Letter of Intent Signings: Division I bound Hamburg girls lax players have big goal in senior year
Going through the competitive Hamburg High School girls lacrosse program and being mentored under former Division I player turned coach Katy Ryan has taught Taylor Wolf and Megan Mikolojek to never take anything for granted.
Even as talented up-and-coming players brought up during their freshman seasons, it was stressed to them over the past two seasons under Ryan the importance of working to improve and not resting on their laurels or past accomplishments.
“We realized right from the beginning with lacrosse at Hamburg that nothing would just be given to us, whether that was a sectional win or just a spot in the starting lineup,” said Wolf, a 5-foot-11 senior attacker. “We’ve got to work for everything and that makes us want it even more.”
They worked as sophomores on a very young team to help Hamburg reach the sectional final during Ryan’s first year in 2011 and after suffering the disappointment of losing there, went back to the drawing board to do even more in aiding the Bulldogs in winning last year’s Section VI title.
“I’ve learned hard work and practice can get you where you want to be,” said Mikolojek, who went from a defender to a scoring midfielder. If it wasn’t for coach, I wouldn’t have the mentality of wanting to get better, wanting to work hard and wanting to get that starting position. Going through the Hamburg program shows you that you need to work for what you want.”
They’ve also learned not to be satisfied. While the two have been rewarded for their hard work with Division I lacrosse scholarships — from Niagara University for Wolf and the University at Albany for Mikolojek, they still have high hopes of bringing the program a step further by gaining that elusive win over a vaunted Section V team from Rochester in the Far West Regional.
Wolf and Mikolojek were two of a handful of athletes from the school to sign their National Letter of Intent on Monday (Nov. 19) inside Hamburg’s library.
“We don’t want to be held back by just winning the section; we want to keep going. Our season is not over with a sectional win,” Wolf said. “We’ve got to keep wanting it. We know it’s our last chance to go farther and take it past Rochester.
We’re not defined by where we live. It’s a given that we were born here, raised here and play lacrosse here. Just because they play lacrosse a few hours away doesn’t mean that we’ve learned a different game,” she eloquently added.
Still, to this point, the hour to hour-and-a-half distance from one another has been made to look a world apart when it comes to girls lacrosse. Only one team from Section VI, Lancaster, has won a Far West Regional in the sport.
“We’d like to help the program keep growing and help the younger girls get the mentality that you always want to win and get better,” said Mikolojek, whose competed with Rochester-area girls playing at the club level. “They really are the same as us. If we just have the mind-set and practice just as hard, I really think we can be close. We’ll take it one game at a time to work our way to that, but you do think about what they’re doing and that we need to do the same, if not more.”
The two will play an important role if Hamburg is to repeat as Class B champions and eventually pull a regional upset. Ryan pointed to the team’s progression the past two seasons and beating a Rochester team during the 2012 regular season as an indication that the tide could be turning. She also noted that although Hamburg lost a lopsided Far West game, the team was only down by a goal at the half.
“So, you know we’re right there,” Ryan said. “I think it’s a mind-set. If we get there, I think we’re definitely capable of making some noise in regionals.”
Ryan said Wolf’s size, improving stick skills and knack for getting to the net make her at times unstoppable.
“She’s a total threat on the attack,” Ryan said. “It’s so hard to stop someone that tall and who’s such a force in front of the cage.”
Wolf will go to school for nursing and once her high school career ends, she hopes to make an immediate contribution on the Niagara lacrosse team.
“I found that Niagara having a nursing program and allowing me to play lacrosse was going to give me what I wanted for a college experience,” Wolf noted.
Ryan credited Mikolojek’s improving play with joining an elite travel league a few years back. It helped her skill level rise which in turn gave her more confidence that she could become a big-time scorer.
“She brings her athleticism and works so hard,” Ryan said. “From end to end, she’ll be scooping up a ground ball, getting a turnover and taking it to the other end and scoring.”
Mikolojek, who credited Ryan with allowing her to try different positions to find her niche, decided on Albany because it provides her with an opportunity for a high level education and to play with a program that’s enjoyed some successes in past years, while still only being four to five hours from home.
“I can have my parents come watch me play,” she noted. “Academics played a huge part and being able to play at such a high level.”
Regardless of how far they get this spring, the two will leave for college thankful that they played lacrosse in the Hamburg program.
“It’s the knowledge that we’ve been given that carries us through and puts us ahead of others,” Wolf said.
Also, Max Maxwell made his well-publicized commitment to UMBC official by signing his letter of intent to play men’s lacrosse and attend the school. The senior middie was one of four Hamburg lacrosse players, under coach Jerry Severino, to be honored by the high school that night.
Fellow seniors, midfielder Nick Wilcox announced his intent to play for Mercy College, long pole middie Christian Hollfelder, to play for Cortland State, and attackman Tyler Nicoloff, to play for Hilbert College. Nicoloff will be the first Bulldog graduate to play for the program entering its third year as a varsity team.