Wallen shows unlimited potential as incoming lacrosse midfielder
One of the players with the greatest potential in Liberty University’s men’s lacrosse team’s 2022-23 recruiting class is Tanner Wallen, a midfielder who has only played the sport for three years. He has made tremendous strides since first picking up a stick in 2020, serving as captain of his Brookfield (Wisc.) High School team as a senior this past spring.
“When he came to his first recruiting showcase at Liberty (in 2021), it was only his second year of playing,” Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “The skills he exhibited were impressive, and as a coach you always get a little bit excited to find untapped potential in players, who can really grow into a position. I think he will continue to develop and increase those skills in the future at Liberty, where we will give him more opportunities to push himself. He is all-in, really dedicated to the sport, and I think he is going to find some success for us at a pretty early stage.”
Wallen, the youngest of eight siblings including three adopted from Taiwan and a fourth coming from China, hails from an athletic family. He has an older brother — one of four biological children of his adoptive parents Julie and Tim Wallen — who played football at Drake (Iowa) University and an older sister who swam at the University of Maryland.
“I came to the United States when I was 7, and it was definitely part of God’s plan, as was playing lacrosse, which led me to Liberty,” Wallen said. “I didn’t think (Liberty’s coaching staff) would want me to play there because I was so new to the sport, but all the players were super nice and welcoming, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to play there, as well as the Christian aspect of the school.”
He said the Flames’ players and coaches didn’t believe that it was his first year of playing lacrosse, but they demonstrated patience while continuing to raise the level of his game at the training camp.
“They were super helpful, both the players and coaches, and would explain things and encourage me when I messed up,” Wallen said. “I want to grow my faith while I’m at Liberty and surrounding myself with those kinds of people will definitely help.”
Wallen credits his high school and travel team coaches — including former Lynchburg College player Phil Petronelli, who coached his Alpha Premier national club team based in Milwaukee — as well as the pandemic, of all things, for making him the dynamic midfielder he is today.
“(Petronelli) wanted to put me on the national team right away and work with those guys because he knew I had the potential, and he was really the reason why I got into the club,” Wallen said. “Without all of those coaches, and without being quarantined by COVID, when I would train 6-8 hours per day, shooting in my yard, I definitely wouldn’t be as good as I am.”
Wallen grew up playing football, basketball, and golf up through his freshman year in high school, when he was captivated by lacrosse after watching a game between Army and Notre Dame on television.
“I was sitting there watching and thought, ‘This game is pretty cool,'” Wallen said. “‘It’s got all of my favorite sports mixed together.’ I was on the varsity golf team as a freshman, which was such a weird transition from playing such a physical sport as football. I picked up a lacrosse stick, and I haven’t put it down since.”
He decided to try his hand at box lacrosse — an indoor version of the sport played on a smaller field that results in more body checks — to utilize his athleticism and physicality.
“Box lacrosse is harder because everything is closer, but it helped a lot with my stick skills, and helped my vision, too,” Wallen said. “It definitely built my confidence and my strength.”
As a midfielder, he is capable of utilizing his stick skills to both finish and set up teammates’ scores.
“My playing style is a little different than most people,” Wallen said. “Everyone has their own style. The way I play is more creative, and I like to try new things. I will hold the stick one-handed, keeping it away from defenders, and hide it differently, as well as use a lot of spin moves.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer