ARLINGTON, Va. - When a professional sports coach is fired, it usually has far-reaching ramifications for their former players.
That is not so much the case at the high school level, but a coaching change for Marymount junior Abby Wescott significantly changed her sports focus.
She played varsity basketball and lacrosse as a freshman and sophomore at Battlefield High in Haymarket, Virginia.
"I started playing lacrosse in eighth grade. I didn't start taking it seriously until my sophomore year. I was really big into basketball," said Wescott, who also played soccer and volleyball when she was younger.
But Wescott's coach in basketball was fired after her sophomore year, just as she was starting to think which sport she wanted to play in college.
"It was a big recruiting season. I needed to put all of my eggs in one basket," she recalled.
Marymount Head Coach Kate Athing is certainly glad she focused on lacrosse. Westcott didn't play basketball after her sophomore year in high school, but instead focused on club and high school lacrosse, and she was part of four regional titles in high school.
She decided to attend Marymount, where she has been a two-year starter and last year led the Capital Athletic Conference in points (82) and assists (53). She was also eighth in the country at the Division III level in assists and already holds several school records.
Athing was an assistant and head club coach for Wescott with Super Nova Select.
"What first impressed me was her work ethic," Athing said. "She was really trying to better herself as an athlete. She wanted to be in good shape as an attack player. She started to realize that; she worked towards becoming a top player at that position. She knew she was good at it and continued to improve."
But beyond the offensive numbers is the leadership provided by Wescott. Last season, she was a captain as a sophomore, which is nearly unheard of at most levels.
"That is highly unusual. She became a captain as a sophomore because she saw a vision for the program," Athing said. "She is highly organized. She is efficient; she is not afraid of a challenge. She runs a tight ship. She does not take any (excuses). She knows what has to be done. They know they can look to Abby on and off the field."
Wescott will again be a captain this year as a junior attack when the Saints open the season at home on February 19 at 1 p.m., against Methodist University.
"I do have a very big personality and am outspoken," she admits. "I think I am a leader that looks at individuals and team dynamics and pushes them to not only be better individually but as a team. I am a stickler on rules. Do I want to be a good player or be a great player? I do want everyone to succeed."
"My freshman year we were not doing as well as we should have. Marymount has a lot of great athletes and if you are not having a winning season, there is something wrong," she added.
Jessica Crew, now a sophomore attack for the Saints, noticed early on the leadership of Wescott last season.
"What really impressed me about Abby is she has a strong presence on the field even though last year she was not one of the oldest players," Crew said. "She was voted captain last year. If she saw you struggling on something, she would come over and give you advice. She is always looking to help in some way."
"I do know when I first started practicing last year I was beyond nervous," Crew added. "Abby was one of those people who helped me the most and made me more confident on the field. She is good at doing that with the freshmen coming in."
Wescott decided to attend Marymount after receiving attention from several other programs, including Division I Manhattan and Division III Kean of New Jersey. "A huge part was the coaching staff," she said of her decision. "I also wanted to be close to home so my mom could come to the games."
Last season, she helped the Saints above the .500 mark for the first time since 2003 and just the second time in program history. MU won a program-best seven games in a row from March 2-23 and made it to the ECAC postseason tournament for the first time in school history, advancing to the semifinals.
"Last year we had a good amount of freshmen coming into the team," Wescott said. "The team really came together on and off the field, which is huge for any team. We brought in five awesome freshmen this year. We have a lot more experience this year."
Editor's note: David Driver is a special consultant to the MU athletic department. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com
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