.
Joyal also earned CCSA Diver of the Week honors her freshman year and was one of Liberty’s top divers her two years on the team.
Shellenberger said even with little resources and her already intense workload, Joyal’s commitment to the diving team was remarkable.
“Her attitude about it was fantastic,” Shellenberger said. “She was always pleasant and always had a positive attitude. We wish she still wanted to do it.”
Joyal said she enjoyed her diving experience, but eventually she was maxed out from committing to both programs.
“Last year I don’t think I’ve ever missed out on more sleep,” Joyal said. “I was going from morning practices at 5 a.m. for lacrosse to classes, and then I had afternoon practices three days a week for diving.”
This season, Joyal fully committed to playing lacrosse, the sport she was recruited for. She is a terror on the attack, tallying 23 goals and 6 assists this season. In the Flames 21-6 rout of the Stetson Hatters, Joyal notched a hat trick to compliment three assists, a performance that helped her earn ASUN co-player of the week March 26.
Women’s lacrosse Coach Kelly Nangle said Joyal’s talent is amazing, but the intangibles she brings are equally important to the team.
“Jenna is a great teammate,” Nangle said. “She holds people accountable and she says what she has to say in practice. … She wants what’s best for the team all the time.”
The Flames currently sit atop the ASUN conference standings with a 9-2 record and riding a five-game win streak. Coach Nangle said this year’s squad has all the pieces to put together a historical run for the program.
“Our expectation is to win a (conference) championship,” Nangle said. “I think that’s said a lot of times in a lot of programs, but I think the difference with this group is they believe it. That’s how they are approaching every single game.”
Joyal said the team’s camaraderie will guide the team to success once the conference tournament begins.
“Were competitive, but we have the best sportsmanship,” Joyal said. “Our spirits never get down, and that keeps pushing us every day.