Lunn's age no problem at Centre

September 02, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

Jennifer Lunn was a girl with a secret.

She was ready to go to college and eager to play soccer, but she was afraid to reveal the one thing that might have made people view her differently in her first year away from home.

As it turns out, there was nothing to fear.

Lunn was a year or two younger than most of the others in her class when she enrolled at Centre College as a 16-year-old freshman last summer, and she didn't want anyone to know who didn't have to know.

"I was very young in high school, too, and I knew from experience people were a little hesitant about that," she said.


Not her teammates. Lunn said the members of Centre's women's soccer team treated her no differently after they learned the news.

"They didn't care," Lunn said. "They were shocked, of course, but they said, 'OK, you're still one of us.' The fact that they were so cool about it really helped."

All that was left was for Lunn to catch up to her classmates on the soccer field, and she has made up ground since joining the Centre program.

"She had a little catching up to do, but her pace of learning was above par for a freshman," Centre coach Gina Nicoletti said.

Voted most improved player

Lunn was voted the Colonels' most improved player at season's end. Now 17 and a sophomore, she is continuing to make strides.

"She came in this year in shape and passed all our fitness tests on the first round," Nicoletti said. "We're hoping she'll be able to get a little more time this year."

Lunn has been keeping up with older players since her days at Covington Latin High School. Her father and older brother had skipped some grades during their school days, so she said she felt comfortable about testing through the seventh and eighth grades.

"As a freshman coming in I was 11 and playing against 18-year-olds. That makes you a good player," she said.

Lunn was starting for Latin by her sophomore year, and she played every position - including goalkeeper - over the next three years.

She wanted to go to a small college, preferably in Kentucky, and she wanted to play soccer. So she chose Centre, then contacted Nicoletti to inquire about joining the team.

"I didn't know how old she was, and she didn't tell me," the Centre coach said.

Lunn said Nicoletti knew she was a minor, because the player's father had to sign an NCAA form for her, but she didn't know just how young she was.

The coach said she found out when the rest of the team did. Some Centre students who knew her family figured out she wasn't supposed to be old enough to be in college yet and her secret was out.

Lunn said it hurt her performance on the field for a time.

"My confidence was up because no one knew I was 16, but once they found out, my confidence went to the ground," she said.

Players did good job handling the situation

Nicoletti said the players did a good job of diffusing what was a tense situation for Lunn.

"She was a little upset at first, but she realized the team would embrace her," Nicoletti said.

Lunn said one teammate who took her under her wing was Jennifer Riggs, one of last season's seniors.

"She's one person I could not have gotten through this without," Lunn said. "When you have someone like that as your cheerleading section, it always helps."

Now Lunn is just one of the girls, one who is trying to help Centre improve on last year's 7-8 campaign.

"We have an awesome team," she said. "I think we'll do a lot better this year. We have so many great people on our team right now, and they all can play. They're all skilled in their own way."

Now, with nothing to hide, Lunn is trying to carve out a place among them.

"We have some really good players, and that's what I aspire to," Lunn said. "I have closed the gap, hopefully."

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