By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Finishing at the rim. Finishing a follow-through. Finishing a season. Finishing a career.
The little repetitive motions roll into greater successes in the game of basketball. Hard work in those little things can lead to momentous end products on and off the court. For Salisbury women’s basketball senior guard Lauren Rothfeld, her hard work over four seasons in the maroon and gold is paving the way for honors beyond her collegiate career.
“Hard work deserves to be recognized. I think that she’s done such a great job over four years,” SU head coach Kelly Lewandowski said.
“I think it’s fitting that she’s recognized because not only does she know that we all recognize what she’s doing but also other coaches in the conference and around the country also recognize what she’s done too.”
Rothfeld’s hard work on the court accumulated into a diverse array of career statistics across the board, including 968 points and 575 rebounds. Her final season as a Sea Gull was capped off with First Team All-Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) honors. While her SU career seemed to end on Feb. 21 at Marymount University in Virginia, it suddenly was just the beginning to Rothfeld’s post-collegiate career.
Rewinding back prior to her senior season in July 2016, Rothfeld received an email from Maccabi USA Women’s Basketball about tryouts for their team that would head to Israel for the twentieth edition of the Maccabiah Games to be played in July 2017. After a brief discussion with her dad, the guard pounced on the opportunity.
According to their website, Maccabi USA “is a federally-recognized not-for-profit organization with an extensive history of enriching Jewish lives through athletic, cultural and educational programs.”
It was then just the matter of a trip up to New York for the Dresher, Pa. native to participate in a two-day tryout alongside some of the top players in all of the levels of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s basketball.
“I talked to three girls and they were like, ‘Yale, Columbia and USC.’ I’m like, wow, all right,” Rothfeld said.
“Throughout the process they just called me ‘Salisbury,’” she said. “‘Good job, Salisbury.’ I don’t think they knew my name, but whatever, I’ll take it.”
No matter the name, the guard’s talents were put to the test. It was about a month-and-a-half later that Rothfeld received the good news via email. She made the team alongside just four other non-Division I athletes on the 12-player squad.
Rothfeld will travel with the team to Israel for the games, which will take place from July 4 to 18. The Maccabiah Games converge 10,000 Jewish athletes from around the world to compete in 43 sports over the two-week period.
The selection to the USA team is a capstone to the strong four years that the guard has put in at Salisbury. Her head coach remembers back to the “cool” freshman that walked onto the court in her first season in the maroon and gold.
“I always joked that Lauren was ‘very cool’ as a freshman. I think her coolness off the court—she always took it on the court. She was a significant player right off the bat,” coach Lewandowski said.
That same coolness blossomed into a guard that would feature a season later on a Salisbury team that would not only win a CAC Championship but also make it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Rothfeld appeared in all 31 of the Gulls’ games in the 2014-15 season.
Back in her sophomore season, other leaders led the way including former Sea Gulls point guard Anna Hackett and guard Sarah Seipp, who combined to power the Salisbury offense with 33.2 points per game. In the 2015-16 season, former SU forward Julia McLaughlin led the charge.
It was Rothfeld’s turn in the 2016-17 campaign. After watching the senior leaders come and go from the squad over previous seasons, it was time for the guard to shine on the CAC stage this past season. On this season’s squad, two seniors returned: Rothfeld and guard Kelsie Bacon.
For the Sea Gull, this developing leadership role was the difference between her junior and senior season.
“I think I just did a better job as a leader on the court and off the court. I’m more of a leader as they see me do it and I don’t have to really vocalize,” Rothfeld said.
“I definitely got more comfortable saying what I felt and expressing just how much it meant to me.”
The leadership role held strong throughout the season in the eyes of the CAC and the region. Rothfeld was recently named to the honorable mention list for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) South Region after averaging a conference-leading 16.3 points per game and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds per game in 2017.
All of the accolades and honors transverse back to the departing guard’s hard work ethic that coach Lewandowski has seen from her star player since day one.
“I think that something that has always been consistent is Lauren’s love for the game and her consistency at practice and her work ethic. I mean, that’s one thing that she’ll be an example in for years to come,” coach Lewandowski said.
“People will be sick of me talking about Lauren just like I have about other good players before.”
Similarly to the other key Sea Gull players in the last three seasons, the graduating player will see her name idolized with those that put in top work ethic in Maggs Physical Activities Center each day.
While Rothfeld may be hanging up her Salisbury jersey, her playing days will live on at least through this upcoming summer. Then a new career path will emerge for the Division III athlete.
“I’m going to take a year off for basketball and then I’m gonna hopefully go to physical therapy school to become a physical therapist to fix some people up,” Rothfeld said with a chuckle.
It is a fitting end for a leader that finished her maroon and gold days with the same hard work she started them with, helping people continue to finish their goals each day to accomplish something new.