Sewickley Academy lacrosse defender delivers important message about mental health

Saturday, July 15, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Lauren Retzlaff, a sophomore defender on the 2023 Sewickley Academy girls lacrosse team, will be campaigning for a serious cause during the upcoming school year.

The 17-year-old Retzlaff will serve as an ambassador for Morgan’s Message and plans to start a chapter at Sewickley in the fall.

Morgan’s Message is a nonprofit organization that supports motivated students to become active leaders and advocates of student-athlete mental health on their campus and in their communities.

Ali Grenert, Sewickley’s first-year girls lacrosse coach in 2022-23, will serve as the faculty supervisor of the Sewickley Academy chapter starting this fall.

“We are at the very beginning stages of bringing Morgan’s Message to Sewickley Academy,” Grenert said. “At this point, Lauren is the best person to ask about the club.”

Sounds like a plan. Retzlaff recently took a few moments to answer questions about the club.

How did you get involved with Morgan’s Message?

I initially stumbled upon the Morgan’s Message organization on Instagram and was super interested. I did some research and when I read more about Morgan, who the organization is dedicated to, I knew I wanted to be involved. I love how inclusive it is and how it involves high school, college, professional and former athletes.

What is Morgan’s Message and what role will you play for it this school year?

Morgan’s Message is an organization dedicated to Morgan Rodgers. Morgan was a lacrosse player at Duke. She suffered a season-ending knee injury during her sophomore season requiring her to need surgery and countless hours of rehabilitation. During this, she struggled with her mental health and self-worth. She suffered in silence until she ended her life by suicide. This sparked the idea for Morgans’s Message.

Morgans’s Message is an organization that strives to break the stigma around athlete mental health. It encourages athletes to speak up about struggles and get help. Overall, it is a support platform that normalizes talking about mental health in the athletic world.

Are any other Sewickley Academy students involved in the local program at this time? And if students are interested in becoming involved, how do they do that?

Currently, I am bringing this club to Sewickley Academy. There will be a club fair in the fall when school starts for anyone — athlete or not — to join Morgans’s Message. From there, we will have meetings and plan events often.

Are you involved in any other extracurricular activities or clubs at your school?

I am involved in the yearbook club, and I am the co-vice president of the service club. Outside of school, I’m a part of the Sewickley Valley Sitters babysitting organization.

When did you start playing lacrosse and have you always been a defensive specialist?

I started playing lacrosse when I was in third grade. My mom was a lacrosse player in college and coached my team. She has moved with me and has been my coach since then. She also was a defender, so I’m following in her footsteps.

(Lauren’s mother, Kim Retzlaff, competed in lacrosse at Middlesex High School followed by a career at Colgate.)

I have not always been a defender. I played midfield when I was younger. However, when I started playing travel lacrosse, my team needed defenders. I decided to step up and take one for the team. That is when I knew I loved defense. I have played defense since then which was fifth grade.

What drew you to the sport of lacrosse?

I play lacrosse because it has always brought me a lot of joy. It has always been an outlet for me, and I’ve met such amazing people through it. I have made great friends and had amazing coaches and mentors. Overall, it’s a fun sport with a great social aspect as well.

What are your early expectations for next year’s girls lacrosse team at Sewickley?

We will be very small (numbers-wise) and also young. We’ve lost seven seniors, which was around half our team. We hope to do some recruiting in the offseason. Although we’ll be young, we do have some very talented players who have a lot of experience inside school lacrosse and outside school lacrosse. Our returning players all have very good chemistry and friendship on and off the field, which will be the key to having a good (2024) season. We are all determined to have an even better season next year and are really looking forward to it.”

Retzlaff’s sophomore season unfortunately was wrecked by injuries.

She missed the first part of the season due to two concussions she received in April and October of 2021.

“The moment she was cleared to play — a very exciting moment for our team — she started and played the entire game,” Grenert said. “She is the last person I would want to defend me if I were on the field.”

The Panthers traveled to Canon-McMillan on May 1 to play a section game with the Big Macs. The 5-foot-8 Retzlaff suffered an injury that forced her to the bench for the rest of the season.

“I suffered a season-ending Achilles injury,” she said. “Unfortunately, I had been dealing with this injury the whole season.

“I previously had a severe 18-month-long concussion, and when I was cleared from that, I jumped very fast into lacrosse. I was so excited to be playing with and contributing to the team again. I played in a few games and pushed through the pain until that game when I realized I was truly injured.”

Grenert described Retzlaff as a team player who, along with seniors Claudia Kronk and Gwen Belt, will lead the Sewickley defense next season.

“Lauren is resilient,” Grenert said. “She is one of our strongest defenders and earned the nickname ‘The Wall,’ as she has an uncanny ability to stop her opponents from entering the critical scoring area. There is no point trying to roll the crease when Lauren is defending you. You will be shut out, completely.

“Lauren is a team player. And she is crucial on transitions. The moment Kaitlyn Hayden, our goalie, makes a save and looks up the field to clear, Lauren is wide open in the midfield asking for the ball. Lauren has excellent stick skills, and her teammates trust her.”

Grenert said Retzlaff’s dedication to the sport sets her apart from other players.

“Lauren is very committed to lacrosse,” Grenert said. “You can usually find her practicing at the wall, fine tuning her passing, catching, throwing and overall reaction time.”

Prior to the start of the 2024 lacrosse season, Retzlaff hopes to continue an injury-riddled basketball career with the Panthers.

“I have been out the past two seasons due to concussions,” she said.

And prior to basketball season, Retzlaff will start her reign as a Morgan’s Message ambassador.

Morgan’s Message is structured around an ambassador system.

The organization was started via the establishment of chapters with volunteer student-athlete ambassadors on high school and collegiate campuses.


More High School Lacrosse

Hampton girls lacrosse rallies to salvage season
‘Magic’ Miles Halter lifts Mt. Lebanon to back-to-back WPIAL Class 3A boys lacrosse titles
After 3 straight near misses, Mt. Lebanon girls capture WPIAL Class 3A lacrosse crown
Mars downs Chartiers Valley to repeat as WPIAL Class 2A girls lacrosse champs
What to watch for in WPIAL sports on May 23, 2024: North Allegheny out to regain boys volleyball crown