When Oriana (Ord to most people) Johnson was younger, there was rarely a time where she wasn’t competing in a sport or activity that she enjoyed. She ran track, skated with her older sister Mac, dabbled in diving, soccer, gymnastics, and basketball all while looking for that one sport she could truly excel at.
“I just love sports and competition,” Johnson said about her array of sports participation growing up. I never knew which sports to play because I enjoy them all. Tennis and Volleyball are the two sports I haven’t had a chance to play but they both look like fun.”
In eighth grade, a new sport—lacrosse– became available to girls at Monticello and Ord couldn’t resist giving it a shot. While the sport was not huge in Minnesota (yet), it was quickly gaining popularity, swiftly moving across the nation from the east coast.
“I decided to go to a few Captain’s practices and quickly fell in love with the sport,” Johnson said about her experience with lacrosse. “That summer I tried out for the Minnesota Elite Lacrosse Team and made the top team. Being on the Minnesota Elite team allows me to play lacrosse against some great competition across the U.S.”
As the Monticello junior made her way across the nation, schools started following her as well, beginning the college recruiting process for Johnson earlier than most of her fellow classmates. While the decision of picking a future college can be exciting, it can also come with a lot of stress.
“The recruiting process was super exciting but also super stressful at times,” Johnson said. “We traveled to tournaments across the U.S., toured many campuses and talked to a lot of coaches. The last two summers I spent going to camps and touring campuses with my parents. In the end, I had to make a decision that was the best academic and athletic fit for me.”
Back at Monticello, Oriana continued to shine on the field, trying to rub off some of her knowledge of the sport onto her teammates, some of who have never played before. She listened to coaches Jenna Kurka (head Varsity coach), Lori Welch (assistant Varsity coach) and Autum Kowalke (Junior Varsity coach) while also trying to be a leader.
“Every year at tryouts there are many new players and I get the chance to share my experience and knowledge of the game with them as best as I can,” Johnson said. “The coaching staff is so supportive and upbeat. They help the team and myself to stay positive and enjoy every minute of our short season.”
Finally, the time came where Ord thought she should decide about where she would potentially play in college. Concordia-St. Paul (MN), St. Francis (PA), Robert Morris (PA) and American University (D.C.) were all talking with Johnson when she got a phone call from Meg Decker, the new girls lacrosse coach from Hartford (CT).
“When coach Decker called me and invited me to tour the campus, she sounded so inspirational and upbeat, I had to go,” Johnson said.
Alongside her mom Annette, Ord toured Hartford, a school which would be starting girls lacrosse in the 2017-18 season. The school also has a good reputation for its engineering program, something that Johnson has a strong desire in pursuing in college. All the pieces started to fit together.
“It’s small, but not too small,” Johnson said. “I met with the Dean of Engineering, the Athletic Director, and attended a men’s basketball game. Everyone I met made me feel welcome. Everything about it felt right.”
Oriana talked the decision over with her family, especially her sister Mac who is Oriana’s role model. Mac plays college hockey and has had the experiences of seeing college recruiting first hand.
“She has always taught me to push myself past my limits and never give up,” Johnson said about her sister. “In college, she continues to work hard at maintaining straight A’s while being a valuable member of her hockey team. I think growing up with Mac and watching how successful she is has been really inspiring for me.”
On December 28th, 2016, Ord sent out a tweet for coach Decker and the rest of the world to see announcing her college decision. The grueling process was done. Oriana Johnson was no longer on the recruiting trail.
“Excited to announce my commitment to continue my education and play division 1 lacrosse at the University of Hartford! #gohawks” read the tweet that Oriana sent over winter break last year.
Johnson will meet some of her lacrosse teammates this summer at a camp which will allow her to build relationships with girls who will be her teammates for 3-4 years. While some of them will be part of the inaugural 2017-18 team, Johnson will be watching from the sidelines knowing she is just one year away from jumping on the field and making a difference for a program that will be ready to make a push in the American East Conference.
“It has been fun to see Ord grow and develop into the D1 player over the course of her career,” Magic girls lacrosse head coach Jenna Kurka said. “It is a true testament to how hard she has worked during the off-season to see where she is at now. Ord leads by example out on the field as she plays with passion and determination. We are so excited to continue to watch her succeed beyond Monticello.”
For now, Johnson will continue wearing that Monticello red, helping the Magic lacrosse team that is 4-3 as of this post. The team has high aspirations, not only for this season, but for 2017-18 when Johnson is a senior.
“Our motto this year is ‘unfinished business,’” Johnson said. “We felt our season was cut short last year and want to come back stronger than ever this season. I think we have the ability to go far this year. I want to become the best lacrosse player I can be. I’ve only been playing lacrosse for three years and I have so much more to learn.”