Northern’s Maggi Buckley finally decided to give Old Dominion University a chance and she liked what she saw.
The school felt the same, which is why it recently inked her to a lacrosse scholarship.
“I’m so ready,” Buckley said after signing her letter in a small ceremony at Northern High School. “I’m a little nervous, but I can’t wait to get a feel for the [college] game because it’ll be a totally different game from what I’m playing now and I’m ready for that step. I’m ready to see what skills I really haven’t unleashed yet.”
Buckley, a goalie, also considered offers from Washington College (Md.), Shippensburg University (Pa.) and Towson University but ultimately decided to head to Norfolk, Va.
“I’m extremely excited for her,” Northern head girls lacrosse coach Kim Booros said. “I hope that her going away to school will help inspire some of the younger players because she’s been so passionate about the sport. I was just kind of lucky to be part of her career.
But she was close to not even considering Old Dominion at all.
“I sort of wrote them off but realized I hadn’t given them a chance, so I started looking at the school more and I actually liked it more,” said Buckley, who plans to major in the education field. “then I visited and fell in love with it. Even my mom [Lynn] said, ‘I didn’t think I’d like it or you’d like it’ but we love it there. I was shocked. I’m glad I went back and redid my decision because I wouldn’t be going there if I didn’t.”
Buckley said a large part of what sold her on becoming a Monarch was how welcome the coaches made her feel during her Sept. 12 visit.
Washington College was a finalist and even told Buckley she could play both lacrosse and soccer.
“Their coach said, ‘Oh, it’s a two for one,” she recalled. “I said, ‘You haven’t even seen me play [soccer]’ and she said she’d seen me play lacrosse so I should be good.”
Instead, Buckley will be focusing on solely lacrosse, which is par for the family course. Brother Jimmy was an attackman at Gettysburg College (Pa.), brother Gavin was a goalie at St. John’s University (N.Y.), brother Logan is currently a freshman attack at Western New England University (Mass.) and sister Nicole was a forward before graduating Northern in 2009.
“It would have been a crime,” she said when asked if she’d gone the soccer route.
But it was close as she discovered she loved both sports equally.
“[I’d go] back and forth with them,” she said. “Sometimes I’d be like, ‘Oh, I love soccer’ or ‘I love lacrosse,’ but lacrosse is really my passion. Soccer has helped with footwork, hand speed and angles.”
She liked soccer enough to risk playing her senior year for Northern.
“It was too hard to resist,” she said. “I couldn’t say no.”
She certainly didn’t like lacrosse more than soccer in the early days after taking up the sport.
“I hated lacrosse in the beginning; I was like, ‘I don’t want to play, I hate this sport,’” said Buckley, who was often referred to “FedEx” by her siblings as in, ‘You were just dropped off by the FedEx guy [in a house full of lacrosse players].’ I think I just wanted to be different from all my siblings, but once they saw I was good at it, they were like, ‘Oh, wow. We’re sorry we gave you crap.’”
Nestling in the net
And it was between the pipes where Buckley found her true calling.
“Once I found goalie,” she said, “I was like, ‘I like this place.’”
She said Gavin has helped her development immensely and even taught her how to juggle in order to improve her hand-eye coordination. But it wasn’t all easy.
“I didn’t want him shooting on me because I was a little girl and I was scared,” she said. “He’s taught me a lot. He tells me, ‘Being a goalie is a thinking game.’”
Booros said she started hearing of Buckley’s skills before she enrolled at Northern High.
“My assistant coach started telling me about Maggi and I’m hearing about this seventh-grade goalie and it’s hard to imagine a seventh-grader with that amount of talent,” Booros said. “[But] we became competitive the year Maggi was a goalie.
Buckley has been the team’s starting goalie since her freshman year and has helped Northern to a 20-22 record during her three years. Last season, the Patriots were fourth in the conference after winning eight of 12 SMAC games. She allowed nine or fewer goals in seven games.
“When she came in as a freshman, we knew we were getting something special as a goalie and not only her athleticism on the field but her spirit for the team has been a big addition to the program,” Booros said. “Her skill as a freshman was already above my ability and I think she exceeded my expectations of her. She gave a lot to me and the team and I hope I gave her at least a little or at least half of what she’s given to me.”
When asked what makes Buckley so special, Booros paused briefly.
“It’s her focus and her passion, she enjoys the sport more than anybody I know,” Booros said. “Her dedication to the team and to the sport, it’s like she should save every shot. That’s her expectations and it’s a very high expectation, but I think that’s why she’s been successful. She also knows where to be in the goal and she has very quick hands. I also think her will to do well and her dedication to the sport is the whole package.
“She is always looking to better herself; there hasn’t been one season where she’s set a goal and didn’t meet it.”
Old Dominion finished 4-13 overall (1-6 Colonial Athletic Association) last season and will kick off the 2013 season on Feb. 16 at Johns Hopkins University.
“I really have to be focused and be on my game the best I can and I can’t slack,” Buckley said. “I just have to be ready at all times. I want to show them they made the right choice by picking me and getting me to go there.”
“I think she needs to do the exact same thing she’s been doing,” Booros said. “My only bit of advice to her might be that she gets so overstimulated wanting to do so well that sometimes I think she gets a little ahead of herself. She has very high expectations of herself, which I don’t want to say is a bad thing but enjoy your freshman year and learn as much from your coach and remember you have a huge support staff that will be motivated by you. So if you let a goal past that you think you should have had, don’t harp on it too much, learn from it and move on. She’s a good catch, they’re lucky.”