As far as I know, Ali Styba is the only female in the Shakopee High School senior class to be a triple sport athlete. She competes in cross-country, hockey and lacrosse. After fielding several scholarship offers, she accepted one from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, to play Division I lacrosse.

Once Styba toured the Monmouth campus in northern Jersey, which is one mile from Atlantic Ocean beaches and a one-hour ferry ride to Manhattan, and met the lacrosse coach, she knew it was where she wanted to go to college.

“I definitely like the coach a lot. I met the coach and visited the university, and they had the best offer for me. It was the perfect fit,” she said. “I like the location, it’s a great school, and I can get playing time.”

Oftentimes, student athletes play several sports in elementary and junior high, but once they’re in high school, they migrate to one or two sports. Styba bucked that trend.

“I grew up playing multiple sports,” she noted. “I never saw myself leaving any of them.”

She started playing organized hockey at 5 years old. Because Shakopee did not offer lacrosse when she was younger, she joined a youth team in Prior Lake. In seventh grade, she started running cross-country, which helped build endurance for other sports.

“Hockey players are just drawn to lacrosse. When I started playing it, I loved it immediately,” she said. “It was my goal to play D1 lacrosse since eighth grade, so it’s a big goal to achieve.”

Styba played on a highly competitive Minnesota Elite Girls Lacrosse team that gave her a lot of exposure to college coaches.

For example, the team competed in tournaments in Orlando and Philadelphia, where D1 coaches showed up in person to watch the games. Ten players from her Elite team received Division I scholarships. Styba credits her teammates for helping elevate her game.

“Another way my skills grow is to play with them,” she said. Styba is a midfielder for her Shakopee team. She plays defense on her Elite team, which is where she’ll play in college. “I love it so much. The position is perfect for me.”

She expects the biggest difference between high school and college lacrosse will be the physicality.

“Lacrosse is a lot more advanced on the East Coast. Playing in Minnesota has been challenging, but it’s less physical here,” she said. “On the Minnesota Elite lacrosse team, when we played teams from the East Coast, it was more physical, which was a big shock. The biggest aspect was being prepared to be recruited at that level.”

In college, she plans to major in business administration with a concentration in marketing and earn a minor in computer science. She’s not only successful in sports, she’s accomplished academically too.

As a Shakopee senior she’s participating in the CAPS Healthcare and Medicine program at St. Francis for college credits at Normandale, and she also takes College in School classes at the high school.

Her Monmouth tuition is mostly covered by both academic and athletic scholarships. “It’s really exciting and very rewarding that the hard work in lacrosse has paid off and the hard work in the classroom has paid off,” she said.

She’s looking forward to making new friends on the college lacrosse team. “I’m definitely most excited about having new friends from along the East Coast. Everyone in my recruiting class is from a different state, so there will be many different personalities coming together.”

Styba expects that the experiences and lessons she’s learned from sports will help her be successful in college and post college.

“I learned grit and character. In all three sports, I’ve had challenges to overcome, which can transfer to life. If I had a bad race in cross country, I’d know it’s important to persevere and overcome, and the success is so rewarding,” she said, adding time management is another skill she's built.

Her goal after college is to go in to sales. If data is any indication, her sports background has her poised to excel in her career. In the 2017 Fortune list of the Most Powerful Women, 65% of those featured played competitive sports in high school or college. In addition, studies from Ernest & Young found that 90% of high-level female executives played sports, and 96% of females in the C-suite did.

Something tells me Styba has a lot of the same qualities as people who rose to the top of their companies.

Brett Martin is a community columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.

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