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Editor’s note: Each week, The Wake Weekly will honor a local high school senior athlete who put in years of work in a sport, but who won’t finish their final season after COVID-19 ended spring athletics.
RALEIGH — This week’s student-athlete of the week is Wakefield girls lacrosse player Meredith Mann.
The midfielder was born and raised in Raleigh. She first got into sports by watching her older brother play hockey. Mann tried her hand on the ice, but then the sport of lacrosse become more popular in the area.
“I played hockey growing up,” Mann said. “My mom urged me to play lacrosse, because it was similar to hockey and more accessible. I started playing going into the sixth grade. I didn’t like it at first, but I ended up loving it.”
Mann consistently stuck with the sport of lacrosse all throughout middle school, which helped her land a starting spot on Wakefield High School’s varsity squad as a freshman.
In her first year playing for Wakefield, Mann put her name on the map early with 45 goals and 14 assists. The next season, she scored 48 goals and dished out eight assists. In her junior year, she racked up an astounding 76 goals with 14 assists.
“The biggest part of lacrosse is the teamwork,” Mann said. “It’s awesome to work with each other on the field. Lacrosse uses all parts of your body. You have to run, catch and use hand-eye coordination. I like being part of a growing sport in North Carolina.”
Mann was named the 2020 Wakefield Female Athlete of the Year by her school. She finished her high school career with an all-time school record of 4.6 goals and 5.5 points per game average. She was named Academic All-American last year.
Mann helped Wakefield earn 25 wins during her time as a starter since 2017. The success helped build a fun atmosphere and culture with the other girls.
“My favorite memory is after every win, especially after an away game,” Mann said. “When we won, we came together better as a team. We realized that we couldn’t do it without each other. All the effort we put in paid off. It’s nice to celebrate hard work after a win.”
The past two years hasn’t been too easy for Wakefield. Rival schools such as Wake Forest and Heritage have risen in the ranks to provide tough competition for the Wolverines. Mann said the fierce rivalries have helped the sport of lacrosse gain some traction in the area the past couple of years.
“I want Wakefield to prosper to do their best and come out on top, but I’m glad the sport has grown,” Mann said. “It’s really cool that all these local high schools are doing well. Even though the players don’t play for Wakefield, I’m supporting them. I’m a fan of other teams becoming more competitive and helping lacrosse stand out in the south.”
Mann was hoping to play against these schools again her senior year. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association made the decision to cancel the spring sports season.
“I was in Yearbook class and we got a news article emailed to us,” Mann said. “It was the last day of school, so we knew we weren’t going to have a spring sports season. We had a lot of games get cancelled anyway because of the lack of officials. When it officially ended, it took me a while for it to hit. We had our hopes high that we would come back and play a couple more games.”
Knowing that Mann won’t get to finish her senior year playing for your school is tough news to take in. She felt like she handled the situation well and she’s more focused on those around her than worrying about selfish ambitions or accomplishments.
“The biggest thing is to remember that this all happened for a reason,” Mann said. “As bad as our situation is, it’s way worse around the world. I plan to play club lacrosse at UNC, so I’m still working out and keeping that part of my life intact.”
Mann will attend UNC-Chapel Hill to go into pre-med with a minor in Spanish. She could have taken a scholarship to play lacrosse at smaller schools, but she made the decision to focus more on her career after college.
“My biggest thing is academics. I put academics before lacrosse,” Mann said. “I love lacrosse, but I wanted to pursue a good education. I want to keep in mind that I want to go to school that I could enjoy academically. I have a good connection with them.”
Although Mann will never get the chance to play high school lacrosse again, she won’t let that get her down. Right now, she is focused on her studies at UNC. She said she will miss the great times she had at Wakefield.
“I want to give a big thank you to Wakefield for giving me an opportunity since the beginning,” Mann said. “We couldn’t have had the success at Wakefield without the coaches and volunteers. It was a team effort. It was a whole lot of fun making memories. I wouldn’t trade a minute of that for anything in the world.”