Relax? Not these hard-charging sisters

Sydney and Jenna Collignon thrive in high-flying world of college lacrosse

Sydney Collignon's family flew to the Mile-high city from Hinsdale last weekend. They were there for the University of Denver women's lacrosse Senior Day on Saturday, celebrating Sydney's final regular season home game as a Pioneer.

"It was definitely emotional, with the end of my lacrosse career kind of looming," said the attacker and 2019 Hinsdale Central grad. "It was fun that all of us seniors started, and my parents and brother were there to see me play."

Denver is among the elite in Division I women's lacrosse, a perennial NCAA tournament qualifier currently ranked 3rd in the country. And at 16-0, the only undefeated team among the top 25.

"Our team is super close-knit," Sydney remarked. "We just have so much fun together, and it's so easy to play together."

All her clan were in attendance but one - younger sister Jenna, who was on the other side of the country leading Yale University's women's lacrosse squad.

Yale was honoring its seniors, too. But sophomore attacker Jenna's been the one collecting the honors this season. She's been named Ivy League Player of the Week four times, earned a spot on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List for the top women's player in the U.S. and was an Honorable Mention Ivy League Women Midseason All-American. She is second in the league in both goals (45) and total points (55) and leads all her counterparts with four game-winning scores.

"I think it's really cool just to be able to always consistently be showing my team that they can count on me," Jenna said. "I give 100 percent on the field, and that has worked out well for me so far."

Collegiate athletics has worked out well for both, it would seem. Sydney chose Denver in part because parents David and Andrea both played basketball there. Younger brother Chase, a hoops standout at Central, also plays lacrosse.

"It's fun to see my dad's name on a plaque from when he was student-athlete of the year when he was here," she said. "My mom lived in the same freshman dorm that I did."

After a freshman season cut short by COVID, Sydney and the "Pios" have developed into arguably the premier program west of the Mississippi. Their prowess was on full display in a stunning 8-7 road victory over powerhouse Maryland on March 5. Two weeks later Denver defeated fourth-ranked Boston College 13-8, its highest-ranked take-down in four years.

"A lot of the girls on my team are from Maryland, so we had a super big crowd there," Sydney said of the triumph over the Terps. "The games were definitely ways to see our growth as a team. We've gotten better every year over the four years."

Instead of going right to the New Haven's campus after graduating Central in 2020, Jenna took a gap year while riding out the pandemic. Once she arrived in the fall of 2021, there was a backlog of team newbies.

"Coming in my freshman year, my (lacrosse) class had 17 people in it, which was two classes combined," she said. "I had to work extra hard to earn a spot and try to contribute."

Jenna was making her presence felt until illness knocked her out for five games in the middle of the spring season.

"Coming out of that I was rusty and I had to jump back in around conference championship weekend," she recounted. "I was still able to contribute a little."

Jenna's certainly made up for any lost time with her performance this season. She appreciates the individual accolades. Program success remains her greatest reward.

"It's a good acknowledgment of my work ethic, but it's the team wins that's most important," she said. "I love to win, and I think it was important for me to be able to step up on the offensive side of things."

She cited the team's road win at Duke as a season highlight.

"Historically Duke is really strong team, and we went into that game as the underdogs," Jenna related. "We all just showed up and did our best. It was a close back-and-forth game and we ended up winning, which was a really cool accomplishment for our program."

Jenna, incidentally, notched seven goals in the 15-14 victory.

Her disappointment in the team's three straight losses, including Saturday's tough 14-12 loss to Cornell, is clear. With a final conference match this Saturday at Columbia, Jenna and the Bulldogs hope to win the ensuing Ivy League tournament for an automatic NCAA tourney bid.

Denver, Sydney said, has visions of a national championship. Being the first in the school history to capture it would be special, as would the extended finale with teammates.

"I'm just trying to have fun. It's my last year playing lacrosse. I don't want to have any regrets," Sydney said. "I just enjoy hanging out with them and being together."

Sydney put an exclamation point on her farewell season with a three-goal hat trick against Xavier on April 16, her first multi-goal outing.

"They were happy for me," she said.

The sisters, while unable to hang out these days, communicate regularly.

"We're super-close as siblings," Jenna said. "We follow each other's schedules and watch each other's games by livestream when possible."

Sydney is Jenna's biggest cheerleader.

"It's been so great watching her develop as a player and lead her team and get more confidence," she said.

The marketing major looks forward to the entire family being at her graduation in June, when Jenna's season will be over.

"That's going to be super fun," Sydney said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean