by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union In years past, West Seneca West High School girls lacrosse hasn’t been really known for sending young ladies to the next level. When you think of a lacrosse powerhouse in Western New York, West Seneca West hasn’t been high on the list. But, that has changed in recent years. Over the past couple of seasons, West has started to build a very program in WNY. They have been able to compete with some of the bigger schools in the area - and the young ladies are now starting to get recognized. More and more girls from the program as starting to play lacrosse at the next level - and not just at Division III schools. They are signing on to play at Division I schools like Akron and other universities. Miranda Held wasn’t like most lacrosse players who was recruited right out of middle school to play at the college level. The standout at West Seneca West got a late start on the process - not starting until her junior year. While most players would have been freaking out over the fact that they started so late, Held, who plays four sports at West, took it in stride. “Recruiting was definitely difficult at first. I was very late into it, most girls start going to prospect days and getting their name out there their freshman/sophomore year, if not earlier,” stated Held. “I really didn’t begin my recruiting process until my junior year, after Sept. 1 when coaches could begin talking to you. Starting late was definitely a big set back, and it was hard to not get frustrated. But, I knew what I wanted and I really invested my time and worked for it.”
Maybe starting late in the process actually helped her. She wasn’t overwhelmed with all the offers at an early age. Held was able to take her time and choose a college and university that was right for her. She was also allowed to have her game develop over time. The microscope wasn’t on her form the first time she entered high school and played on the lacrosse team. There weren’t coaches in the stands from day one going over everything she did right and wrong. For Held, in the early going, it was about fine tuning a game that was coming along nicely. Coaches took notice and Held was finally able to realize her dream of playing lacrosse at the next level when she committed to Duquesne University in the Atlantic 10. “Picking Duquesne was the easiest choice I’ve ever made. Going into it, I knew they had a great program for my major and knowing people that go there, I had only heard great things,” stated Held. “As soon as I stepped on campus I knew I wanted to be a Duq and I really fell in love with the city. The girls on the team and the coaches had such a great energy. It really feels like a family, and everyone is so passionate about the game.” While WSW has played a big part in her development, so has playing travel ball. Travel ball has become a big thing over the past 10 years. Where before players would just play for their school team and that was it, now they play all year round. There is no more summer vacation if a player wants to play in college. They push themselves as much as they can to get to the level to where they need to be. Players like Held want to go up against the best competition in the country to prove that they belong at the next level. They only way players like Held can do that is by playing for a travel team over the summer. There she is able to work on skills to see what it takes to play at the highest level possible. “Playing travel was a huge help in recruiting. I was sure I wanted to play and go to school outside of Buffalo and honestly, without playing travel I don’t think I could have made that happen,” stated Held. “My coaches for Empress and West were really helpful in guiding me through the process and playing with my travel teammates was a really great experience.”
That type of experience has made Held into a leader that the younger player can look up too. The team will look a lot different with the graduation of some really good players. There is a leadership gap to fill and Held is ready to step right in. The girls will take to her style as Held is the type of player that will work hard in practice everyday to get better. That type of work ethic will easily rub off on the other players as West looks to win a Sectional title for the first time in school history. “We lost a lot of really great leaders with having so many seniors graduate this past year so I’ve been doing my best to step up and fill that role as best as I can,” stated Held.” We have been doing a lot of off season work to build up the team and create a lot more chemistry especially with having so many new girls on the team. I think it has been very successful so far, our team has grown very close and we’re developing to be a great team.” Held knows what it takes to build a winner. She is a four-sport athlete at West playing field hockey, volleyball, basketball and lacrosse. Playing so many sports doesn’t leave her much time to relax and heal up. But, Held wouldn’t have it any other way. She knows by playing all these different sports that she can get injured. Every athlete that plays multiple sports knows that can happen if they spread themselves out to thin. Held also knows that she needs to do to take care of herself and her body, and goes through the right steps to make sure she is healthy going into each season. “I actually play four sports, I doubled up on field hockey and volleyball for the fall, I do basketball in the winter, and lacrosse for the spring. It can be a lot of work at times but it’s so worth it. Being involved in so much has really shaped me as a person. I’ve made so many friends and sports have really toughened my mentality,” stated Held. “I am conscious of the possibility of getting injured because of basketball and the other sports I do, but I do my best to ignore it so I don’t hold myself back in my play.”
As winter finally turns to spring every team feels like they have what it takes to win a championship. They feel like they have done everything that the coaches have asked them during the offseason to be prepared for the rigors of the year. This year is no different. Expectations are high now at West to bring home a championship. The coaches and players know they have what it takes to compete with the bigger lacrosse schools in the area. “My team and I have been working extremely hard in the offseason, attending tournaments, playing in a winter league, practicing, and working out . The dynamic is definitely different compared to last year but we are ready and excited to start competing and hopefully reach our goal,” stated Held. “Definitely everything I’ve learned from my coaches, I owe everything to them for allowing me to become the player and person I am. This past season as well, I will never forget because of the pure passion and investment everyone had. We all worked so hard and loved the game and so much. Although we didn't have the outcome we expected, it was an unforgettable season.” That unforgettable ride last season will turn into determination this year, and Miranda Held is ready for the challenge.