Former Ocean City two-sport standout Anna Devlin (soccer, lacrosse), a 2019 graduate, recently finished up her collegiate lacrosse career at The College of New Jersey, where she earned Division III All-American honors. South Jersey Glory Days writer Dave O’Sullivan caught up with Devlin this week to talk about her time at TCNJ, some memories from her time as a Red Raider in Ocean City, and what’s on the horizon. Devlin graduated with a degree in Kinesiology and Health Sciences. She scored 51 goals in 20 games as a senior and added 19 assists and set a program record as a junior with 128 draw controls. She also made the All-NJAC Academic team for three straight years.
Sully: The first question is, what’s it like to be a college All-American?
Devlin: It’s actually amazing because I didn’t know that was going happen. I feel like this year was just crazy and then I slowly started getting accolades — like U.S. Lacrosse Magazine gave me Player of the Week and I was like, “oh wow. I’m actually good.” I always knew I was pretty good, but I was like, “U.S. Lacrosse Magazine. That’s crazy.” That feels pretty good.
Sully: What kind of expectations did you have coming into your college career? How did you think it was going to play out for you?
Devlin: I had no expectations at all. I mean, my sister went there, so I already knew I loved the coach. I was already close with her. In high school, I feel like our team was really close, so I didn’t know if I’d ever have a team again that was that close. And then we ended up being even closer than my high school team, which was awesome. I had no expectations. I went into fall ball my freshman year kind of wanting to play defense and then the first day of practice my coach said, “no, you’re a lefty. So we’re going to put you on attack.” I said, “OK,” and then everything else happened. It’s pretty crazy.”
Sully: What do you remember about the first day as a college athlete? How did that go for you?
Devlin: We didn’t start lifts or anything for a few weeks, so I kind of got that transition period. But the first day (of fall workouts) I had lifting and then practice and then another lift. So it was definitely different from high school, a little overwhelming at first. But it wasn’t that big of a transition.
Sully: What would you say is the biggest difference between playing a high school sport and playing a college sport now that you’ve been through four years of college? I’m sure it’s probably a lot different than what you expected when you were 16 years old.
Devlin: Oh, definitely. I feel like time management plays a huge role because in high school you have that set schedule of 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., but when you’re in college you have to manage classes that are spread all throughout the day, and then lifting and practices. So just getting everything scheduled is definitely the biggest difference.
Sully: How long did it take before you were comfortable with the speed of the college game?
Devlin: My freshman year was when COVID hit and our season was cut short. We only played about five games, but I’d say those few games were what I needed (to feel comfortable).
Sully: How long did it take before you felt like you could handle yourself at that level?
Devlin: The first games I got put into, we were blowing this team out by a really good amount and then they put me in on the draw, which I hadn’t been practicing at all. It was snowing, it was probably 20 degrees out there. It was like, “Anna, you’re going in.” I was like, “oh. OK.” And then after that I started every game and was taking the draws.
Sully: What do you remember most about your high school career and how do you view that now that you’re four years removed from it?
Devlin: I just remember being such a tight group with those girls, especially my senior year. I feel like that was because we went to Disney and we had all a bunch of other stuff that we would do together. And going to the South Jersey Championship — We got crushed by Morristown every year, but (Playing for a championship) was definitely the most memorable thing.
Sully: How much do you miss playing soccer?
Devlin: Actually, I do miss it a lot. I was debating whether to play club soccer because our club team at TCNJ is really good. But I do miss it a lot.
Sully: What made you decide to go for lacrosse in college?
Devlin: I don’t really know. (Former Ocean City soccer coach Kelly) Halliday was like, “I can’t believe you’re playing lacrosse in college. I feel like you’re way better at soccer.” I was like, “thanks Kelly! Not what I really needed to hear right now.” That was probably a few days after I committed (for lacrosse). I don’t know. I just like it a lot. I think I started playing soccer a lot younger. So just the newer feeling of a sport, I liked that more.
Sully: How long did it take when you started college to understand what it takes to get through a semester when you are an athlete? There are so many demands on your time. It’s so much different than being a regular college kid. Sometimes you’re missing meals, you’re missing classes. There’s a lot going on there. How long did it take to really get comfortable with that schedule?
Devlin: I’d say it only really took me the first semester. I think since my classes had a lot of lacrosse girls in them and we were close, we all kind of were figuring it out together and we weren’t alone. So that definitely made it easier on me.
Sully: How tough was it to get through all those classes? You had a very difficult major so I’m sure there was a lot of work outside of class to do. So how did you manage such a difficult major and still graduate in four years while playing a college sport?
Devlin: Yeah, it took a lot of work outside of school my freshman year. I had a few other girls on the team that were in my major, so we got a study group together. We even got a tutor for one of our anatomy classes and I feel like that’s what helped me get through, that extra support. I ended up not needing a tutor later. So I think just having that extra support in the beginning helped me get used to what study habits I needed to nail down.
Sully: Do you have any regrets about playing a college sport and having to sacrifice a lot of things that non-athletes get to do? You can’t party a lot when you’re playing a sport. You can’t do a lot of on-campus activities, so your time is geared toward your sport and your classes. Any regrets about not being just a regular college student?
Devlin: Oh, absolutely not. My junior and senior years we had four lacrosse teammates and two non-lacrosse players living in a house. You could definitely see that (the non-athletes’) had a lot more free time. But comparing our lives, it wasn’t too different. I’d say we still got to go out a good amount. But I don’t regret anything.
Sully: What do you think playing a college sport is going to do for you as you go on in life? How is that going to help you as you get out in the workforce and just everything else in life?
Devlin: It’s taught me a lot — and something my coach would emphasize a good amount, especially in our last senior meeting, is that employers look for college athletes because they have time management skills and they’re able to take criticism and things like that. So, I think it will definitely help me when applying for jobs, I feel like I’ll have a leg up.
Sully: How much of a shock was it to you playing a college sport? College coaches, they don’t joke. If you’re not good enough, you’re just not going to play. They don’t play favorites, they play who’s going to give them the best chance to win. So it’s a little more cutthroat than high school.
Devlin: I have countless stories of things that my coach has said to either me or my teammates, it’s absolutely no joke.
Sully: What would you say was the best part about playing a college sport?
Devlin: I think all the memories and the friends that I’ve made. I feel like those are the type of people you’ll keep in touch with for a while. We went to the Final Four my junior year, and just traveling to Virginia, that was such a good experience and something I definitely won’t forget.
Sully: What’s next on the horizon for you? What do you want to do with the rest of your life?
Devlin: That’s a great question. Right now I’m just kind of taking this summer to get myself together. I might go into medical sales or something like that.
Sully: What’s it like being done with your career? These are sports you’ve played since you were a very young child, soccer and lacrosse. And now the competitive portion of that is over. How do you deal with that as someone who’s moving on to the next chapter of her life?
Devlin: That has definitely been tough so far. I was talking to one of my teammates about getting into the mental space of not training for the competition anymore. Now you’re just training to be healthy and live. So I’m trying to pick up some new stuff. I’ve been playing pickleball this summer and that’s been big. So just finding things that I can do with friends that’ll keep me healthy, but still get that competition feel.
Sully: What’s the best memory you have of your college career? Anything in particular stick out in your mind?
Devlin: Our Elite 8 win over Salisbury (in 2022). We had lost to them prior in the season and then we beat them at our home field and went to the Final Four. I think that was the best moment of my life.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays