Senior defender Megan Dunleavy
Growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., in Fairfax Station, Va., Megan Dunleavy experimented with a variety of youth sports leagues before taking up lacrosse in fifth grade.
"I started playing for the Braddock Road Youth League, which was right around the corner from me," Dunleavy recalled of her first time playing organized lacrosse. "I switched from soccer, which I was pretty terrible at. I also tried basketball, and was terrible at that and pretty much every other sport besides lacrosse. It was a good switch."
Right off the bat, the sport clicked for her.
"I really liked it, so that helped me trying to get better at it," Dunleavy recalled. "I played a lot of wall ball and started excelling faster than the other girls in my area."
She also used to play pick-up games with her two older siblings, Michael and Mary.
"We had a goal in our backyard and we'd always throw around out there," Dunleavy said. "My brother would literally just chuck balls at me as hard he could. I think that's how I got my stick skills better. My sister, though, I would always end up hitting her in the face and she'd go inside crying."
Once she came to UVa, Dunleavy made another switch, going from attack to defense.
"In high school, I was an attack wing, so I was always the one not to go back on the defensive end," Dunleavy said. "When I came here, we had a lot of attackers and needed more defenders to help out, so I changed to defense."
Once again, she worked hard to improve those skills, with assistant coach Jessy Morgan mentoring her transition.
"[Coach Morgan] has pretty much made me the player that I am today," Dunleavy said. "I wouldn't be anywhere without her. I pretty much learned everything from her. Just mentally and physically being tough. I can attribute my whole career to her teaching me everything she knew through going through UVa and being a coach here."
Morgan has helped her with the skill work as well as the other intangibles that make a good defensive player.
"We've worked on my agilities and speed in the game and being a huge communicator on the defense," Dunleavy said. "When I'm playing defense I'm just trying to match the stomach of the person I am on, or their main focal point. You're not suppose to watch where their stick is so I focus on their center on gravity. If I get a match up, I take it really personally and I try to keep them to low numbers."
Dunleavy has worked hard to transform herself into one of the top defenders in the country. Though she may not have a lot of numbers on her stat line, her work has been noticed as she was named to the watch list for the 2013 Tewaaraton Award.
"I was kind of in shock when my dad called and told me that I had been named to the watch list," Dunleavy said. "That was a huge deal for me. I feel like I might not have the most stats, because obviously it's really hard for a defender to get credit. I think being noticed for shutting down top attackers is huge for me for what I do since you can `t always see it on the stat book."
Dunleavy, one of two of the captains on this year's squad, balances leading by example and keeping the team focused and in-line with adding necessary levity to the locker room. She is more than happy to break out in a dance number when the mood needs lightened.
"I Dougie all the time," Dunleavy said, referring to the infamous dance that accompanies a 2010 song by Cali Swag District. "Whenever that song came on, the room would clear and I'd have to go in the center and Dougie it out."
When she's not teaching people how to Dougie or showing off her moves to Pitbull, Dunleavy loves hanging out with people. Almost any people. The gregarious and outgoing senior is seldom to be found sitting quietly in a corner.
"I'm known for not wanting to be alone for more than an hour," Dunleavy said. "I think that's the maximum amount of time I can go without being social with people."
The Economics major will be applying to grad schools, including UVa's School of Commerce, and would like to go into financial services, either investment banking or wealth management.
Until then, she is focused on leading the team through the final games of her senior season by doing her part to shut down opponent's top scorers, amongst other things.
"I always try to create a positive atmosphere when people are being negative," Dunleavy said. "And I am always making weird noises. You'll hear me on the field just making rebel yell calls to bring the team mood up. With me, just about anything is possible."
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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