West Forsyth’s Cami Merkel may have been just a sophomore, but in just her second season of varsity lacrosse, she inherited the responsibilities of a senior.
With the departure of Ella Madson before the season, the Wolverines lost the driving force behind their offense from last season. As the 2019 season went on, Merkel saw her original role on the team grow to help fill that void.
“Early on in the season, I knew I kind of had to fulfill my role that I had last year,” Merkel said. “But I think when we started playing the tougher teams, I knew I needed to step up a little more.”
But Merkel did more than just a little. She put up offensive numbers rarely seen from a sophomore – or any player at all, for that matter – totaling 97 goals and 58 assists. Her 155 points this year set a single-season record at West, and with two years remaining in her high school career, Merkel has a serious chance to become one of the best girls lacrosse players the county’s ever seen.
“It feels kind of good, seeing as all the people that have those records, they got them as seniors or juniors,” Merkel said. “Obviously they were way older than me so I think it's just kind of special.”
During West’s run to the state semifinals, Merkel constantly showed the kind of versatility that made her such a nightmare for opposing teams to deal with. Her scoring ability came from an increased focus in that area, and techniques she developed over the course of the season.
“Last year I had an equal amount of dodging and feeding but this year I kind of stepped it up and realized I needed to do more (in) orchestrating, dodging and going to the goal,” Merkel said.
Scoring was just one facet of Merkel’s game, though. She also acted as the director of West’s entire offensive attack, serving pinpoint passes to her teammates to give them a chance at getting balls in the net when she couldn’t. As the season went on, that became more of a factor with teams often doubling Merkel to varying levels of success.
“I mainly focused on (dodging) but I also remembered that it's important to feed,” Merkel said. “I like to keep both of those as options.”
Those two skills were invaluable during West’s thrilling quarterfinal matchup with Johns Creek, which was easily Merkel’s favorite moment of the season. Merkel ultimately notched that game’s winning score in overtime to cap off a five-goal performance and send West to its first-ever semifinal appearance.
Merkel surprised herself with what she was able to do as a sophomore, but with so much time left before her career at West is over, she’s hoping she can improve even more before then.
“It was so fun, looking back,” Merkel said. “I'm just really excited for next season. The amount of stuff I was able to accomplish this year, it's just kind of like, ‘Wow, I didn't think I was able to do that.’ I definitely improved a lot more from freshman year. I think I can just keep getting better and better.”