Meghan Macera of Westminster High School helped Westminster… (Staff photo by Sarah Pastrana )
The final year of high school provides an opportunity for seniors to enjoy a last go-round of good times with friends and a chance to reflect on accomplishments.
For Meghan Macera, reflection will have to wait. She's too busy right now.
But when she does take time to look back at her four years at Westminster High, Macera will have plenty of highlights to remember.
If she wasn't busy designing the cover of the school's yearbook or performing myriad community service activities, the Westminster senior was scoring overtime goals to win consecutive state championships for the Owls' field hockey team.
Her clutch athletic performances, outstanding academic record, and selfless dedication to her school and community are primary reasons that the Carroll Eagle has named Macera the recipient of its Fall Sports Student-Athlete Award.
Macera's achievements have helped keep a historically successful Westminster field hockey program near the top of state rankings. Since the state tournament began in 1975, the Owls have reached the semifinals 23 times and captured eight state championships.
But entering the 2010 season, Westminster had earned just one state title since 1996. That championship came in 2001, when the Owls shared the Class 4A title with Quince Orchard.
Anchored by Macera, the 2010 team responded with a perfect season that included the Carroll County title. But a state championship was anything but assured when Westminster met Dulaney High in the Class 4A title game. The Owls and Lions battled through two goal-filled halves, heading to overtime with a 4-4 score before Macera fired home the game-winning goal to end Westminster's eight-year title drought.
After losing several standouts from that Class 4A title winner, the Owls weren't expected to compete for the state championship this fall. Westminster failed to defend its county title, losing to Century in its final regular-season game.
"It was a shock," said Mary Rivera, Westminster's sixth-year head coach, of the 1-0 loss to Century. "At that point, they realized that they weren't going to win just by stepping on the field. They understood that we weren't the same team as last year and needed to work a lot harder."
The Owls never lost again, due in large part to Macera's leadership and production.
Westminster swept through the regionals, then advanced to its second straight title game by beating North Harford in a Class 3A state semifinal.
In the championship game, Westminster and Mount Hebron were locked in a scoreless tie at the end of regulation. Neither team scored in the first overtime, but "Macera Magic" made the difference in the second extra period.
Macera took a pass from Maddy Walsh and slammed home the championship-clinching goal … again.
"The two games were completely different," Macera said. "Last year, there was so much scoring. This year, it was more about stickwork and passing, and less about dribbling and running. We know how important conditioning is, and I think we showed it against Mount Hebron."
The Owls probably wouldn't have won another state title without Macera's quiet leadership. Rivera admired the way that her senior star led by example.
"It's how she practices and plays," Rivera said. "Her teammates saw her determination and her desire to win, and they understood that they had to play to that level."
The back-to-back titles erased the frustration of Macera's first two years at Westminster. The Owls lost in the 2008 state semifinals, and were beaten by perennial champion Severna Park in the title game a year later.
But in Macera's junior and senior years, Westminster became the first Carroll team to win consecutive state field hockey championships since the Owl teams of 1984-85.
"We have the same expectations every year, to win the county and go on a long run in the playoffs," said Macera, who led the Owls to a 19-3 record.
"(The older players) had a team goal of bonding with the younger players and boosting team unity," she said. "I knew our younger players were talented. And coach Rivera is a big part of it, always instilling motivation and helping us to have fun."
Along the way, Macera became the county's most dominant player. She led Carroll in scoring as a junior, totaling 25 goals and 10 assists. Macera repeated as scoring champion this fall, with 16 goals and 13 feeds. The senior forward earned first-team All-Metro recognition from The Baltimore Sun for the second consecutive year.
"She was always mature for her age," said Rivera, who played on Westminster's 1996 state title team. "Each year, we piled a little more responsibility on her, and she lived up to our expectations even more than we thought she could."
But Macera won't be playing field hockey in college. On Dec. 8, she signed a national letter of intent to play lacrosse at Virginia Tech.