Women's lacrosse: Perry Hall grad thriving on Maryland's defense

While there have been some Perry Hall High products playing women's lacrosse for Rutgers University, the University of Delaware, Mount St. Mary's University and Loyola University Maryland, the number of ex-Gators who make a significant impact at the Division I level pale in comparison to some rival schools' ability to stock big-time collegiate rosters.

Kerri Johnson attended Loyola — she coached there as well — and might just be Perry Hall's High most highly regarded player after earning All-American honors twice for the Greyhounds, although it's been almost 20 years since she was a scoring machine for the Gators.

Recently, however, another former Gator is making noteworthy contributions to one of the nation's premier squads.

Junior Melissa Diepold, who graduated from Perry Hall in 2009, is not just taking up a roster spot at the University of Maryland, either.

In her first year as a starter, she's playing a crucial role for the fifth-ranked Terps (7-2).

Maryland coach Cathy Reese expects Diepold to blossom into an All-Atlantic Coast Conference-caliber player before she graduates.

"We have a year and a half left with her, and I think she will develop into a superstar defender for us," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "She is already a leader for us."

Indeed, the 5-foot-5 Diepold has proven as much by mentoring highly touted freshmen Megan Douty and Shanna Brady. The Terps desperately need more defenders to emerge as solid performers after graduating three backline starters from last year's national runners-up.

"We returned one starting defender," Reese said about Diepold. "She's stepped into a starting role and worked with the two freshmen. That says a lot. She has stepped up vocally. Her work ethic is something I think others should follow."

Diepold set herself up for regular-season success with a punishing off-season workout program.

She knew more was at stake this spring than past seasons. This was her once chance to start and she wasn't about to muff it.

"I definitely think I pushed myself harder than past years," Diepold said. "Working hard in the offseason was a real big goal for me."

Diepold's relentless work habits have impressed her teammates and coach.

"She works super hard, hustling all over the place in every drill," Reese said. "She is always trying to get better, and that's what makes her so much fun to coach."

Diepold's biggest strength is her speed, but her confidence is growing as quickly as acceleration.

"My teammates are always out there helping me a lot," Diepold explained. "I think I am learning a lot by just being out there and being able to work with them. And I have tried to step up and be more of a presence out there."

Her best games this season came in a 12-9 win over the University of Virginia (three ground balls) and an 11-4 battering of Hofstra University (four).

At Perry Hall, Diepold started for four years on the varsity and also honed her skills for eight years in the top-notch Skywalkers club program.

She also excelled at soccer for four seasons and ran one year of indoor track at Perry Hall.

Jennifer High, who coached Perry Hall varsity lacrosse from 2005-2010, said Diepold's competitive nature was on the intense side — in a good way.

"If we lost, she would be distraught and sitting in the back of the bus and talking to no one," High said. "Her attitude jumped out at me more than anything. We never asked her to run harder (because) she always did. I played in college and coached for 10 years, and she is one of the most coachable players I have dealt with."

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