Q&A: Kara and Regan Nealon

Backyard lacrosse rivals as children, the Penn State seniors and twin sisters prefer playing for the same side.

Kara and Regan Nealon on Penn State lacrosse field, photo by Cardoni

Q: Which one of you is older?
Kara: I am. By two minutes.

Q: I know you have a lot of lacrosse ties in your family, but when did the two of you start playing lacrosse?
Regan: Probably as soon as I could hold a stick. My dad [Denny] played lacrosse at the Naval Academy, so we always had sticks around. My brothers [Denny and Ryan] played. We’ve played basically our whole lives. I don’t know when we started.
Kara: Youth league probably starts kindergarten or first grade, but we had started well before that.

Q: I read somewhere that you had some good backyard battles. What was your backyard setup like?
Regan: We had a goal and then stuff in the back to block the balls. We’d do 1 v 1s against each other, and they would definitely get pretty heated. It would turn into a lot of fights (laughs), but good competition.

Q: You played for Coach Jenny Purvis ’11 H&HD at Garnet Valley High School. She played field hockey here (from 2007 to 2010) as you probably know. How did she help both of you develop when you were there?
Kara: I think the biggest thing she was good at doing for everybody on our team was preparing us for the fitness part of going to college. We had winter workouts three to four times a week from November to the season, and it was lifting or running stuff.
Regan: A great coach for sure. And she made our practices very competitive, so it drove our whole team to be competitive in everything we do.

Q: When you were exploring options for college, were your lists pretty similar? Was there ever a chance that you would wind up going to different schools?
Regan: They were pretty similar, but we weren’t set on going to the same school. It wasn’t like we needed to go to the same place, but we both ended up liking Penn State the best out of all the schools we visited, and then it was, “I guess we might as well go together.” But it wasn’t going to be a game-changer if one of us liked somewhere else better.
Kara: Neither of us really had a dream school, so when we went into recruiting, we didn’t have a set list at all. Even though we were from Pennsylvania, we had never been to Penn State, so it just kind of sold us the first visit.

Q: Who committed first, and how far apart were those decisions?
Regan: We went on a visit first and then we came back a couple months later, and we committed at the same time. I don’t know if we actually decided at the same time.
Kara: I think Penn State was our first visit. We weren’t sure how anybody was going to beat it, and we went on a few other visits and came back for a second visit and we were pretty much 95% sure we were going to commit on the visit. And then we did.

Q: You played against each other a lot in the backyard, obviously. Did you ever play against each other on teams, whether that was in high school scrimmages or club teams?
Kara: We’ve been on different teams in practice and have been marked up on each other...
Regan: I play midfield and Kara plays attack, so sometimes at practices if we’re doing scrimmages, I’ll be on her on defense. But we’ve never been on different teams. We ended up making the same teams growing up. We never played against each other in a real game.
Kara: I feel like we don’t like being put on each other in practice, because we know each other’s moves pretty well.

Q: That transitions into my next question. Regan, what’s the best part of Kara’s game
Regan: Definitely her vision. She always has her eyes up and is ready to feed, and I know that if I’m cutting and I’m open, she’ll get it to me. And I think a lot of people on our team feel that way.

Q: And Kara, the best part of Regan’s game?
Kara: Regan’s gritty. She’s kinda short—not that short (Kara is three inches taller)—but she’s a really fast, quick player, and she’s a really good 1 v 1 defender for being a midfielder. I hate going against her because she’s really good at 1 v 1 defense, and she’s a really good cutter so it’s easy to find her on the field.

Q: Which one of you is more competitive?
Regan: I’d say we’re both pretty competitive. Our friends always joke about how competitive we are, even if it’s like a card game or something random. People get annoyed because of how competitive we are. I don’t even know who’s more competitive.
Kara: I feel like I might get more mad, but we’re the same amount of competitive. I show it more maybe, but we’re both very competitive.

