Some athletes shy away from pressure situations late in games.
Monticello lacrosse player Meghan Walin embraces the challenge.
The senior attacker showcased that will to win last Tuesday during the Mustangs’ 12-11 overtime victory over Rockbridge in the season opener for both schools. Walin scored a game-high four goals and assisted on another to lead her team to its first win of the season.
But it was the timing of her final two tallies that were the most impressive for the senior attacker. Walin scored with six seconds left in regulation as Monticello erased a three-goal deficit to force overtime. The magic continued in the extra session, as she scored on an end-to-end rush on a restart in the first sudden death overtime session to secure the victory and earn Schewels Athlete of the Week.
“I love competition,” Walin said. “I do not have a problem with pressure or being put in high-stakes situations. We had many players contribute that night. Our new goalie, Sarah Frances [Krebs], had an amazing game and was honestly the player that won that game for us. I was confident that if we could win the draw and transition the ball down the field, we could pull it off. Thankfully, my teammates made that happen.”
In overtime, Walin said her instincts just took over.
“Once I received the pass and took on the defenders, I saw one of them take her eyes off me,” she said. “In that split second, I knew I could beat her and I was able to take it from there. It was a total team effort. I was just the one that got to rip the shot. I won’t deny it, that [goal] felt great, but it never would have happened if my team didn’t work as hard as we could all around the filed to make it happen.”
Athletic success is nothing new for Walin. The Monticello senior grew up playing a variety of sports, including soccer, swimming and volleyball and eventually played all of them year-round.
She began playing lacrosse in the third grade to pay homage to her sibling.
“Like so many things, I wanted to follow in my older sister, Kendall’s footsteps,” Walin said. “I probably never would have picked up a lacrosse stick if she had no put one in her hands. We have a healthy sense of competition, which I think helps propels us to do better.”
Walin started playing year-round lacrosse her freshman year at Monticello and it quickly became her favorite sport.
“I really liked the speed of the sport and high-scoring [games] versus [that of] soccer,” Walin said. “The quick stick work, footwork and passing is so exciting when it finally connects and reaches the back of the goal. It’s sheer excitement.”
Her experience with other sports served her well with lacrosse, both on and off the field.
“I really do believe that my soccer experience provided me with an understanding of field position, gaps, lanes, angles and reading opponents offensive and defensive players, that have allowed me to accelerate my lacrosse skills,” Walin said. “Coach [Trent] Holden and Coach [Langley Sloan] have really made a big impact on my understanding of the game and my enjoyment. I’m super lucky to have them in my corner.”
Walin’s preparation was delayed a bit because she was a member of Monticello’s swim team, which finished fourth in the VHSL Class 3 state swimming and diving championships. The senior swam the third leg on the girls 200-yard freestyle relay that finished second overall. She also participated on the 400-yard freestyle relay that finished 10th.
Swimming kept the senior from participating in preseason training sessions for lacrosse and she didn’t practice with the team for the first time until the first day of tryouts.
“Since I have gone to states for swimming each year, it has been really hard to see the team out there getting ready,” Walin said. “The good news is I showed up in good shape, but different muscle groups [still need work], so I’m still getting into lacrosse shape. Practices have been great. We have a lot of new players and many that are extremely talented. We also have experienced players that have played together, so we need to now all work together and focus on the fundamentals.”
One of the key points of emphasis this season for the team is focusing on quick ball movement offensively. Walin said one thing that sets her team apart from others is its freedom on the attacking end.
“We don’t have set players on our offense,” she said. “Our offense is versatile in the fact that we have strong [players] everywhere. Everyone can drive from the top and get through the defense and score. Everyone has the ability to beat their defender on a crease and roll.”
Another key ingredient is the leadership of second-year coach Langley Sloan.
“I feel like the reason why our team trusts each other so much is because we trust Coach Sloan,” Walin said. “[She] has made our program so much. She holds us accountable and we all look up to her and listen to her, not because we are scared of her, but because we love her as a coach, teacher and overall person.”
Sloan has similar admiration for her team. She was instantly amazed at Walin’s impact on the team, both on and off the field.
“Not only do the younger girls look to her as a leader on the field, they look to her as one of the ‘tone-setters’ for the team,” Sloan said. “Meghan’s confidence and experience makes her one that the girls are naturally drawn to and look to for input from lacrosse, to school to the coolest new song, video or meme.”
That also applies to her coach.
“She is our team DJ and is always keeping me ‘hip’ to the new, cool songs,” Sloan said. “I am lucky that I am the student intern in Meghan’s AP Government and politics class and I get to see her interact and succeed within the classroom setting.”
That personality also serves Walin well off the field. She remains very close with her sister and spends as much time together with her as she can, including trips to Clemson University with her family.
“I enjoy listening to music and going to concerts,” she said. “Basically, anything that is in a social setting or gives me the ability to try something new.”
Walin admits that she loves photography, but playing three sports and her travel time don’t allow her to pursue it as much as she’d like. As a kid, she had a strong infatuation with the fine arts.
“I did ballet, tap and dabbled in theatre,” Walin said. “I even played the role of the opera singing wardrobe from ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”
Another of her strong qualities includes the spoken word.
“I think I’m good at debate, negotiation or arguing, it that’s a skill,” Walin said.
She also has a strong respect for her teachers.
“I can’t tell you how much it means when I see them in the stands, taking time out of their schedules, to come and show their support,” Walin said. “The biggest lesson I have learned is when you make them a partner, as hard and scary as it might seem, they really appreciate it and want to help you succeed.”
Walin also hopes to use athletics as a platform to something near and dear to her heart. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was in the eighth grade and has done well to manage it through exercise and medicine.
“I want to be able to show younger athletes that you should never let it hold you back from doing what you want to do,” Walin said. “It is a part of me and always will be and I’ve had to learn how to live with it every day and not let it affect my playing. At the end of the day, it’s not just me on the field, it’s a whole team and if I let it affect me during a game, I’m affecting the rest of the team.”
This season, Walin has worked to improve her ability to score goals with both hands, especially her left hand. She said the most underrated part of her game is her ability to play defense and field awareness. Walin said she’s made strides in all three avenues and the results are evident.
“I think my favorite thing is her fire,” Sloan said. “What I think separates good teams from great teams is the ability to flip a switch when you step on the field and going full savage. That’s exactly what Meghan does. She gets this look in her eyes and that’s when you know it’s all over for her opponents. She just has this go-go-go tenacity, whether she’s attacking or defending.”
Sloan has been impressed with the team’s early start to the season and is impressed with the progression Walin has made over the last 12 months.
“I am super lucky to have come to Monticello when Meghan was just a junior and to see her growth over the past year,” Sloan said. “Not only have I seen her grow as a lacrosse player in her on-field decisions, but as a college-bound young woman. I can’t wait to see what Meghan does with her senior season. But I am equally, if not more excited to see what she does in life. All I know is whenever she ‘flips that switch’ and sets her sites on a goal, that she will be unstoppable in whatever endeavor she takes on.”