By Joe Eachus
As the pandemic-shortened 2021 NCAA lacrosse season winds down to a close, all eleven of the seniors on the Boston University women’s lacrosse team have just a few more games left in their college careers. All have made valuable contributions to the squad during their time on Comm. Ave., but none stood out more during an April 4 game than senior attacker Meg Hickey, who stepped between the pipes as an emergency backup and heroically made 10 saves to help the Terriers rout Lafayette, 18-7.
Meg took some time to chat with me on Thursday about her time at BU, her experience with being a Division I athlete before and during COVID, and, of course, last Sunday’s performance.
Joe Eachus: Since coming to BU four years ago, how do you think you’ve grown, both as a player and as a person?
Meg Hickey: “I honestly think that my experience at BU has been unique, definitely. I struggled with injury my junior year, so that was truly one of my biggest growing points, as far as being a person and an athlete. A lot of times you don’t think about how your life is going to change or how things are going to be harder, and that’s helped me grow as both a person and an athlete. I’m learning to roll with the punches and do whatever role that you’re put into to the absolute best of your ability, both on the field and off the field. So I think that definitely helped me learn as a person off the field as well, because there’s always going to be adversity and you’re not always going to be able to see into the future.”
JE: On the theme of growth, by my count there are ten other seniors on the roster. What’s your relationship like with them and how has that changed over the course of your time together?
MH: “From day one, we came in and were such a tight knit group, and I think that having so many of us with so many different personalities has been amazing. There’s always somebody to go to, and you have 10 different people to call your best friends. Freshman year you always come in a little nervous and unsure of what you’ve signed up for, so definitely just having the support of those girls, and the support we all have for each other, is something that I’ve never had before in my life and it’s helped me to be the person and player I am today.”
JE: Yeah, I’m a current freshman, so I kind of know what that’s like to come in completely blind. Definitely great to have a group from day one.
MH: “Exactly, you have a built in friend group! In my grade there are 11 of us, and then with the rest of the team there’s 30 of us, so couldn’t ask for a tighter-knit group.”
JE: Are there any of the younger players, freshmen or sophomores, that you’ve taken on a mentorship role with?
MH: “Yeah, definitely. We used to have a big dog/little dog system set up by the coaches, but we all really buy into it and really enjoy that aspect of the team. Vic Tormey, she’s a sophomore, was my little dog, and she’s somebody I definitely took under my wing, as a human and as a lacrosse player, so I always have an eye out for her, just like the junior that I had when I was a little dog. Tobey Tick, she’s a freshman, I’ve kind of taken a closer eye to her in practice and tried to help her out the best I can, because it’s so tough coming in and playing at a completely different level with people you’ve never played with before.
“Rules are different, so there’s a lot to adjust to. I think that just having somebody there to look out for you is one of the most important things you can have when you’re here, especially someone older than you. My big dog when I was a freshman was Katie Belval, and the way she took me under her wing was so incredibly helpful to me, and I couldn’t have done these four years without her, so I really valued taking a closer eye on the underclassmen and making sure I was available to help in any way that I could.”
JE: You mentioned the adjustment from high school lacrosse to college lacrosse. Can you go into what that’s like?
MH: “Absolutely. I think for a lot of us, we’re recruited very young, for the most part. Now they’ve changed the rules as far as when recruiting can start, but a lot of us were recruited before that. We weren’t all necessarily from areas that played at such a high level. Especially for me, personally, I’m from a very small town, so it was a huge adjustment for me just as far as the pace and style of play, the ins and outs of game knowledge. Things even as simple as playing a 4-on-5, or a 6-on-5, where you’re man up/man down, there’s so many logistics that go into those little things that I wasn’t super keen on coming in, and that’s also the case for a lot of our younger guys coming in.
“There are also some different rules at the collegiate level, such as the ability to self-start on the whistle, so I think it comes down to the speed and quickness of both mind and body. I also think physicality is a big one, because they let us play a lot in college, which I personally am thankful for! It adds a whole other aspect to the game, where your body has to be stronger, you have to be smarter, you have to learn to literally go through the hits and roll with the punches, and learning to play at a high speed while still being physical and staying strong.”
JE: Now that your college career is in its final chapters, has that set in yet? Or are you just taking it day-by-day, game-by-game?
MH: “Yeah, I think it definitely hits you when you move back in for your last semester. Just thinking ‘Wow, this is it.’ But as we settle into the season, we just take it day by day and look forward to the next game. With last year, where our season was cut short so suddenly, we’re just grateful. Especially with me, I just take it day by day and I’m so thankful to be out there. Especially with the nice weather recently, can’t complain about that. It’s so great to be out there every day and just be proud of the group we have and be grateful for every day that we have to get better, be with the team, and enjoy the rest of this experience.”
