Morgan Widner, from an unlikely place, thrives at Syracuse
Ally Moreo | Photo Editor
A Texas native, Morgan Widner isn’t the typical women’s lacrosse player. She didn’t start playing until after most athletes develop their stick skills. But she grew up right as the game did.
“A lot of people say my class paved the pathway for the girls below us,” Widner said. “You’re looking at my class, two of us went to play D-I and now you’re hearing about eighth graders committing to schools like Syracuse, Georgetown. A long time ago that would’ve been a dream for us.”
Widner, a defender and draw-control specialist, is one of only 10 players on No. 11 SU’s (11-4, 4-1 Atlantic Coast) roster not from New York. She is the furthest from home on SU’s roster. Despite her background, she’s developed into a crucial piece for the Orange. The freshman has started every game for Syracuse this season.
When Widner was in middle school, her friend’s father decided to get the girls involved in lacrosse. They already had a background in soccer but were interested in trying something else. Brian Sapp, who also coached his son’s team, got his daughter and her friends involved.
“We were like ‘Yeah, we’re best friends,’” Widner said. “We were athletes, so we were like why not?”
When Widner first started playing, most of the teams in her age bracket were private schools. Being a relative newcomer among well-established programs meant that Coppell (Texas) High School didn’t get good at women’s lacrosse until Widner arrived.
The school had one of the first four high school women’s lacrosse teams in the Dallas area. It was established in the early-90s, but didn’t make it to a state final until 2010, when Cowgirls won the Division II championship. While the girls had the athletic ability, they were missing some of the necessary skills to compete.
“When it comes to stick skills,” Widner said, “we’re not as apt just because the culture is so different.”
Sabrina Koenig | Staff Photographer
Widner’s freshman year of high school brought two new faces to the program: Georgetown graduates and former lacrosse players Molly Ford and Kelsi Bozel. The two helped turn the program around and even came up with the idea of travelling for spring break.
Instead of playing the few good teams in Texas, Widner’s team traveled to California, North Carolina and Maryland to face tougher opponents. They faced multiple future Division I players in those matchups, including Widner’s future teammate and Charlotte (North Carolina) Catholic product, Natalie Wallon.
“At first, it was kind of a shock,” Widner said. “But it was kind of a cool feeling like we can hang with these girls.”
It wasn’t until the end of her junior year that the Texas native realized she could play at the collegiate level. By that time, most Division I lacrosse players had committed. Her high school coaches saw something special in her and told her to go to camps. There, she caught the eyes of SU head coach Gary Gait.
“We love Texas kids,” Gait said. “We saw her through one of our former assistant coaches who was coaching her club team. She set us up with her and said she had very good draw skills and she could be a very good draw player for us.”
Widner switched to the draw at the end of junior year after playing defense for her entire career. She has been successful at Syracuse on the X with 122 draw controls, the most in the NCAA.
“One thing about Texas,” Widner said, “they teach you about true grit, digging down deep, kind of having that little bit of aggression.”
Published on April 12, 2017 at 1:27 am
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