Q: You have very extensive knowledge of how each other play, and tendencies. How has that helped Penn State on the field these last few years on game days?
Regan: I feel like I know when Kara is going to be dodging or passing, so I can tell if I need to give her space or I should be cutting toward her. But honestly I would say that this year I hope we have more of a connection with each other. I feel like the last couple of years we haven’t shown that connection that we had in high school and I’m hoping we can show it a little bit more. We do have a lot of chemistry because we’ve been playing our whole lives together. I’m hoping we can show it a little bit more this year.
Kara: When we’re on the field, we know what the other is going to do. We don’t have to think when we’re playing with each other. It’s a trust factor on the field. This year, hopefully it’ll be shown more.

Q: Are there differences in the way the two of you prepare? Maybe one of you hates running but likes drills? Anything that goes into preparation physically or mentally?
Regan: I’d say we both would rather do hard drills instead of running. We run when we have to, but we would rather get our conditioning in by doing hard shooting drills. Preparing for games … what do you think, Kara?
Kara: I would say she’s stronger than me, so in terms of lifting, she tries to make me lift heavier, and then running—neither of us like running, but I make sure we do it if we have to do it.
Regan: Yeah. She sticks to the running we need to do. I’m happy that I have her there because it makes me do all the running I don’t want to do (laughs).

Q: This is probably a level of detail I don’t even need, but are there differences in the sticks you use?
Regan: We both have the same stick. A lot of the people on our team have switched over to mesh stringing, which is kind of like a men’s pocket, and it’s a new thing in all of lacrosse.
Kara: Since high school, we’ve used the same stick pretty much. In high school we were both middies, so we’d get whatever the middie stick was. In college, it’s been the same way, we’re both still middie-attack, where we need a good shooting stick.

Q: So if the power went out in your house and you had to leave for practice at 5 in the morning, and you grabbed the other’s stick, would you be able to tell?
Regan: It’s weird. Everyone on our team, our sticks look the same, but we know which one is ours. At practice, they’re all laying on the side, and then everyone knows which one is theirs, even though they’re exactly the same.
Kara: And then when you do pick up the wrong stick, it’s either going to fly on you or go straight into the ground.
Regan: Or you’re holding it for a second and you’re like, ‘Wait—this isn’t mine.’ You can just tell. It’s weird.

Q: You both have some musical talent according to your (sports information) bios—ukulele and piano?
Regan: (laughs) I remember writing that coming into college. I played piano growing up, and I know Piano Man, that’s my one claim to fame—

Q: That’s the best song!
Regan: I know. I love pulling that out. I used to be able to play a couple songs on ukulele. Probably not anymore. So I wouldn’t say I have much musical talent, but I was trying to think of hobbies to put on there.
Kara: I’m the same way. Our mom made us do piano from second grade until … I don’t know when we stopped. Sixth grade, maybe? We can both play piano but we’re not that good. And then ukulele is something our family does. We can both play ‘Puff the Magic Dragon,’ (laughs) and that’s pretty much it.

Q: I saw that you are living in the same house this year but different sections of the house. Is that the first time you’ve lived apart?
Regan: It’s a big house with 10 people on our team, but it’s split in half. Two different addresses, and you have to walk across the porch to get to the other side. I’m on one side, Kara’s on the other. It’s been fun living with eight other people on our team. And even though we’re basically in the same house, it’s good to be a little bit separated and mix in with other people.
Kara: I would say it hasn’t been that much different being on separate sides of the house. The biggest time we’ve been apart was this summer, when I went abroad for a class (to Copenhagen) for three weeks. That was the only time we’ve been apart for longer than a night or two our entire life.

Q: What’s on tap for you after graduation?
Regan: I’m an education major, so I’m hoping to be a kindergarten, first or second grade teacher. I have no clue where I’m going to go, though I’d kind of like to go somewhere different than Pennsylvania for a few years. I might be doing a fifth year next year. I’m doing pre-student teaching this semester, and then next fall I have my full student teaching. So I’ll probably be back here for a fifth year next year.
Kara: I’m in a five-year program, so I’ll probably be taking a fifth year to play lacrosse too. I’m an accounting major. I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I’d kind of like to work for some sort of nonprofit organization. That’ll probably be farther down the line. Maybe end up coaching.
Regan: I’d like to be a lacrosse coach, too.