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April 5, 2013

On the attack

By: Marc Mullen

Megan Will has been a goal-scoring machine the past two years for the Tech women’s lacrosse team and is
trying to chase down her cousin as the most prolific scorer in Hokie history

Throwback Thursday is a term used in the social media world for when people post old pictures of themselves and/or their friends on their social media sites, and … well … it’s done on a Thursday.

Throwback Thursday took on a whole new meaning for Megan Will, a current sophomore on the Virginia Tech women’s lacrosse team, this past Thanksgiving when she visited her Aunt Sharon’s and Uncle Gary’s home on the annual Thursday holiday.

Her family members started reminiscing, but they didn’t pull out an old photo album. Instead, they popped a VHS tape into the VCR – and yes, they still exist. The images displayed on the television were that of Megan’s cousin, Dawn Will, who also played lacrosse at Tech and graduated in 2000.

“Thanksgiving was at her parent’s house, so she showed me a VHS tape of her junior year, and it was the coolest thing to see how much the program had changed,” Megan said. “They were playing games in (Rector Field House), and I was thinking, ‘Why are you playing your games in the field house? We never play in there.’

“But it was cool to watch her and see how the uniforms have changed and how different everything was and to see how the program has grown. It was just crazy to see that and to be able to watch games from back then.”

For those not familiar with Tech’s women’s lacrosse history, Dawn Will may be the best player ever to play for the Hokies. Although she last played more than a decade ago, she still ranks first at Tech in five offensive categories and is the only lacrosse player from Tech to be named an All-American.

She was an honorable mention selection in 1999 when she led the Hokies to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title and was a third-team member in 2000 after an A-10 regular-season title and being named the league’s player of the year.

Dawn Will scored 186 goals during an outstanding four-year
career at Tech in the late 1990s

“My cousin Dawn, she was so good, and I remember being little and coming here (to Blacksburg) and watching Virginia Tech lacrosse games,” Megan said. “I thought that was the coolest thing in the entire world because she was so good and she was my cousin.

“But she really impacted me. She also had two brothers who went to UNC, so their family was, like, really big in lacrosse, so that kind of helped us out, me and my older sister.”

Megan is the middle child of five siblings, with Andrew and Julie being older and Ellen and Laura being younger. So it was Julie, and maybe more her mother, Cathy, who got her into lacrosse.

“I was in second grade, and my older sister was deciding on what she wanted to do and she went for lacrosse,” Megan said. “So my mom signed her up for lacrosse and she was just like, ‘If Julie’s doing it, you might as well do it, too.’ So I was kind of thrown into it.”

After playing a couple years, she then moved on to club lacrosse, playing for the North East Maryland Select (NEMS), and just blossomed. So much so that when she entered high school, she was the only freshman playing on the varsity team, and she got to play with her sister for the first time.

“My older sister and I did not get along at all – we had to share a room – and we probably didn’t start getting along until my freshman year,” she said. “And that’s probably why, because we started playing lacrosse together. And now we are like best friends, which is awesome, because I don’t know what I would do without her.”

Shortly after her freshman year, Will was at a crossroads. Due to a number of factors, she needed to make a choice – either continue on a soccer path, which she also played and considered her main sport growing up, or follow her sister, who was planning on playing lacrosse for Lynchburg College after graduation.

“In high school, I really was going to focus on soccer, actually. Growing up, soccer was my main sport, but with how good of an experience I had with lacrosse, that kind of altered everything,” Will said. “In 10th grade, I had to decide on one or the other because my mom told me that I couldn’t do both club soccer and club lacrosse. So I had to pick one for club, and I could do the other for high school.

Megan Will has provided scoring punch for the Hokies in each
of the past two years, much in the way her cousin Dawn did
during her playing days at Tech

“At the time, my club team for soccer kind of fell apart, and I had to go to another club team, so I think that’s when I realized that this isn’t completely my thing anymore, and club lacrosse kind of took over and I was kind of OK with that. I was really into my club lacrosse team, and so I just went for lacrosse and I’m just so happy that I did.”

