From dancer to star between the pipes: Mel Rodgers’ lacrosse journey

"I don't ever regret making that decision." - Photo via Rowan Athletics

Mel Rodgers wasn’t always a lacrosse star. The tough, gritty, and disciplined person we know her as today actually started her sports career as a competitive dancer for 13 years.

Rodgers’ mom wanted her to get involved in a school-affiliated sport, seeing that her hometown school in Stafford, Virginia didn’t have a dance team. But Rodgers’ brother played lacrosse, and the fact that his gear was still lying around the house helped in the decision to choose lacrosse.

“I already had a lot of his old gear and everything,” Rodgers said. “And my best friend was like ‘Hey, you should try out for this sport.’ And I was like ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’”

This was the start of a new love between Rodgers and lacrosse. However, it was a late love, in the sense that she had found out about the sport during her sophomore year of high school.

The senior goalie immediately wanted to get more serious about the game and hone her craft, so the determined mentee joined multiple travel teams during her time at Colonial Forge High School. As years went by, Rodgers kept improving to the point where she was receiving offers from schools such as Rowan.

“I don’t ever regret making that decision,” Rodgers said with pride.

In regards to her thought process on figuring out which position to play and stick with, Rodgers felt her decision was quite easy because of two very distinct reasons; one, Rodgers believes she isn’t the fastest or best runner, and two, because her brother played goalie and she already had most, if not all of the equipment readily accessible.

“You know, I wasn’t a very big runner,” Rodgers said with a smile. “And I had already figured it’s a lot cheaper just using my brother’s old goalie stuff.”

When Rodgers ultimately made the decision to join Rowan’s lacrosse team, she was welcomed with open arms but needed to climb an uphill battle to be a key contributor on an experienced roster, as former starting goalie Reilly Shaup was already the starter for the Profs.

“I learned a lot… if I wanted to conquer and become better at what I do, then there was no better person at the time to learn from than her [Shaup],” Rodgers said. “I learned from her mistakes, and I knew that if I wanted to someday surpass her that I’d just have to keep working hard. If I would go into games for her, she always had my back no matter what, she was always there for me and supporting me and that’s constantly in a sense of getting better and [getting] to that higher level.”

This season, the Profs are 3-6 but still have plenty of time to fix that record and bring it over .500. In terms of the outlook for the remainder of 2024, the easy-going goalie still has some unfinished business to take care of.

“It’s definitely unfinished. We’re still in the midst of the season, but I feel like we’re just missing that last extra piece,” Rodgers said. “I mean we’ve gone multiple games where we lost by one goal, but it’s definitely something that we just need to persevere from and finish out everything that we do.”

In her own style of play, Rodgers has noticed in her past two games that the training she’s done with her coaches has been “substantially helpful,” as Rodgers put it. It’s helped with her reaction time and doing what she needs to do better for her team so that way, in instances where she needs those certain tools, she can keep a high save percentage and help her attackers get down the field and score in fastbreak situations.

All of those skills will be tested next week, as the Profs prepare to play Stevenson on Thursday, April 4, and Christopher Newport on Saturday, April 6.

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