JE: You did mention the pause last year and subsequent quarantine that seemingly never ended. If you can take a time machine back there for a second, what was your mindset like when they paused the season?
MH: “It honestly feels like yesterday. When you get into the season, days just go so quickly. In a normal year, we play two games a week. Every day, you’re just looking ahead to the next game, then the next game happens, you move onto the next game, and so on. The spring semester usually flies by for us, so it was a shock for us. We were going into the team room, getting ready for practice, scouting for the next game, and then Coach told us that they were pausing the season, which ended up being for the rest of the year. A lot of us were very emotional.
“It isn’t necessarily a reaction you knew how to have, since this wasn’t something any of us have ever gone through in our lifetimes. It was a tough realization, knowing that we weren’t going to come back to play out the rest of the season and spend the rest of the year with our teammates. Even classes, being able to walk down Comm. Ave. and go to class, its such a great experience on a beautiful campus, and now we’re sitting in our room on our computers for class. I wish I had appreciated the times that I had. I had two and a half years of normalcy, and you think you’re finally in a groove, and then all of a sudden everything gets turned upside down and you have to figure things out again. But that’s life.”
JE: It’s sort of like you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone, right?
JE: Speaking of COVID times, how has this year been different, as far as the adjustment for both you and the team?
MH: “It’s been strange, especially from a team chemistry standpoint. In the fall, we were only allowed to practice in “pods,” which were smaller groups, and the team was broken into four pods. So especially with the younger guys, freshmen and sophomores both (since we didn’t get a full year with the sophomores), not being able to play in a 7-on-7 setting and things like that. The highest numbers they let us do in the fall was just a 3-on-3. So coming into the spring, it was really exciting to be able to practice and play with the whole team. Having us all together and moving forward with what we were used to was great.”
JE: So, instead of just taking about lacrosse, let’s talk about you as a person for a bit. Outside of lacrosse, what are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?
MH: “I really enjoy cooking! That’s one of my favorite things to do when I come home from practice, make up a good lunch or dinner. That’s one of my favorites. I also really enjoy just getting outside and hanging out with my friends and family. Being outside is something I’ve loved ever since I was young. I think that’s what really drew me into sports, to be honest. Being active, being able to go for walks. Obviously, we’re in such a beautiful city, being able to go down by the water to take in the views. Things I never personally experienced back home. Coming to a big city was very eye-opening for me, and I think that being able to have those opportunities and step into a whole new life that I was so excited to start.”
JE: So, when did you first start lacrosse? Not necessarily your first time playing on an organized team, but can you remember the first time you held a stick in your hands?
MH: “I think it was fourth or fifth grade, I started pretty late. I was a big softball player when I was younger, and my dad was always telling me he wanted to see something a little more fast-paced when he was coming to games, ‘C’mon Megan, I really think you’d like lacrosse, you should try it out.’ Maryland, where I’m from, is a bigger lacrosse area, so a bunch of my friends were playing, a bunch of his friends’ kids were playing, so he was like ‘C’mon, just try it out.’ So I was still playing softball, and my dad was like ‘just go to this lacrosse practice,’ and I showed up and never looked back.
“The first day, I remember the coach was friends with my dad, and he went up after and was like “I think she could play in college one day,” and my dad said “come on, she’s in fourth grade, we’re not thinking like that, I just want to watch something a little more exciting!” Honestly though, that’s why having somebody to really buy into you and have faith in you is such a good thing, and it’s honestly necessary for anything in life. Having the support of your family and coaches and things like that is so important for an athlete. But yeah, I never looked back after that. I quit softball, joined the lacrosse team, and here I am.”
JE: What’s your fondest lacrosse memory at any level?
MH: “I gotta tell you, I really think that it was this weekend. I had such an amazing experience watching our team come together, that was something I’d never seen before. Playing with this group of girls has been incredible. It’s been one of the best experiences of my whole life. Just watching people come together in unforeseen circumstances, where we’re missing starters, and not the same people are there to start each game. So, watching people step up and fill roles that they hadn’t been put into before was amazing to watch.
“It was so fun to see our whole team come together. I mean, the offense was completely clicking, Kenzie [Irvine] and Emily [Vervlied] has a great game down there. We had Michelle [Seger] and Ryann Gaffney, who had struggled with injuries in the past, get some of their first goals in a while. Our defense really came together, and I can’t say enough about that. They had such an incredible game, and they had my back, I had their back, and I really believe that’s why it worked out in our favor.”
JE: On the topic of Sunday, when did you find out it would be you between the pipes for the game?
