Sarah Utting isn't afraid to play against the big boys, or the big girls.
The Brockville native has quietly been making a name for herself in both regional junior men's and national women's box lacrosse this season.
But the 19-year-old takes it all in stride, perhaps in part because she took to the game from an early age.
Playing lacrosse for the past eight or nine years, Utting says she has always enjoyed all the elements that endear the indoor version of the game to many young Canadians.
“I like the fast pace and how intense it is,” she said, adding she also enjoys the sport's physicality.
Utting's joy for the game and considerable skill haven't gone unnoticed, as she has this season chalked up a pair of major accomplishments in the sport.
Earlier this season, she became quite possibly the first female player in the Ontario Junior C Lacrosse League, when she was called up by the Brockville Ballistic.
The promotion stuck, as Utting's tenacity, hard work and defensive awareness immediately earned her a full-time spot.
Soon after came her next major step in the game, as Utting nailed down a roster spot with Team Ontario for the upcoming Junior Women's Box Lacrosse National Championships in Halifax, N.S.
To the best of her knowledge, Utting is one of only two women from Eastern Ontario to earn a spot on the squad.
“It was definitely exciting because we had to go through a lot,” she said, alluding to the lengthy tryout process.
Utting describes her style of play as one built around hard work and defensive play. She says her older brother, Doug, a former Ballistic captain, was one influence in her taking the game up, as was a friend of hers whose father ran a local lacrosse team.
She also says her parents, Tim and Eleanor, have been a huge support along the way, taking her to games and practices and providing the necessary financial backing.
It comes easily, Eleanor says, noting how proud she and Tim are of their children's accomplishments in sports.
“They work hard and are very humble about it,” said Eleanor.
Doug is currently a student at the University of Western Ontario, where he stars with its men's lacrosse team.
He is currently home for the summer and is a steady presence behind the Ballistic bench, helping coach his former squad.
Sarah, who left lacrosse for a couple years, but returned following a torn ACL suffered playing rugby, is at Queen's, where she is a concurrent education major.
Doug calls himself “her biggest fan,” which is seconded by Sarah.
“He's my personal trainer, and he does that for free,” she laughed.
As she prepares to head to nationals, Utting said she looks forward to the people she will meet, as well as to representing her family and hometown.
She also jokes it will be nice to get away from playing with the guys for a while.
“I'm excited to meet new people, new teammates and get to play with girls for once instead of all guys,” she chuckled. “That will be fun.”
Utting says she wants to reward the faith of all the coaches who have worked with her over the years as the only female player on boys teams.
“They've put a lot work into me and always accepted me as the only girl... I definitely want to do it for them,” she said.
The Junior Women's Nationals runs July 23-28.