Commencement 2017

Devon Parker didn’t think she belonged at SU. Then she broke out as a senior 1st-year starter.

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Devon Parker scored seven goals in her first three years. This season alone, she has scored 27.

UPDATED: May 10, 2017 at 9:34 p.m.

Her senior year on the horizon, Devon Parker stood on a California beach and contemplated her last three years at Syracuse with the man who helped get her there. Nick Boynton, a family friend, played with SU head coach Gary Gait around 1990 and introduced him to Parker. Memories filled Parker’s first three seasons at SU — her first goal, three trips the final four — yet she spent the early part of her career on the bench.

Off the field, she thrived as a television, radio and film major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She loved interning for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” last summer. She wanted to return to California to work in the industry, so she questioned if she should still pursue Division I lacrosse at Syracuse.

“I got lightly recruited here,” Parker said. “Am I good enough to play? It always creeps into your head.”

Months later during a captain’s scrimmage, a lack of players forced Parker to switch from her usual position, offensive midfielder, to attack. Gait was impressed and asked the senior to make the switch permanent. SU needed a lefty attack and she fit the mold. This season, Parker has emerged as a regular on the No. 8 Orange’s (15-6, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) offense. In 21 games as a starter, Parker has tallied 37 points (27 goals and 10 assists). Over her previous three seasons, she scored only seven goals.

Parker almost quit lacrosse. Now she’s on the precipice of her last NCAA tournament run, her first as a starter. Sometimes before games, doubt returns and Parker thinks if a girl from a town of just over 5,000 people has a place in a storied program searching for its first national title.

A three sport athlete in Portsmouth (New Hampshire) High School, Parker received offers from Division III schools, mostly. Unlike most collegiate athletes, Parker didn’t spend her summers on travel teams. She worked as a counselor at Camp Huckins near her home.

“We were a little naive,” Scott, Devon’s father, said. “We weren’t looking for much. I don’t think her mom and I had much expectations.”

Parker didn’t anticipate to play her freshman year. She entered games late, the game already decided, but cherished every moment on the field. Her lack of expectations made her freshman year one of her favorite lacrosse seasons, Parker said. She still remembers her first goal in the Carrier Dome against Harvard. SU great Alyssa Murray dished out the assist and Parker asked herself, “Oh my god, that went in the back of the net?”

After the freshman year shine wore off, Parker was stuck as a third-line midfielder — always on the brink of playing. Parker said her backup status pushed her harder.

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Parker’s father played collegiate hockey and said he never sat on the bench. He grew frustrated as he watched his daughter stand on the sidelines. He recalls family friends asking how Devon could stand being passed over.

Her mother, Jenifer, remembers Devon asking her, “Is it my turn yet?” Lacrosse’s time commitment felt more daunting. Parker was afraid of losing the life she briefly experienced last summer in California.

Jenifer knew her daughter’s love of lacrosse and pushed her to stay on the team. She compared it to reading a good book and not finishing the last chapter.

“I didn’t want to leave with any regrets,” Parker said. “I’m on the team for a reason. That was something I had to repeat to myself a few times.”

The call came out of the blue. An excited Devon told her parents about the potential of her starting on attack. Scott cleared his spring schedule in the fall so he could make every game he could, “come hell or high water.” Devon wanted the season to start immediately, fearful that something might take away her opportunity.

In high school, Parker played attack for only a couple of games when an injury limited her mobility. To keep her spot, she played wall ball and shot after practice. Gait admired her work ethic and cited it as one of the reasons he felt comfortable naming her a starter.

“She had the potential and I think she’s delivered,” Gait said. “She’s a great example of keep working hard, you get a shot.”

During the season, Parker spoke with other members of the attack to learn as much as she could. She went to Alie Jimerson for guidance when she noticed how seamlessly Jimerson entered the starting lineup after Nicole Levy’s injury. Emily Hawryschuk, a freshman attack, looked to Parker for advice in making an impact in her first year. Parker remembers telling Hawryschuk they were in the same boat.

Before every game, the team has one big huddle before the starters break off and talk among themselves. A couple months ago, Parker stood in that starters huddle, an unfamiliar place, and looked over at senior defender Haley McDonnell, her close friend. McDonnell told her that she made it.

“Everyone gets a chance,” Parker said. “I just had to capitalize on the one I was given.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, the number of goals Devon Parker scored in 2016 was misstated in an in-text graphic element. Parker scored four goals in 2016. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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