From Bighorns to Pilgrims, Dunkin to continue lacrosse at NCAA Division III school

When the program was first started six years ago, Kate Dunkin arrived and wanted to try a sport that hasn’t grown in popularity like the East Coast.

She started playing defense for three years before Lisa Swan needed a goalie during the middle of the season of her sophomore year. Kate Dunkin stepped in and rose to the challenge, becoming the goalie of the Oasis Academy Lady Bighorns lacrosse team, which finished one win shy of reaching the state tournament in 2019.

“She has always been confident, motivated, dedicated, fearless and very passionate about lacrosse,” Swan said. “When we needed a goalie, she stepped up with no hesitation.”

After providing a staple in the Bighorns defense during her sophomore and junior seasons, Dunkin will continue her lacrosse career at the next level at New England College in Henniker, N.H., this fall. Dunkin, whose senior season was cut short in the spring because of the pandemic, is the first Oasis Academy lacrosse player to sign a letter of commitment as she will compete for the Pilgrims at the NCAA Division III level.

“When deciding on whether or not to go to NEC, I decided based on the community,” Dunkin said. “When I visited, I loved the athletic community, but I also really loved the community on campus outside of athletics.”

Dunkin, who also received a scholarship to New England College, was looking forward to her senior season for several reasons. This year’s team had the experience and senior leadership to carry the Bighorns over the last obstacle and reach the state tournament of the High Sierra Lacrosse League. Dunkin’s biggest influence was her team.

“During my senior year, my goal was to finish strong. This team has been together a long time and I wanted to end this journey by improving as a player and helping my team take the next step,” she said. “Although we were unable to finish our season, I feel that as a player I have been able to continue to develop and grow. It wasn’t the ending we wanted but as a team, we have been able to work through it.”

The support from her team, and especially her family, helped guide Dunkin through her journey, both on the field and in the classroom.

“My family has always supported me through the ups and downs of my athletic and academic journey. Without their support I would not be where I am now,” Dunkin said. “I think knowing people are rooting for you helps you get back up and go again even when you don’t want to.”

Swan said her husband, Scott, and Dunkin worked early in the morning on top of the team’s scheduled practices during the season to improve her skill level and reaction time. Dunkin became one of the best goalies in the league, which is not affiliated with the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.

“Her self-motivation and tenacity allowed her to become one of the best goalies in the league,” Lisa Swan said. “Kate not only cares about her individual goals as a player but the goals of the team. She was a captain every year as she has a great work ethic, always gave 120% and has a charismatic way of inspiring others to work hard, work as a team and to not ever give up.”

Dunkin, who will study journalism and whose goal is to start during her first season, hopes that continuing to play lacrosse at the collegiate level will inspire her teammates that it’s possible to play a club sport in high school and make it to the next level.

“I think that lacrosse is, on the West Coast, such a little-known sport that I think a lot of people don’t see a future for it,” Dunkin said. “I hope that through this accomplishment others can see and look for these kinds of opportunities.”

But for those who don’t continue sports past high school, there are many benefits that Dunkin said students shouldn’t miss out on.

“I think that playing sports in high school helps you build a good work ethic and develop social skills,” she said. “Being a part of a team means you have to work with people and learning to work with people is an invaluable skill.”

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