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Local lacrosse stars making move to Empire State

Chilliwack lacrosse players Ashley Heisler and Tanner Olsen will play the game at colleges in New York State this fall.

Two Chilliwack lacrosse stars are heading to New York State this fall, signing on with NCAA programs.

Ashley Heisler committed to Buffalo-based Canisius College shortly after Easter.

Just last week, Tanner Olsen got some good news of his own, officially signing on with the Dominican College Chargers. He’ll live and study in Orangeburg, just a 17 mile hop from downtown New York City.

“It’s really cool and it’s actually been a pretty crazy process,” the Sardis secondary school grad said. “I think it’s going to be an amazing thing to do, especially in the United States where sports are so much bigger.”

Olsen has been playing lacrosse since he was four years old, rising through the ranks of the Chilliwack Mustangs program.

In 2007 he played for Team BC at naionals, winning gold in Whitby, Ontario. In 2010 he won gold at the BC Summer Games, and  most recently, he played for the junior Langley Thunder.

His lacrosse resume sparkles, but until recently, he didn’t think it was going to be good enough to pay for school.

“I visited Syracuse University last January, auditioning for a music scholarship,” said Olsen, who was part of the Sardis drum line and concert band. “It was a really cool process, but it didn’t work out in the end, and I’d kind of given up on it. I was going to go to TRU (Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops) until all of this came together.”

The Dominican College opportunity came out of the blue, through a contact in Langley. There’s no doubt the 18-year-old’s lacrosse skills were good enough, but Olsen had to jump through academic hoops aplenty to make it happen.

“I had to fill out a player application for the lacrosse team, then a general admissions application,” he said. “I had to send high school transcripts and SATs, and then I had to wait.”

And wait.

And wait.

Finally, acceptance, and the knowledge that he’ll have, at minimum, his tuition paid for. That takes about $24,000 worth of financial worries off his plate, which makes the process well worth the wait.

“I’m so happy for Tanner,” said Heisler, a good friend and fellow Sardis grad. “I’ve been friends with him since we were both little, and I’m so happy he’s able to go there.”

Heisler, also 18 years old, is spending the summer preparing for her own adventure.

The Canisius College Griffins are an NCAA womens’ lacrosse powerhouse.

“They’ve won their conference the last three years and I expect a really huge jump from what I’ve been doing to what I will be doing,” Heisler said.

A standout at every level she’s played at, the Chilliwack teen will  find herself in unfamiliar territory, having to prove herself on a veteran talent-laden squad.

“I think it’ll actually be nice to be around people who are a lot better than me,” she said. “I’ll be able to learn a lot from them. I’m going to have to work really hard to stay fit and keep pace with the other freshmen.”

Olsen and Heisler will face the same challenge off the field, leaving home for the first time.

“I think it will be difficult, not easy at all,” Heisler reasoned. “But I’m fortunate to have family (grandparents) in southern Ontario, and I think I’ll be so busy most of the time that I won’t have time to worry about it.”