Most would hesitate to embrace a nickname like, “The Rat.” In fact, just about anyone would be doing their best to drop the moniker.
But not only is Meagan Keefe OK with her nickname, she likes it.
“Mostly coach (Maureen) Noone came up with it, but a lot of people helped give me that name,” said Keefe with a laugh. “I don’t mind it at all. I think it’s fun.”
And don’t worry, the Rat may seem like a nasty label, but for Keefe it is purely a compliment.
When there is trash in front of the net, the senior has made a living out of knocking it in for goals, and has done in at a record pace during her outstanding four-year career with the two-time defending Division 1 state champion field hockey team.
“I love hearing the noise of hitting the back of the net,” said Keefe with a laugh. “I stay low, and it’s always important to be as aggressive as possible. I have played (ice) hockey for years, so I’m used to fighting in front of the net.”
Heading into the week, Keefe has scored a whopping 55 goals over her three years as a varsity starter, including a school-record 33 goals a season ago and 11 through 11 games this season.
“Meagan is a sparkplug,” said Noone. “She does all of the little things, she has great stick skills and is brutal in the circle. She is so tough to defend.”
Keefe began to emerge as a sophomore, scoring nine goals in the regular season. But it was her 10th that was especially memorable.
Called upon midway through the second overtime of the Division 1 state semifinals, she tipped home a shot for the game-winning goal that send the Golden Warriors to their first state final in program history.
Last season, Keefe delivered her record-setting campaign with her 33 goals. She scored at least one goal in all but three games, including four hat tricks and four more multi-goal games.
“Last year, my job was to just be on the left post all the time and knock the ball into the net. It was just shooting. This year my role is different. I used to play left wing, and now I am an ‘inner.’ Now my goal is to come out more and help on the left and right side. Now I play all over the place.”
While her role may be different this season, the results have been the same. She had scored 11 goals for the 9-1-1 Golden Warriors, including hat tricks in victories over Central Catholic and Lowell.
And her goals are far from meaningless tallies.
“She gets the job done when we need it done,” said Noone. “She has a great knack for scoring, and she does it with two or three girls following her all the time. Her hockey and lacrosse skills have transferred very easily to field hockey.”
Keefe’s goal-scoring abilities are far from limited to field hockey, as she has excelled as a three-sport star in the era of specializing.
In lacrosse, she scored 39 goals last spring, finishing third for the powerhouse Golden Warriors, behind just a pair of college scholarship players in Ally Fazio (UConn) and Anne Farnham (UMass Amherst).
She has also been a four-year standout for the ice hockey team, scoring 14 goals a season ago, and both sports feed into her success in field hockey.
“I started playing ice hockey in the fourth grade,” she said. “I actually played soccer until the seventh grade but didn’t like it. So I picked up a field hockey stick, and the stick skills helped a lot. But it was weird to only use one side of the stick.
“Lacrosse is all about hand-eye coordination. That helps in all my sports, receiving the ball and having soft hands. If you don’t have that, the ball will just bounce off your stick to the other team.”
Now a senior, Keefe long ago made the decision that she would be playing lacrosse in college, and will be joining former teammates Anne and Kate Farnham at UMass Amherst.
“I knew I wanted to play college lacrosse since the fourth grade,” she said. “It is so hard to give up the other two sports that I love, but it feels right. Having Anne and Kate there has been so valuable in my decision on where to go. And they have a field hockey and soccer team, so the sports can still be a part of my life, even if I’m not playing them.”
Now, she hopes to make her field hockey swan song a memorable one.
“We know we have a target on our backs as defending champs,” she said. “But this is a new season and we are going to work just as hard to get back and maybe win another title.”
David Willis is a sportswriter/videographer for The Andover Townsman