Hampton’s Maers shares lacrosse bond with coach, family

Thursday, February 7, 2019 | 8:00 PM

Since she was a child, Melinda Maers has loved lacrosse.

As one of the all-time leading scorers on two-time defending WPIAL champ Hampton, Maers was destined to play at the next level. It was just a matter of where.

Maers committed to Walsh (Ohio), a Division II program coming off its best season.

“I’ve loved the sport since I’ve been playing in fifth grade,” Maers said. “It keeps me in shape. It just keeps me going and gives me a way to forget about other things. My love for it is just insane.”

Perhaps nobody knows that love more than Hampton coach Kelsey Viets, whose career runs parallel to Maers’ development.

“I think it’s really unique to have an athlete where it’s really apparent within their personality and being, that they’re, even as a fifth-grader, incredibly athletic and competitive,” Viets said.

“You can’t teach that. You can go through all the fundamentals for the sport, but if you don’t have the desire to compete, it makes it hard to get to that championship level.”

Players such as Maers have helped make Hampton a premier lacrosse program in Western Pennsylvania.

“She’s been instrumental to our success,” said Viets. “Even before the back-to-back titles. Building the program, it’s been having a foundational set of athletes that elevate the standard of play for their teammates. Melinda is the crux of that from a competitive and leadership standpoint.”

Maers’ parents, Chris and Diane, played a large role in choosing Walsh. After they visited a college fair and connected with a Walsh representative, Maers began communicating with the coach at the time, Christy Mitchell.

Maers’ sister, Megan, was a senior captain on Hampton’s first WPIAL championship team, in 2017. Her cousin, Emily Beran, was captain in ’16, when Maers was a freshman.

“It’s a really great family between the Berans and the Maers,” Viets said. “The personalities of their daughters, the competitiveness that they share and the bond they have with their teammates, they always put the team first. That speaks volumes to the life lessons their parents are teaching them.”

After mulling other offers from Liberty, Allegheny, Slippery Rock and Akron — where Mitchell took over as coach — Maers stuck with Walsh, partly because of its nursing program.

“It was definitely the environment,” she said. “Everyone was so friendly, and the coach was an amazing person. I met all the team, and they seemed very welcoming and friendly.”

Matt Shields, a former assistant with the men’s and women’s programs at Walsh, took over as coach Dec. 19. Maers signed with Walsh on May 18.

“It means a lot as a coach,” Viets said. “I was so happy I was able to be there in person. I’m not a teacher, so I don’t get a chance to see them day-in and day-out. It’s really special to be included in that for a player I’ve known since she was 10.”

Maers is a three-time all-section selection and last year was named to the WPIAL 2A All-Star team. She has an outside shot of breaking Caroline Larkin’s all-time goals record of 166. Her 123 goals are third in program history.

With tryouts looming, she is excited for the upcoming season.

“I think our team is looking pretty good,” said Maers, who plays year-round, including on the Pittsburgh Premier Lacrosse Club and for winter league at the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Complex in Indianola.

“I’m excited for the season, hoping we can go as far as we did last year. Hopefully, we come out strong every game. I think we’re going to do well.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.


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