BY RICKY POLLITT
Salisbury University’s women’s lacrosse team has seen its share of injuries this season.
In their first game against Stevenson, senior attack Shelbey Nemecek went down for the year with a torn ACL. Only one game after, the Division III women’s lacrosse pre-season play of the year – Bethany Baer – was sidelined with a wrist injury, putting her out the remainder of the regular season.
With two big injuries to start the year, the Sea Gulls were also still trying to make up for the losses of graduated players. Some were left wondering who would step up for the three-time national champions.
Megan Wallenhorst stepped up.
Wallenhorst – a native of Ellicott City, Maryland – transferred to SU last season after playing her freshman season at Division I Winthrop University. In her first year with the Sea Gulls she was named to the Capital Athletic Conference All-Academic Team and earned a Player of the Week award.
She was also productive – registering 21 goals, 13 assists and 34 points last season – but she didn’t expect to have such a big role this season. Due to injuries and graduations, her number was called.
“I’ve definitely had to step up a bit and take more control on the offense,” Wallenhorst said. “I can’t really do it though without my teammates.”
Wallenhorst also made her presence known on defense by scooping up six ground balls last season, but it was her .805 shots-on-goal percentage that had Sea Gulls’ head coach Jim Nestor thinking that the junior attack was poised for a big year.
“I think she’s always had the capability,” Nestor said. “With certain players out, she’s showing that her play can step up in big games.”
Wallenhorst has definitely shined while being in the spotlight recent weeks. With several members from last year’s NCAA championship squad gone or injured, she leads the Sea Gulls in goals and points with 32 and 51, respectively.
A big factor to Wallenhorst’s success has been the chemistry she has developed with teammates Kara O’Rourke and Hannah Young. Leading the team in assists with 43, O’Rourke has helped Wallenhorst find those open lanes that put her team in a position to score.
“Most of the goals I have are assisted, so it proves I can’t really do it without my teammates,” Wallenhorst said. “(They’re) looking for me on those cuts, and everyone having their nets ups really makes it a team effort.”
Along with the impact Wallenhorst has brought, the Sea Gulls’ offense continues to impress – averaging 12.96 goals a game and tallying an 81.4 shot on goal percentage.
With Wallenhorst leading the way, the Sea Gulls clinched the top seed in the CAC this season for a 12th straight year with a victory over St. Mary’s on April 10.
“Offensively we’ve been getting good looks all season and our players have been able to capitalize,” Nestor said. “(Wallenhorst) has really stepped up and she’s playing smart and finishing her opportunities.”
While Wallenhorst continues to lead her team on offense, she is racking up some career records too.
Against Mary Washington, the junior had a career day where she scored six goals, and later followed that performance up with nine points against St. Mary’s.
“The whole offense just works really well together. We’re learning how to play with each other,” Wallenhorst said. “The past few weeks we really wanted to prove that we were a top team, and that we’re not a fluke.
“We deserve to be here.”
Wallenhorst has also helped in the development of some of the younger players on Salisbury’s roster.
“We’ve taken charge of getting some of the younger girls worked in some more, so they can have more of an impact,” she said.
The Sea Gulls’ freshmen have combined to score 42 goals out of the team’s 190 total. Freshman attack Dana King is seventh on the team in scoring with 10 goals.
With the regular season over, the Sea Gulls have now begun to prepare for the CAC and NCAA tournaments – familiar territory for them.
As some of the injured Sea Gull players start to make their way back, Wallenhorst continues to prepare to help bring home the program’s third-straight national title.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Wallenhorst said. “Being a leader on offense, but my primary goal is getting my team back to the National Championship.”