Dartmouth High alum details her journey from South Coast to Scandinavia

Dec 29, 2022

Dartmouth High alum Jennifer Riley is the first to admit that her first time playing in net for the girls lacrosse team was less than ideal.

“I played terribly,” she said, “absolutely terribly.” 

The day after her first game, her teacher Scott Boudria, who was also the head soccer coach, crumpled some papers into balls and threw them at her so she would be “a bit more on point.”

“[Just] trying to train her in the classroom,” Boudria responded with a laugh.

Almost 20 years after that bad start, Riley now captains and helps oversee operations for the Finland Women’s National Lacrosse Team.

“And it all started here, right at Dartmouth High School,” she said. “I owe so much to this program.”

Just prior to winter break, Riley stopped by her alma mater to share her athletic journey from the South Coast to Scandinavia with members of the girls lacrosse team.

Riley told the student athletes that when she was their age, she never thought lacrosse would be such a big part of her life.  

Heading into high school, her favorite sport was field hockey. At the end of that fall season her freshman year, her coach Alison Cato, then the head coach of the girls lacrosse team, suggested Riley try lacrosse in the spring.

“And I ended up being captain for [both] teams my senior year,” she said.

After graduating from Dartmouth High in 2007, Riley went to the University of Miami, where team sports were absent from her life for four years.

“My focus was just on studying,” she said. “It would have been great to build my lacrosse career some more, but at the time that was the right decision for me.”

“Sick of the heat,” Riley moved to the University of Helsinki in Finland — the polar opposite of Florida — to obtain her master’s degree. There, her love for lacrosse was rekindled.

Missing home during that first winter abroad, Riley’s boyfriend at the time suggested she try out for the Helsinki Chiefettes in order to make some new friends and play a sport she proudly played in Dartmouth.

Eleven years later, Riley still starts in net for the Chiefettes.

In 2019, her playing career took another step forward as Riley joined the national team and  played in that year’s European Lacrosse Tournament in Israel.

Though the team went 1-3, Riley said she was proud to represent her new home. She said she was especially proud of the team’s lone win against rival Sweden. She compared the rivalry between Finland and Sweden to that between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

“I had so much adrenaline after that game that I couldn’t sleep. I had to go to our physio the next day,” she said, “and she had to show us exercises on how to calm down because I was so excited and rattled from playing in that game.”

All this is in addition to her full-time career at an IT consulting firm in Helsinki.

Riley credits what she learned during her time at Dartmouth High for managing that balance.

“You set your students up for success,” she said, thanking her teachers for giving her confidence. “If I hadn’t had an education here, I don’t think as many doors would have opened up for me.”

She said that the keys to success on the field are hard work and not taking things for granted — a mindset Riley said she will have as she tries out to play in the 2023 Euro Cup.

“Everything is on the line and anything can happen,” she said. “Even though I have 15 years of experience, I still have to work hard.”

Riley ended things by telling the student athletes to cherish their time at Dartmouth High while they can.

“This is a great place to be,” she said. “You’re very lucky to live in Dartmouth — this is a great community and you have a lot of great opportunities.”