Hampton’s Stennett returns to girls lacrosse after missing month with concussion

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Saturday, May 8, 2021 | 9:01 AM


April Fool’s Day was no joke for Hampton lacrosse player Jillian Stennett.

The senior midfielder suffered a concussion when she fell to the frozen turf and hit the back of her head in the Talbots’ second game of the season, a 17-6 victory at Butler in an April 1 snowstorm.

The unpredictable injury left her sidelined for four weeks, before she finally was cleared to return to practice April 30.

“I thought it was going to be like a week, and it ended up being a month,” Stennett said at her second practice, on May 3. “I just had to wait.”

Stennett, an IUP recruit, made her return to action with three goals in the Talbots’ 20-7 senior night victory over Winchester Thurston on Wednesday, May 5.

She said she felt “really good” at her initial practice, other than being a bit nervous for the first physical contact.

“I flinched a little, but I’ll get used to it,” she said. “It’s a little scary at first.”

Hampton coach Kelsey Viets said the team trainers will continue to monitor Stennett.

“I’m not sure about the starting lineup, but she will definitely get a lot of playing time so we can see how she feels and see how she recovers,” Viets said. “We’ve got to go day-by-day. … I told her to be patient. We have a lot of season left, and the most important season is the postseason for her right now.”

Stennett’s return is a boost for Hampton, which is 8-0 in Section 1-AA and headed to the WPIAL playoffs for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons. The Talbots, who won WPIAL titles in 2017-18 and lost in the 2019 finals, close out section play at Indiana on May 10. The WPIAL playoffs are scheduled to begin May 17.

Stennett scored 44 goals as a sophomore and opened this season with five goals against Bethel Park, her only full game before the injury. She plays lacrosse year-round and was selected for the U19 Western Pa. team in the U.S. National Tournament.

“We are so thankful to have her back,” Viets said. “Going into the season, Jillian was our starting center, which is a critically important position. Not only from setting up the draw and helping us win draw control, but overall they are the person directing a lot of the traffic.

“Having her go out early, we had to completely change our game plan. It took us a couple tries to figure out who was working really well.”

In Stennett’s absence, senior Liv Bianco, an all-section basketball player in her first full season of lacrosse, stepped in at midfield. Freshman Megan Murray, another all-section basketball player, also helped fill the void.

Stennett’s eagerness to return was amplified because the pandemic took away her junior season. She had never suffered a concussion before and grew frustrated with its lingering, fickle symptoms. She would feel “perfectly fine” during the day, only to develop headaches later on. She started going to physical therapy to combat her dizziness, which helped. All told, the intermittent headaches lasted about three weeks.

“It’s definitely better now,” she said.

Hampton played well in Stennett’s absence, winning its first seven section games without her by a combined score of 125-24.

Now Stennett rejoins a midfield that includes Kent State-bound senior Megan Cook, who scored seven goals in the May 5 win over Winchester Thurston to give her 63 this season and break the school record of 61 set by Caroline Larkin in 2017.

Stennett will provide another scoring threat and is relieved to be back after a maddening helplessness during her month-long absence.

“I was very sad at first,” she said. “It was frustrating. You just want to go in so bad and help (your team). They can do it (without me), but you know what I mean. You just want to go in so bad.”

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