Courtney Kirk will never forget the day she met Ally Carey.
Kirk had been playing lacrosse since she was 6 years old. Carey had started in the fourth grade. The two met in the sixth grade, as they played together on the same club team — coached by Kirk’s mother.
Before the first practice, Kirk looked up to see a new girl walking up with an older stick, different than the more common plastic sticks. Kirk was puzzled but quickly realized it didn’t matter what type of equipment Carey was using.
“She had a wooden stick end, which is really old school. ... We were all like ‘Who is this girl with the stick?’ She had unbelievable stick skills from the first day,” Kirk said. “It was amazing to see. We kind of had a chemistry right off the bat.”
Years later, nothing has changed.
The junior duo from the Baltimore area leads 19th-ranked Vanderbilt into the American Lacrosse Conference tournament this weekend, which begins Thursday at Vanderbilt and runs through Saturday.
On Tuesday, Carey was named to the ALC first team. Not far behind, on the second team was Kirk.
The pair has been inseparable since arriving at Vanderbilt. They have been roommates since freshman year. In warm-ups on the day of games, they swap jerseys. And on the field, they have a knack for finding each other.
“Our chemistry has really shone throughout the field,” Kirk said. “She is one of my best friends.”
The friendship really has deepened in college, though. They knew each other from club lacrosse and played at different high schools that competed in the same league.
The day after Kirk committed to Vanderbilt, Carey did the same. It wasn’t by design but there was a sense of excitement that they would know someone 700 miles away from home.
“It was really cool,” Carey, who is one of 11 players from Maryland on Vanderbilt’s roster, said. “We were good friends. We were close but we weren’t like those best friends that would get annoyed with each other if they were together for another four years. ... I think we were just looking at the same school, trying to figure out what we wanted. We ended up in the right place. I think we are both extremely happy with our decision.”
Vanderbilt has definitely benefited.
Offensive-minded Kirk leads the team with 50 points and 27 assists, to go along with 23 goals.
Carey is a two-time all-conference midfielder and was named a nominee for the Tewaarton Award, which is given annually to the top men’s and women’s lacrosse player in the country. The All-American leads the conference in caused turnovers (31) and ground balls (54) — equivalent to a steal — and is second in draw controls (52). She is also second on the team in goals (27) and third in assists (11) and points (38).
“Ally is just one of the most tremendous athletes I have ever coached,” Vanderbilt’s 13th-year head coach Cathy Swezey said. “Two things I think maybe set her apart from a lot of people is her incredible athletic ability is combined with amazing humility. She just believes that what makes her better is being around teammates that want to help carry the weight. She is not the kind of kid that wants to be the center stage.”
Together, Kirk and Carey hope to propel Vanderbilt (8-7, 1-4) into the NCAA Tournament. The Commodores begin the ALC tournament against Ohio State at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Even if they win the conference tournament, they are not guaranteed a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
But if the Commodores do reach the postseason, expect Carey and Kirk to be right in the thick of Vanderbilt’s run.
“Just being so close makes us know where each other is going to be. ... I know I can pass it to her and she’ll catch anything I throw to her,” Carey said. “It is that confidence that we have with each other that is really nice.”