For now, though, she remains firmly rooted on terra firma as she launches her first year of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse.
Donovan was part of Athletes Unlimited’s 2023 Draft Class after being a four-year letter-winner at Princeton University in a career spanning 2018-22 and spending a season as a graduate student at the University of Maryland. As a student, she earned her degree in aerospace engineering.
Perhaps one day, or some starry night, she’ll fulfill one of her dreams of becoming an astronaut.
“It’s definitely been a dream of mine,” she said. “This is going to sound corny, but definitely shoot for the stars. We’ll see what happens. I’m someone who goes after their dreams. I’ve been extremely lucky to have support along the way and support for my dreams. So … we’ll see.”
Donovan, a defender, joins Athletes Unlimited after a decorated collegiate career and helping Team USA win the silver medal at the 2022 World Games.
At Princeton, she earned three All-America honors and was the Tigers’ career record holder for draw controls (214) and the single-season leader (112 in the 2022 season). She also won an Ivy League Defender of the Year award.
With the chance to play for her home-state school, this native of Catonsville, Maryland, joined the Terps for the 2023 season, and she placed second on the team with 19 caused turnovers and third with 24 ground balls. That put her on the Tewaaraton Watch List.
So in earthly terms, Donovan enjoyed the best of both worlds during her college playing days.
“They were both just so wonderful,” she said. “It was really cool to get such different experiences. Pre-COVID, it was rare for somebody to transfer. It was rare for people to go and play in grad school. It was a really cool opportunity to get a whole new perspective on the academic and athletic (sides). It was interesting.”
With strong support staffs at both Princeton and Maryland, Donovan was able to maintain the balance between classroom and lacrosse field. Her path to study aerospace engineering began quite unexpectedly at McDonogh High School.
“In high school, I wanted to be a journalist up until my senior year, when I took an intro to engineering class with Mr. Steve Eno,” Donovan said. “He was just an incredible teacher and opened my eyes to the world of engineering. I hadn’t really considered it before. But the way he taught and the different projects we did were so cool.
“The rest is history. Since then, I just wanted to be an engineer. At Princeton, I was able to combine my interests in that and in outer space. That was more of a hobby for me. I could finally mesh together my academic interests and my hobbies. It was really cool.”
If there’s a lighter side to this weighty topic, it’s that Donovan has a springer spaniel named Carl. Yep, he’s named after Carl Sagan, who was renowned in his lifetime for groundbreaking work in astronomy and related fields.
“Carl Sagan, yes,” Donovan said. “I have a pillow of my dog. I could not think of a more unfitting name for this dog than Carl Sagan. He is such a goofball, my dog Carl.”
Donovan now turns her attention to matters of time and space on the lacrosse field, where she will defend against some of the best attackers in the world.
“They’re so accomplished,” she said. “They’ve won every award under the sun, but they’re also really inspiring women. Even talking to them and hearing them talk, the way they carry themselves, even though they’re only a couple of years older than me, they really are like role models and people I’ve looked up to. So that’s been really neat.”
In most lacrosse settings, all glory goes to the goal scorers. But under Athletes Unlimited’s unique points-scoring system, defense is rewarded as well.
“It’s really cool,” Donovan said. “I think it just introduces another layer of competition to the game. And you already have extremely competitive people. As a result, you get some really fun lacrosse. One thing I really, really like, though, is that, yes, points are on the line, money is on the line, but it definitely doesn’t stop people from being creative and trying new things with the game.”
Donovan also embraces Athletes Unlimited’s community involvement, noting lacrosse’s unique historic roots.
“Besides the actual format of the game, I think what really sets it apart is the dedication Athletes Unlimited has in giving back and especially to the lacrosse community,” she said. “Lacrosse is really different from any other sport because it has indigenous roots, and I think that’s really important to recognize. Athletes Unlimited is really a pioneer in the sense of how they acknowledge, like all lacrosse communities should be doing, the indigenous roots of the game, underserved communities, marginalized communities and the importance they put on the players to care about that, as well. I think that is what really sets it apart.”
As far as her own on-field goals are concerned, let’s just say Donovan is keeping them well grounded even as she prepares for liftoff.
“I’m definitely like a more process oriented person,” she said. “I think this year I want to give my best effort, be the best teammate I can be and really lean into this experience because it seems like such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I just really want to lean into it, learn the rules, enjoy playing while being competitive and just give it my best.”
Bruce Miles has covered sports in the Chicago area for more than 40 years, covering baseball, hockey, football, college and high school sports, and Athletes Unlimited softball. You can follow him on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.
Mairead Durkin brings Gaelic Football roots to Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse
© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Kait Devir
Meet the 2023 Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse Rookie Class
Image Courtesy of Erin Tudryn/Maryland Terrapins
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