SPARTA – Uma Kowalski thinks lacrosse is in her “family bloodline.”
Her grandfather, Jay Kowalski, played football and lacrosse at Rutgers. There were no lacrosse teams when her father, Kevin Kowalski, went to Sparta, but he played football, basketball and golf. Her cousin, Amanda Kowalski, played lacrosse at Sparta and Stevens Tech.
Uma Kowalski, a Sparta sophomore, scored her 100th career goal four minutes into a 10-8 home victory against Kinnelon on Saturday morning.
Coach Alex Takacs called timeout and the Spartans met at midfield to present Kowalski with a yellow game ball. She also received a commemorative poster after the game.
Check out the milestone video, then scroll down to read the rest of the story.
But Kowalski’s successful lacrosse career started as a bit of a fluke.
At a Sparta High School tricky tray fundraiser, family friend Karina Heim accidentally entered a drawing for a free week at Sparta’s girls lacrosse camp – even though she had sons and male nephews.
Of course, that was Heim’s only winning ticket. Kowalski got the benefits, playing for coach Kate Brennan, who founded the program, as well as former Spartans goalie and current head coach Alex Takacs.
Kowalski was only 5 years old, wearing a tennis skirt and carrying a stick far taller than she was. But her talent was obvious.
“She’s super athletic. She knows her job and gets it done,” Takacs said. “She just keeps growing and developing, harnessing new skills. … Yes, she puts the ball in the net, but she can also feed her team. She sees the field and can make smart plays.”
Kowalski played soccer and lacrosse growing up, balancing two club teams for four years, until she chose to focus on lacrosse year-round with STEPS. Also a midfielder on the soccer team, she has 18 goals and 17 assists as Sparta won NJSIAA North 1, Group 2 in her freshman season and reached the North 1, Group 3 final last fall.
“I love having the stick in my hand and being able to run down the field. I just love that feeling,” Kowalski said. “There’s something different about cradling with a lacrosse stick and being able to finesse your stick to do different things your body can’t do. It’s another extension of your body, which I think is so cool. With my stick, I can be 6 feet tall.”
More girls lacrosse:2023 Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference team-by-team preview capsules
Kowalski, a 5-foot-6 midfielder in a striking teal headband, made herself a focal point on Saturday. She finished the game with five goals, giving her 104 for her career, along with 33 assists, 131 draw controls and 82 ground balls.
Senior Melissa Elefonte led Kinnelon with five goals.
Kowalski has also been able to learn from former Sparta midfielder Kaitlyn Mead, who had 363 goals before she graduated and went on to be a four-year letter-winner and two-year starter at Michigan. Mead scored 32 goals as a Spartans freshman and 70 in her sophomore year, so Kowalski is actually ahead of that record-setting pace.
Twins Kaitlyn and Hailey Mead were part of the 2018 team which claimed Sparta’s first Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex girls lacrosse title.
Kowalski cited her cousin Amanda, and Kaitlin and Hailey Mead – all of whom played college lacrosse – as inspirations.
“They were absolutely insane,” Kowalski said. “I strive to be half the player they were. Especially in college, it was awesome to see them playing at the next level. I am so lucky I am surrounded by all these people who force me to get better every single day and set goals I try and achieve. I know it pushes me and makes me a better person.”
Leave a Reply