Jenna Irwin carries the ball against Youngstown State. Photo credit: Megan Frey

Jenna Irwin, Robert Morris women’s lacrosse’s freshman star

In her first season as a Colonial, Jenna Irwin has become a bright young star for the Robert Morris women's lacrosse team.

April 5, 2022

In her first season as a Colonial, Jenna Irwin has become a bright young star for the Robert Morris women’s lacrosse team.

She is currently leading the team in scoring 29 goals and 32 points just 12 games into her career with the Colonials. In addition to her hot start, she has picked up conference hardware to boot, landing the MAC Offensive Player of the Week for the week of March 13 through the 19th.

Irwin noted the shock of being the team leader in points this far into the season.

“I never came here and thought that I’d be leading the team in points or goals.”

Before coming to Robert Morris, Irwin was at Liverpool High School, wherein her three seasons, one season cut due to COVID-19, put up 82 goals and 26 assists.

Irwin isn’t the only current Colonial to come from Liverpool High School, as junior midfielder Colleen Tifft was a teammate of Irwin in the past.

“I grew up playing with [Colleen], but more her sister because she is one year younger than me, so I played with her more so than Colleen,” Irwin said. “Once I got to varsity when I was a freshman, she was a junior, so we got to play on lineups together, we had team events together, and it was fun and interesting to see her commit [to Robert Morris] and see myself do the same thing a few years later.”

One major thing that has been clear about the Colonials so far this season is the family culture they have built, something the team takes pride in.

“As soon as [the incoming class of 2021] stepped on campus, we felt like we belonged here and it was our home,” Irwin said. “People say you get this feeling when you step onto a campus that you know it’s yours. That is exactly what I felt like.”

This family culture has been the by-product of head coach Katrina Silva, and for the last five seasons, she has been at the head of the Colonials’ ship.

This year’s team, in particular, has been very young, and Coach Silva knew this. After the first game, where the Colonials suffered a 17-5 loss to Ohio State, Silva spoke about the changes and growth Irwin and the team had ahead of them.

“We’re young and we know we’re young,” Silva emphasized. “There were two or three times Jenna got a great rebound and just put it into the goalie’s stick. [Jenna] will learn, though, it’s alright. She got a great rebound. That’s a start. We’ve got to take baby steps.”

Irwin also spoke about that first game at Ohio State.

“It’s going to be hard [for us freshmen] to jump into Ohio State for our first [college] game ever,” Irwin said. “That ultimately got us ready for the rest of the season. We got film on that game and immediately got to see what we had to work on.”

Irwin has had a lot of people at her side to help her learn and adjust to the college game.

“Colleen [Tifft] has obviously been a big person for me. She’s been there with me since middle school and high school. She’s someone who has helped me transition to this college life.” Irwin said. “Also, [I wear] number 4, [which means] Jordan Anderson is right next to me and is a locker buddy. She has been there to help me get to know things on and off the field.”

After learning from Ohio State, Irwin started to make her presence known on the scoresheet. She tallied her first collegiate goal against Canisius and opened up MAC play with an amazing five-goal performance. She quickly took hold of the team lead in goals and points.

“Not at all how I thought [my freshman year] would go,” Irwin said. “My dad has always been there in the back of my ear saying, “oh, this would be cool to do this and play a ton,” and it’s never been pressure on me, but I thought, oh maybe it would be cool [to play well].”

Irwin continued to have bounces go her way and kept finding the back of the net. This was never a plan of hers, but she felt things happened naturally.

Jenna Irwin
Jenna Irwin is chased down by Tristen Chang of Youngstown State. Photo Credit: Megan Frey

“I don’t go into a game and think I’m going to score six goals and two assists,” Irwin said. “It all just happens naturally. Just like everyone else’s goals and assists come. You’ve just got to be in the right spot at the right time.”

While putting up the numbers Irwin has this season, she does not feel pressure to keep them up because she trusts the rest of the team.

“I’m just going with the flow. There are so many girls on our team who are scoring, if you look at the box scores, there are six or ten girls who are scoring, so there’s no pressure on being the leading goal scorer,” Irwin said. “If we have a game where I don’t score, there are five or six girls who are on that box score. You could say there’s no pressure on one person. It’s more pressure on the whole team because everyone wants to score.”

The team aspect is something Coach Silva wanted to embrace this season.

“We said we weren’t going to be a ‘single superhero’ type of team. Last year, we had a lot of stars,” Silva said after their loss to Canisius. “Now, we have to find a way to come together collectively as a team. It will take some work, but we will get there.”

Goals aren’t the only thing that Irwin has contributed to this season. Irwin has also racked up 19 ground balls, 12 draw controls and seven caused turnovers through 12 games. Coach Silva has spoken about the impact she has made in all departments.

“She’s a freshman!” Silva said in joy after Irwin’s five-goal performance against Detroit Mercy. “She takes the draws, she gets ground balls, did great in transition. Jenna is a special player. The kids love her. I love her. It’s nice to see a good kid have a great day.”

I don’t go into a game and think I’m going to score six goals and two assists, it all just happens naturally. Just like everyone else’s goals and assists come. You’ve just got to be in the right spot at the right time.

— Jenna Irwin on not thinking about goals and assists

Halfway through the season, Irwin and the team know they have come a long way since day one.

“I’ve come a long way. I remember the first fall ball tournament and just being terrified,” Irwin said. “When the first whistle went off and we actually start playing and everyone gets in, you realize it’s just another game.”

When the season started, the nerves returned to her, but the preparation from fall to spring got her ready to play.

“I’ve become more confident with the ball,” Irwin said. “My skills have improved from the fall and high school. It was tricky to adjust in the fall, but now coming into the spring I can see my improvement on that. I’m up to speed and I keep going with the games and it’s gotten much better. I can see that in myself and my teammates.”

The team has only conference play for the rest of the season and remains unbeaten and looks to become back-to-back MAC champions. Irwin, along with her teammates and coaches, has a ton of confidence in themselves.

“Obviously [the freshman class] isn’t going to get rings this year, but that is [motivation] for us. We want that ring extremely bad. We want to have that championship label,” Irwin said. “It’s the same thing for everyone else in the locker room. In the locker room, we’re constantly telling ourselves, “we are going to go 10-0 in the MAC”, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Central Michigan we need to beat three times. We just want to crush them and remain the champs.”

Irwin and the young Colonials team will look to keep growing and learning. Soon, she will be a leader and embrace the role and chances she is given.