Catching Up With

Courtney Lawson Desena, Penn State soccer


Call Courtney Lawson Desena the first lady of women’s soccer. The Pembroke native was the first player at Notre Dame Academy of Hingham to earn All-America honors. A 1995 academy graduate, she received the first full scholarship offered by Penn State for women’s soccer, and helped to lead the Nittany Lions to their first Big 10 title as a freshman. Penn State repeated the next three seasons, and advanced to the NCAA final four her senior year.

“Penn State went from a club team to varsity Division 1 my first year there, and I’m very proud that we put down a foundation for them to win all of these Big 10 titles,” said Lawson, who was inducted into the Notre Dame Hall of Fame last year.


“With Penn State, I always hoped that I would be part of building a program and leaving a legacy.”

Lawson, who turns 37 this month, and her husband, Joe Desena, got engaged during a 24-hour adventure race in Santa Monica, Calif.

The couple live in Pittsfield, Vt., with their four children: Jack, 9; Charlie, 7; Catherine, 5; and Alexandra, 2.

Courtney and Joe own and manage Riverside Farm, which hosts high-end weddings and other functions. Former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and his wife, Marie, held a wedding party there. The Desenas also own a local general store and founded the wildly popular Spartan Race Series, which includes the Fenway Park Sprint obstacle race scheduled for Nov. 15.

Lawson also competes in marathons and has run Boston, New York, and San Diego. She is coaching her son’s soccer teams at Killington Elementary School. Soccer, however, is not something she is pushing on her children.

“The older two like wrestling, and up here of course we do a lot of skiing,” she said.


“Up to this point they hadn’t loved soccer, although Jack got into the World Cup this summer and fell in love with soccer. For Halloween he’s going to be Lionel Messi [from the Argentine national team]. When I dropped him at school he was wearing a Ronaldo shirt, so I’m thrilled. He keeps talking about how he wants to be a soccer player when he grows up.”

Her other passion is hosting the high-end country weddings in Riverside Farm’s renovated barn, approximately 25 per year. The property also has an organic farm, which supplies much of the food for the weddings.