St. Vincent's Maggie Nelson a scoring standout in two sports
Maggie Nelson loved the St. Vincent campus and made several visits while in high school, but the athletic focus of those trips was spending time with members of the women's soccer team.
Soccer was the preferred sport for Nelson, a standout athlete from St. John's Catholic Prep in Frederick, Md., but she also played lacrosse. On one of her later visits, she attended a lacrosse camp and quickly caught the attention of coach Jym Walters.
“The camp was the first time I really got to meet the lacrosse team,” Nelson said. “We scrimmaged a couple times, and I told coach, ‘See, I told you I didn't lie. I play lacrosse, too.' ”
Walters was so impressed, he made a bold prediction.
“I saw her shooting on goal and I said, ‘This is a kid who can score 50 or so goals per year,' ” Walters said. “I could tell right off the bat.”
Turns out Walters was correct, and while Nelson has been the top point producer on the soccer team in each of the past two seasons, the rising senior is coming off a record-setting lacrosse campaign.
Nelson scored 50 goals plus 36 more, and she led NCAA Division III with 134 points — the 12th-highest total in D-III history and the second-best total across all divisions in 2017.
Nelson, a 5-foot-2 midfielder, knew she was in the midst of another strong season, but it was up to Walters to let her know she ranked among the nation's best.
“Probably about halfway to three-quarters through the season, he told me I was getting up there with my stats,” Nelson said. “Near the end of the season, I had a really good week. We had three or four games the one week, and I had 20 goals. That's crazy.”
Her list of postseason accolades is pretty wild, too.
Nelson was tabbed ECAC South and Ohio River Lacrosse Conference offensive player of the year. She earned first-team selections to both leagues. Nelson's 86 goals are a St. Vincent single-season record, as were her 134 points. She posted seven or more goals 11 times and scored a career-high nine goals against Transylvania (April 2) and Thiel (April 26) in helping St. Vincent reach the Ohio River Lacrosse Conference championship game, which it lost to Washington & Jefferson, and finish with a 12-5 record.
She is the Bearcats career leader in goals (223) and points (311).
“The thing that stands out is her pure speed,” Walters said. “She is so much quicker than these defenders. At this point, everyone has tape on her, but she still beats defenders with her speed and moves. Plus, she's very accurate.”
Nelson, who has a .552 career shooting percentage for the Bearcats, spends summers at home in Jefferson, Md., and she is working on improving her speed and endurance — for soccer season.
She started all 17 matches for the Bearcats in 2016 and led the team with three goals and seven points. As a sophomore, Nelson finished with team-highs in goals (10) and points (25).
Two-sport athletes at the Division-III level is not unusual — Walters played two sports (tennis, cross country) for four years at St. Vincent and a third (lacrosse) for one. Being the leading scorer on two teams, however, is unique.
“It's amazing how both teams count on her,” Walters said. “A lot of it is because she's so good at showing up. She's focused and stays balanced, and she gives 100 percent at practice every day.”
Nelson hopes her talent and effort lead to an extraordinary senior year. The secondary education mathematics major wants to lead the soccer team to the Presidents' Athletic Conference tournament, which the Bearcats have not qualified for since 2013. In lacrosse, the goal is a conference title.
“We've been to the championship every year I've been on the team,” she said. “In soccer, we've come close to the playoffs, but we haven't gotten there. I'm really looking forward to the season.”
Mike Kovak is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MKovak_Trib.