After that, the next step for Will was where to further her education and at what level was she going to play lacrosse. Julie was playing for the Hornets, a Division III school, and Megan was trying to figure out where she would fit.

“I looked at some D-II schools, and I was watching one of their practices and I thought that I could play at that level,” she said. “So I thought, ‘If I could play here, why can’t I play at D-I? And if I go D-I, why can’t I play at an ACC school?’ After my junior year, I thought, ‘Why not push it the farthest that I could go?’, and so I started to look at just D-I schools. And then when an ACC school was looking at me, then I thought I might as well go for it.

“But I did not feel obligated at all to come here. It was kind of just an added bonus. Once I came here, I just loved it, and that my cousin came here and she loved it, and it helped me because she would always tell me how amazing it was.”

Although she couldn’t get her cousin’s number, No. 15, when she chose her jersey number for the Hokies, Will decided to go with No. 35, the number she wore for NEMS. She said she had the opportunity to switch for this year, but she is just too superstitious.

That has turned out to be a good move because she has followed up an impressive freshman campaign – 30 goals, 11 more than Dawn scored in her first season – with a successful sophomore season.

“No freshman expects to play. You just go in and learn everything and start to get the feel,” Megan said about her first-year success. “The transition from high school to D-I lacrosse is huge. It’s so much faster, and you need to adjust, and I guess it was just a lot simpler to adjust for me.

“It was just playing lacrosse for me, and I was just playing like I knew I could play. It was nice to be able to get the opportunity to start and play and be able to make an impact, so that was really cool. I wanted to play and make my impact, but I was not expecting it to be that much.”

She is already approaching – and will likely pass – her cousin’s first two-year total (Dawn had 65), but will need a phenomenal junior and senior year to get close to the school record of 186. No one other than Dawn has even reached 140.

Even if she falls short of her cousin’s record, she’ll have her own video filled with highlights, and it will no doubt be saved – though more than likely directly into the computer or onto DVDs. And a decade from now, those images will be played somewhere, somehow for somebody.

Maybe in the Will family, they’ll be played on Thanksgiving. It could be called “Throwback Thanksgiving.” Certainly, there will be plenty to watch.

More on Megan Will

Why do you want to be an elementary school teacher?

“I used to play school when we were younger, and I would always be the teacher. I have so many sisters, and we have this huge chalkboard in our basement and we have all these little teacher things, and I would always be the teacher, so ever since then, I’ve always wanted to teach.”

Do you have any pregame rituals?

“I wear my hair the exact same way every game, with two braids going across my head. And it may sound superstitious, but I have to wear it like that. If I don’t, I feel like if I have a bad game, I’ll blame it on my hair. No, I’m just kidding.”

The team went to California for spring break. What was that like?

“I had never been off the East Coast, so that was real cool, except that I am terrified of planes, so that was kind of scary. But it was just so warm, and it was so fun. Everyone was just bonding and just being able to play in California – that was my favorite part. Last year, we were in Blacksburg over spring break and everyone else was gone, so that was sad, and weird, but being able to go somewhere with the team and a warm place, that was fun.”

Being from the Baltimore area, were you excited about the Ravens’ victory?

“I am a huge Ravens fan, and I am so excited about the Super Bowl win. But I am very sad about everyone leaving, especially Ed Reed (he signed with the Houston Texans). It was cool winning the Super Bowl because I can’t even remember the last time they won it. I was too little. Two girls from our team, Kimmy and Tina Patten, they are 49ers fans, and I am so jealous of them because they got to go, and they said it was awesome. But Baltimore won, so I got them on that.”

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you?

“I got into a bus accident when I was in seventh grade, and that was really scary. It was on my way to school. My bus driver had a stroke, and it was so scary because we were running over these huge stone mailboxes and stones were going everywhere and we ran over a couple cars. It was awful. And there were only like four of us on the bus because I was one of the first to be picked up, and it was early in the ride. It was a terrible, terrible morning.”