Women's Lacrosse Feature: Kelsey Gahan
March 23, 2015
On April 23, the ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championships will be held at KlÃ¶ckner Stadium, with the talents of defender Kelsey Gahan on display before a stadium full of women’s lacrosse fans. A week and a half before that, on April 10, the Ruffin Gallery will have a more tangible display of Gahan’s talents featured on its walls. Gahan, a Studio Art major, will have her senior thesis gallery show of dark room, silver-gelatin prints.
“I’ve been photographing abandoned houses all around Charlottesville,” Gahan said, describing the subject of her show. “I’ve worked with somewhere between five and eight homes. I’ll have bigger pictures of the whole house and then smaller pictures of smaller details about it that surround the house.”
Gahan is thrilled to be putting the fruits of her efforts on display, but she is more excited about being able to share her creative side with people who don’t often get to see it: her teammates.
“My whole team is coming which I’m really excited about because they haven’t really seen any of my photography work,” Gahan said. “My whole family is coming and I’ll probably invite a bunch of faculty members and coaches who don’t really see my artistic style.”
It’s hard to imagine that Gahan’s teammates and coaches haven’t seen much of her artistic side, because art in various forms has been a big part of her life since a young age.
“My mom is Ms. Creative and Ms. Design. She does it all and taught me everything growing up,” Gahan said. “When I first got to UVa, I told myself that I was just going to focus on business, but after a couple of semesters, I switched back to art because I really missed it.”
As part of the Studio Art major, she has worked in a variety of mediums in addition to her emphasis of photography, including animation and drawing, but even that hasn’t been enough to appease her artistic drive. Gahan has continued to paint in her spare time.
“I’m more of a sloppy painter who does the splatter paint stuff,” Gahan said, describing her style. “I do abstract portraits, mostly in black and white. There’s one where I have this head where the mouth is open and the rest is splatter painted, like over the eyes, and the nose is visible. It is like this person is screaming and exploding. That’s one of my favorites. I did it while I was here, but it was just in my free time, not for a class.”
Gahan believes she has found a career path that will be the best use of her creative talents and an internship last summer solidified that decision.
“I had an internship working with an interior design firm, so I was in a bunch of fancy homes, seeing how it was done. My boss was awesome. He didn’t treat me like I was an intern, so I was able to go to see how the whole place comes together. He let me pick out fabric, paint colors and actual pieces of furniture. He really taught me how the whole business is done, including doing a ton of paperwork. At the end of the day, it comes down to business as opposed to designing. People always say that interior design sounds really fun, but you have to make sure you’re making money and doing all the bills. So, I know the reality of the business, and I am still very excited to go into the field.”
Before walking The Lawn and heading off into her interior design career, Gahan still has a half-season remaining of lacrosse, something that she relishes just as much as her photography and painting.
“I first started playing when I was maybe four years old and was on an all-boys team,” Gahan recalled. “I was the only girl that wanted to do the program at that age so my dad threw me on the all-guys team. It was fun. I ended up being one of the top scorers, but I remember my very first goal. Because we didn’t practice when we were little, I scored on my own goal. I was like, `Oh you can shoot on any cage?’ Everyone was telling me not to and to go to the other net, but I just fired it on my own cage. I think that’s why I became a defender.”
As a junior in high school, Gahan again came to the realization that she was better at the defensive end of the field.
“I knew vocally I was better on the defensive end and could take charge and tell everyone where to go. On defense, you really have to play as a unit. You have this family behind you, supporting you. You’re never defending the goal on your own, you’re never getting taken on one-on-one. Some is always going to have your back. I think I’m a smart player. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m the best shut-down defender or anything, but I understand when to slide. I understand when to check, when not to check. I’m more patient and I’m able to see the field well.”
Gahan made an immediate impact on the UVa defensive unit, starting 20 games as a freshman. Her sophomore season, however, was a physical struggle as she missed the first five games of the season, recovering from a knee injury. With a lot of hard work and determination, she made it back to the field and played five more games before getting injured again. Still undaunted, Gahan returned to the starting lineup for the first game of the NCAA Tournament.
“We were in a really tough spot and I just knew that anything I could do to get back out there would help the team,” Gahan said. “I have had this knee injury my entire life so I was like `I can get through it one more time.’ The last knee episode was by-far the worst so I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near 100 percent, but I was like `push through this last month and then you can get surgery and get healed.’ I think I made a good choice to keep going.”
Since then, Gahan has started every game and (a loud knock on wood) her knee hasn’t presented her any problems as she continues to do rehab and treatments to strengthen the muscles.
“[Athletic Trainer] Blair [Moore] still keeps a great eye on me. She has helped me so much throughout this entire process. I don’t know where I would be without her.”
Moore is just the first of many people Gahan would like to thank.
“My parents, Shaine and Arleen, are number one of course. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I really thank them for the amount of time and money they put into education for my brothers and I. All the opportunities I’ve been blessed with are 100 percent because of them. I am so thankful for them being there for me, especially my mom during the knee surgery. I can’t imagine where I’d be without them. My brothers, Kyle, Chase and Reese, are honestly why I’m an athlete and more of a tomboy. They’re a big reason why I’m a gritty person and go at it every day. My teammates have made me the person and player I am today. They make me want to come to practice and they’re the number one reason why I show up every day. They push me harder than I push them. And of course, the coaches. Since I’ve been here they’ve taken this program back to the top where it belongs. They’ve turned me into a much better player and I couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff.”