Corinne Wessels figures she spends nearly every waking moment outside of class with a lacrosse stick in hand. The evidence is on the walls of her basement — or at least what’s left of them.
Dents, dings and head-sized holes adorn the walls of a den-turned-practice- facility. After years of abuse, a patchwork canvas of plaster and duct tape frame a miniature goal and backboard where Wessels and her two younger brothers hone their craft on rainy days.
“There’s probably more holes than walls,” Wessels said.
A sophomore midfielder on the Osbourn Park High School girls’ lacrosse team, Wessels is already the most talented player in the AAA Cardinal District and perhaps the entire Northwest Region. One of the most skilled finishers in the area, the 16-year-old is on pace for a second straight 100-goal season and has the Yellow Jackets poised for another deep post-season run.
“One team last year called her a lacrosse fairy,” Osbourn Park coach Kate Thomas said. “If you watch her play, it’s just like watching a dance — she’s so graceful and quick. She’s a once-in-a-lifetime athlete to coach.”
The daughter of former Air Force Academy lacrosse goalie and current Osbourn Park boys’ lacrosse coach Ken Wessels, Corinne Wessels has been holding a lacrosse stick for as long as she can remember — which makes her something of an anomaly at her Manassas school, which began playing varsity lacrosse only in 2000.
Wessels, who grew up playing with boys, plays for the Capital Lacrosse program — a select squad comprised of many of the best players from Northern Virginia. On a team loaded with girls from second-ranked St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School and other top private school programs, Wessels is the lone player from a Prince William County public school. But the 45-minute drive to practices in Alexandria is nothing for a player who last year spent her weekends flying to and from Long Island to play tournaments on a local club team with her cousin.
“Lacrosse is my escape,” she said. “Everything else is dropped when I step on the field. It’s an adrenaline rush — a fast break, getting a check, sprinting down the field, assisting on a great goal — I live for those moments.”
With 101 goals last spring — an average of 5.3 per game — Wessels was the catalyst for Osbourn Park’s unprecedented run to the Virginia state semifinals. But she was forced to sit out the semifinal against James Madison High School after picking up a pair of yellow cards in two region tournament games. The Yellow Jackets lost, 21-8, ending their season.
At 5 feet 2 and barely 100 pounds, Wessels is not your typical bully on game day. Her stick skills and quickness make her the focus of every opponent’s game plan, which brings double teams, face guarding and plenty of physical contact. Wessels rarely emerges from a contest without bruised and scraped shins and knees, knots in her hair and a uniform caked in dirt — a direct byproduct of her relentless style of play.
“She has a presence on the field, there’s no disputing that. You have to double her up and slide on her whenever you can, but she’s still going to score goals,” Chantilly High’s interim head coach Steve Spero said. “She’s an aggressive player — not overly aggressive, but she’s the one that’s hustling the most, getting the ball the most. You’re going to pick up more calls when you’re always the first one to the scene.”
Wessels, who was sent off after getting two yellow cards in a key district game against Forest Park last month, is learning to adapt to double-teams and frequent whistles alike, and getting the ball out of her stick has helped. In non-district losses to Chantilly and Elizabeth Seton in March, Wessels saw numerous overloaded defenses designed to corral her and force her teammates to handle the ball more. And although she finished with seven and eight goals, respectively, in the two losses, her teammates managed only three total in support.
Since then, Wessels has done more to get the rest of the Osbourn Park offense involved early — even if that means passing up scoring opportunities to set up her teammates. In 19 games last season, Wessels had 43 assists. Through 14 games this spring, she totaled 72 assists with 93 goals.
The Yellow Jackets begin what they hope will be another long postseason run with Monday’s Cardinal District semifinal against Woodbridge.
“The higher level teams caught on right away, and she needed to move the ball,” Thomas said. “We’re really working on developing multiple threats on offense, and Corinne knows that. No question, she’s more mature this year — but she’s still growing as an athlete mentally and emotionally.”