Erika Cross experienced exhaustion for the first time this past fall when the West Forsyth senior joined the girls’ cross country team to augment her conditioning for lacrosse.
Until then, nothing had fazed Cross. Not suicides (“I can run suicides maybe forever,” she said.) Not waking up every morning at 5:30 to go to the gym before school. Sometimes she’ll burst into parkour in the West hallways. She earned the nickname “Hopper” as a freshman on the lacrosse team for the way she bounced around the field, constantly juking and spinning past opponents.
“I have a lot of energy,” Cross said. “I don’t know why. … It’s just my personality I guess.”
West plans to put that energy to good use this season. Cross is a key piece for a Lady Wolverines team that returns plenty of talent from last season’s team that went 13-5, won a second straight Forsyth Cup and reached the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
Cross was an impact player for West then, splitting the season between attack and middie. She finished with 39 goals, 16 assists and 36 groundballs. A Young Harris signee, Cross will stick to middie this season after a summer dedicated to improving her stick skills.
That had always been the missing element in Cross’s game. She made varsity as a freshman mostly off her sheer energy. Then-head coach Dan Kaplan put Cross on defense knowing she could keep up with attackers.
But Cross said she was inspired to focus on her stick skills this past summer by watching teammate Monica Martelli, the 2014 Forsyth County News’ Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year and an honorable mention All-American.
“It’s so fluent to her as if it’s speaking another language,” Cross said. “She throws it around, and it looks so talented. And I try and it’s really hard.”
So Cross constructed her summer schedule around lacrosse – going twice a week to Hotlanta Lacrosse for private instruction, practicing twice a week with West’s team, playing for Team Georgia in between working part-time at a local Montessori school. She helped West win two summer tournaments and played with some of the best high school girls’ lacrosse players in the state on Team Georgia.
“It’s made a world of a difference,” Cross said. “Now, I’m a player on offense and defense, and I feel I’m one of the players who can make an impact on the game.”
It’s a game Cross never imagined she’d enjoy. No, she was a basketball player growing up, but Cross’s mom heard of lacrosse’s growing popularity in the county and encouraged her to try out for a team in seventh grade.
The day of the tryout, they got as far as the parking lot.
“I didn’t want to get out of the car,” Cross said. “I turned around and just forgot about lacrosse.”
Until eighth grade, when one of her basketball teammates convinced her to join the Forsyth Central feeder lacrosse team.
Those first catch-and-throws were awkward, but eventually it became second nature. Cross’s basketball background of learning about cuts and screens translated easily to lacrosse.
The sport took a stronger hold on Cross when she got to West. There she saw the familial appeal of the sport. As a sophomore, she looked up to a large senior class that set the familial tone for the team.
Now, there are sophomores looking up to Cross, Martelli and a host of West seniors.
That is, if they can keep up with her.
“After [that senior group] left, I realized I wanted to be as good as them and make more of an impact on West Forsyth lacrosse,” Cross said. “In order to do that, I’ve got to continue and show [underclassmen] it is possible.
“You’ve just got to more work into it, and the more work you put into it the more you’ll accomplish.”