Standing on the sideline with a pair of crutches and her team trailing Maryland late in the second half by 11 goals, University of Maryland, Baltimore County sophomore defender Meghan Milani didn’t have lot to get excited about. But with just over seven minutes left, her cousin, Deb Milani, changed all that.
Milani, a freshman midfielder and 2013 Catonsville High graduate, saw her first Division I action in her first collegiate game and promptly won the center draw for the Terps.
Less than a minute later, she converted a give-and-go pass from Caroline Wannen for her first goal.
“I didn’t want to cheer for her, but I was really excited for her,” said Meghan, who is recovering from hip surgery in August.
“It was a play that we’ve been working on, and I just happened to be wide open,” said Milani, who was used to scoring goals at Catonsville, where she led the Comets (16-3) to the state semifinals last year.
In her senior year, Milani led Catonsville in points (94 goals, 29 assists), draw controls (129) and ground balls (46).
She was also one of 44 seniors selected for the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse team and was the only public school player from Baltimore County named to the 22-player roster.
Despite those accomplishments, Milani still had butterflies when she was sent into the game for a Terps team that has won 10 national championships and lost in last year’s national title game to North Carolina in triple overtime.
“I was a little nervous, but it was fun once I got in,” Milani said.
Her dad, Mike, was more nervous.
“I was tense,” he said. “It’s hard watching, because as a player, you know you can control it, but as a parent, it’s just hard because you want them to do so well.”
The goal eased his tension.
“It was beautiful. It was a back door,and it was perfect,” said Milani, a Woodlawn High graduate who shared the moment with his wife, Joanne, and extended family members. “It was a great play and she did everything right. It was a proud moment.”
His brother, Jack, who grew up in Catonsville along with his wife, Jackie, was looking forward to the game when his niece made her college choice.
“I think it was great when Deb decided to go to Maryland and we knew they were on the schedule and we couldn’t wait,” Jack said. “I just wish Meghan wasn’t hurt.”
When Meghan recovers, the Glenelg graduate will be in the defensive rotation for the Retrievers.
Although they never played lacrosse together because Meghan was older, they did play T-ball together when they were four and five.
But being on the sidelines for Division I lacrosse programs was special.
“It’s awesome,” said Meghan, who watched UMBC take a 2-0 lead before the Terps reeled off 14 unanswered goals on the way to a 14-3 victory.
The game, which was scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13, was postponed to Friday at noon because of snow, and then pushed back again to Friday at 2 p.m.
The cousins kept close tabs and were eager with anticipation.
“I was so ready and then the game kept getting moved back and we were texting each other, ‘When is our game going to be now?’ '' Deb said.
“We kept asking each other, ‘Have you heard anything from your coaches yet?’ ” Meghan said.
That the game was so close to home was not lost on Deb’s dad.
“As a parent, you can’t ask for a better away game than UMBC,” Mike said. “No planes, no travel.”
As a parent of a freshman on one of the nation’s best teams, he doesn’t know what to expect as far as playing time.
“Every kid on that team is great,” he said. “There is nothing you can complain about. (Maryland coach) Cathy Reese is a great coach. She gets paid to win, so if you can go out and help her, you are going to play. There are no politics. It is strictly about winning. I’m OK with that, and Deborah understands that.”
“Age doesn’t matter,” Deb said. ‘We all want to win and they (coaches) want to win, so they are going to put in whoever is going to get us a win, which is what I like about it. They don’t say, 'she’s a freshman so she doesn’t get the ball.' It’s not like that at all.”
That was obvious at UMBC, when freshman Zoe Stukenberg started and shared high-scoring honors (four goals) with sophomore Taylor Cummings.
“It’s like a challenge every day, but I think that is a good thing,” Milani said. “I feel like I am getting better every day, but it was fun for the preseason to finally be over.”
Milani, who was the Catonsville Times Co-Athlete of the Year two years in a row, played her first college game a day after her close friend and 2013 Catonsville Times Co-Athlete of the Year, Maddie Hunt, played her first game for the University of Colorado.
Hunt, a defender, caused three turnovers and grabbed two ground balls in the Buffaloes’ 12-4 victory over Stetson University, in the school’s inaugural collegiate lacrosse game.