MH: “I found out two days before the game. In the past, we had had another situation where we only had one of our goalies. So it was kind of like ‘Oh, what happens if Arielle [Hammer] gets hurt, who’s going to step in?’ And I guess the team was chatting and somebody told [Morton] that I had played soccer goalie in the past, and I was like ‘Yeah, I’ll try it out,’ but at this time I hadn’t really thought that it would happen, but if Arielle went down and I needed to step in, I’d at least be a body in the goal.
“So we found out two days before the game that we weren’t going to have either of our goalies, and our third goalie Reilly Agres is hurt, so it was shocking, but I was excited. Two days before gameday at practice, I got in net for the first time. Luckily we have [Brittany Dipper,] one of the best goalies to have ever played college lacrosse on our coaching staff so that was really exciting for me to be able to learn from her and absorb all the knowledge she had, and do my best, and luckily it worked out in my favor this weekend.
JE: I was gonna ask if you had played any sort of goalie ever, but obviously you mentioned soccer, but before Friday, had you ever even held a lacrosse goalie stick before?
MH: “I played soccer goalie for a very long time, but I had only played lacrosse goalie when I went on a trip to England as a high school junior. One of our goalies really wanted to score a goal, so our coaches were like ‘we’re really doing this for fun and for the experience, so if somebody will step in goal for you, then absolutely you can get out there and try to score a goal.’ So for one game (I actually think we were in Scotland at the time), I stepped in for the first time, and I was terrible! I was really bad. So I was a little bit nervous this weekend. But yeah, that’s the only other time I played goalie.”
JE: With that being said, what was the mentality like going into Sunday, both for you and in the locker room?
MH: “I think we went into this game knowing that we had a lot of people in positions they hadn’t been in. So for me, my mentality was that I had nothing to lose. I stepped in there and was determined to do my absolute best. The whole team really bought into that and we had a lot of girls in different positions, and they had the same mentality I did. We had conversations for the two days leading up, ‘whatever it takes, whatever it takes,’ so we were all so excited. People were excited to get opportunities they hadn’t necessarily had before, and people just really bought into a team mentality this weekend.
“Things were clicking all over the field. We couldn’t have done it had the midfield not been clicking, had Jen Barry not been incredible on the draw controls, had Kenzie [Irvine] and Emily [Vervlied] not combined for so many points [Editor’s note: 16!], and had our defense not done such a great job. That’s really what made everything click, that pregame mentality. We were all really excited and determined to do whatever it took to pull out a win.”
JE: Yeah, they were saying on the broadcast that there were fifteen players out! So it seems like it went from almost the worst possible situation to the best possible situation because everyone stepped up and did their job, to quote Bill Belichick, and you guys went out there and kicked ass.
MH: “Yeah, that’s definitely what led us to success, the mentality of everybody stepping up. Like I said earlier, it’s my favorite sports memory that I’ve ever been a part of. Watching girls who work hard in practice every single day get their moment to shine, and take advantage of it was just awesome.”
JE: What was it like postgame, going into the locker room, sort of being the “hero of the game?”
MH: “It was incredible. I think hero is definitely a strong word, because there were so many things that went into making it such a great win for us. Everything clicking everywhere on the field, so going into the locker room, we were so excited and so proud of what we had done as a team. We weren’t really sure what the game plan was going to be, obviously we had a game play but we knew things would change throughout based on what Lafayette was doing against us. A lot of in-game coaching from our coaching staff, as well.
“Part of that came from timeouts and things like that. People going into the timeouts and being really receptive of what the coaches had to say, going out, and executing. Proud was the word that all of us were feeling. Proud, excited, just by the grit that our team showed that day. I mean, we got a win for it, and the score really showed how much work we put in last week and we were very, very proud of that.”
JE: Coach Morton could not say enough about how awesome you were in net on the postgame. Just an incredible performance from you, and from the team all around. Really fun one to watch. Just one more to wrap up, what’s next for you?
MH: “Like I’ve said, we’re really taking it day by day at this point. We’re not always sure what the world’s going to throw at us, so we just take each day as it comes. We show up and just enjoy what we have. Coming into the season, we didn’t even know if we would get a full year, so we wake up and we’re so grateful to be able to practice and be with our friends and enjoy the time to get better. For me and the other seniors, it’s enjoying the last time we have to be athletes, really. So that’s something we don’t take for granted this year. It really shows in the way people in my grade are performing. You look at Emily, look at Kenzie, you look at Jenny Feeney, all these girls having career years as seniors. It goes to show how much gratitude we have for this year, and how much work we’re putting in each and every day. That’s what we’ll continue to do moving forward and that’s how we’ll continue to find success.”