As an emerging lacrosse player at Bel Air High School, Shannon Williams heard the stories of athletes making their college decisions based on an emotional fit with the campus, stadium or program. But during visits to Louisville and Michigan, she didn’t experience such a reaction.
Then she made a trip to Oregon.
“People always talked about how on recruiting visits, you just get this feeling, and of course I was like, ‘I don’t know what that feeling is,’ ” she recalled last week. “Then leaving Oregon with my parents, I was like, ‘Oh, I think this is that feeling.’ Everything just kind of fell into place.”
That decision has been a fortuitous one for Williams and the Ducks. This past weekend, the Bel Air resident scored a combined five goals in losses to Arizona State and Southern California to set the school career record with 147, passing the previous mark of 146 set by Jana Drummond in 2012.
That is the sixth program record that the 5-foot-6 attacker has rewritten during her time in Eugene, Ore. On March 8, she eclipsed Shannon Propst’s all-time points mark of 219 established in 2014 and currently has 232. She already holds school marks in points per game (3.8), goals per game (2.4), points in a single season (74 in 2018) and points per game in a single season (4.2 in 2017).
Keeping up with the number of personal accomplishments has been a dizzying experience for Williams, who said Propst reached out to her on the day that her points record was broken.
“It’s really nice and awesome, but I would not have been here without every single person on the team these past four years,” Williams said. “A goal is not a goal alone. It definitely has come from working with my teammates and my coaches over the last four years.”
Williams, who has scored at least 72 points in each of her past two seasons and is on pace to compile a career-best 81 this spring, has had an impact since she arrived on campus, according to senior midfielder Julia Taylor.
“I guess freshman year, you come in and everybody’s fighting for a spot, and Shannon was really dominant her freshman year and just every year she delivers,” Taylor said. “So it’s been really cool getting to see how comfortable she is behind the crease and putting balls in the back of the net. She definitely leads our offense, and she’s somebody that everybody looks up to when we’re playing to really set the tone of how the offense is going to go.”
Williams’ calming presence on the field has been welcomed by Ducks first-year coach Chelsea Gamble, who was the offensive coordinator for Pac-12 rival Stanford for four years before replacing Katrina Dowd on Aug. 1.
“I was at Stanford, so I always kind of scouted Shannon before I got here,” Gamble said. “And then when I got here, I think the fun part was putting those tools into our offense and seeing how as a returning point leader, she could kind of complement the young players on our offense as well as add some more of that leadership to it. So it’s been fun to kind of see the different roles she’s had to take on and kind of see her take charge more as a feeder at times and then put the ball in the back of the net when we needed her.”
Kristen Barry knows how Gamble feels. Barry was an assistant coach at Bel Air for Williams’ first three seasons before getting promoted to head coach for Williams’ senior year, and that 2015 squad captured the school’s first regional championship before falling to powerhouse Severna Park in the title game.
Williams amassed 36 goals, 12 assists and 38 draw controls as a senior, but her public display of embracing Barry’s philosophy was just as important to the then-rookie coach.
“Shannon had a huge role in that because she believed in the program, she bought in, and she got her teammates to buy into my new philosophy as a first-year head coach,” Barry recalled. “She’s one of the best leaders I have seen as a head coach. This is my fifth year coaching varsity lacrosse, and I still think she is the one of the best leaders we’ve had in our program.”
Williams and the Oregon team will return to Bel Air for a free practice Monday, March 25, before traveling about 40 miles north to tangle with Delaware on Wednesday. She said she is excited about seeing her parents Jim and Kathy, older sister Becky and two border collies named Maggie and Finn, as well as seeing former coaches and teachers.
“It’s so cool,” she said. “I played soccer and lacrosse in high school. So going back to that field, there are so many memories on it, and it’s cool. I’m really excited to show my team where I grew up.”
Williams said her primary objective is trying to help the Ducks (2-7, 0-4 Pac-12) end a five-game losing streak and make their first appearance in the NCAA tournament. However this season ends, Gamble said Williams’ achievements will be difficult to match for the next generation of players at Oregon.
“I think that we’re just at the forefront of what the season could look like with more records that she could continue to tap into,” she said. “So I think her legacy is going to be huge. I think it’s going to be one that it’s going to be a hard position to fill in the years to come not only because of the immense points on offense she can produce, but also because of her leadership. She’s very humble in talking about what she’s done here, but there’s also a lot that she’s one off the field as well as within the community here. … Not only is her legacy in the stats column going to be really tremendous, but I also think who she is as a person, I hope that each one of our juniors, sophomores and freshmen can see what it’s like to be a true teammate.”