This is the 10th installment of  “Cat Trax,” a series of feature stories that will periodically appear on the UNH athletics Web site.

By Danielle Blais, UNH Athletic Media Relations

Family. It’s one of the top priorities of Sarah Von Bargen (East Setauket, N.Y.), a senior attacker on the University of New Hampshire women’s lacrosse team. As the baby of her family, Von Bargen was athletically bred. Her parents are unquestionably supportive and come to every game. “Dad’s got to milk it; I’m the last one,” said the youngest of three. Her father even flew to Tennessee for games against Vanderbilt and Cornell during a spring break trip. “My parents love it. It’s a social network for them.”

Sarah Von Bargen

The lacrosse superstar began her career at age seven in second grade. Her mother’s co-worker ran the youth lacrosse program at the time and because her siblings played, it seemed to be a good fit. Her brother, Doug, went on to play two years at Siena College, while sister, Jess, quit lacrosse after high school and played field hockey at Mary Washington College. Like her siblings, Von Bargen continued the family trend and wanted to play sports in college.

“I’m pleased to have her on the team,” said UNH women’s lacrosse head coach Sandy Bridgeman. “Just thinking about her makes me smile. She takes pride in what she does and always wants to do well. She could slide by but doesn’t. She’s a great student and a great leader.”

Since her arrival at UNH, things have not always gone so smoothly. At the end of her freshman year during the America East championship game, Von Bargen went down with an ACL tear. “Rehab was painful,” noted Von Bargen. “You try not to focus on the negative and just tell yourself it’ll get better.” Though running was a slow process, speed training finally came along, and now the two-time 2009 America East Player of the Week is better than ever.

Having already been to the NCAA Tournament last year, the team hopes to qualify once again. “Our goals for the season include improving on a day-to-day basis, qualifying for conference play, and then winning conference to qualify for NCAA play,” said Bridgeman. “Our loss to Albany reinforced that anyone can win on any given day,” replied Von Bargen. “We have to work hard.”

Similarly, the senior starter’s favorite memory includes the NCAA Tournament. At the end of regular season play, the upperclassmen and Bridgeman got together to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. “It was the coolest feeling in the world to see UNH on the screen. Seeing Coach was inspiring. She was jumping and screaming. It was a really great moment.”

“(Von Bargen) is a leader by example on and off the field,” said Bridgeman. “She has great confidence in herself and teammates. The team relies on her, especially in high-pressure situations. She is incredibly focused and has accepted that role. She’s always been a good player.” When asked about being a leader, Von Bargen replied, “Am I a leader? I’d like to think so.”

At the time of the interview, Von Bargen led the nation in goals per game (4.56) and was also sixth in points per game (5.22). Both of those numbers are tops in America East. She has helped guide the team to a 4-0 record at home this season, as part of a 10-game winning streak at Memorial Field. Also, Von Bargen became the 10th UNH Wildcat to reach the 150-point milestone.

Though the 22-year-old seems like the all-American girl, Von Bargen does have her quirks. “I’m deathly afraid of cows,” she admits. “I know it’s odd. I’m always getting cow cards on my birthday.” Though she never has been near one, she used to wake up with cow nightmares as a child.

Now it’s the opposition that has nightmares of having to deal with stopping Von Bargen. “It’s been wonderful to see her progress over the past four years. I don’t even want to begin to think about the season ending yet and graduation,” said Bridgeman. 

Von Bargen will attend graduate school in the fall, and continue her education at the University of New Hampshire to be a high school biology teacher. “I would like to travel before anything. I want to see the world.” This past winter, she and fellow teammates Michaela Hardy (Reading, Mass.), Kelli LaPerch (Brewster, N.Y.), and Beth Sabiston (Bay Shore, N.Y.), traveled to Australia to play in a lacrosse tournament. “I would love to go back. It’s a beautiful country.” Although when it comes time to settling down for a job, Von Bargen thinks about her family. “I would like to stay on the East Coast. I can’t be too far from my family.”

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