As British lacrosse stars passed around newborn Megan Bunker in the house next door nearly two decades ago, her future holding a stick was set.
Indian Creek lacrosse coach Steve Willett knew his captain all the way back then, as her neighbor. He figured since he hosted a British lacrosse exchange, he might as well get her thrown into lacrosse early, though he’d be proud of the way Bunker would pick up different sports through her life, and rise to the top of each.
“She was kissed by the lacrosse gods,” Willett said.
Bunker, a senior dual-sport athlete at Indian Creek School in Crownsville, doesn’t really know what it’s like to not be at the center of her sports. One of her two statistical achievements came to fruition March 27, when she stood in the middle of her home field with her parents, grinning and holding a sign that celebrated the 100th career goal she’d just scored in the opening minutes of a 23-0 blowout over Chapelgate — a feat even more impressive when considering she lost her junior season to the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the midfielder made more history at her school by becoming Indian Creek’s all-time leading scorer, as Bunker’s eight points on seven goals against Pallotti were more than she needed to eclipse the previous mark set by 2019 graduate Sarah Mathes of 178. Bunker will carry 122 goals and 63 assists, as well as 383 draw controls, into her next game for the unbeaten Eagles (7-0).
Leadership came naturally on the field and the court.Willett noticed teammates flocked to Bunker and as a sophomore named her captain. She’s the first three-year captain he’d ever had.
Bunker was tall and more mature for her age, Willett said. She’d be first in line to try a new lesson or jump over to guide less experienced players, and Her hard work and gifts led her to pulling draws from the get-go, scoring plenty of assists.
“You see a high-goal scorer, they wouldn’t know what an assist looks like. … Megan, she plays a total game and people respect that,” Willett said. “She’s digging out ground balls, playing defense. She’s not at all about the statistics.”
Bunker noticed this attention from her teammates. She felt intimidated, especially as her sophomore captaincy meant she held sway over the seniors on her team. However, that experience early on, Bunker said, gave her future leadership skills a jump-start.
“The position where I have to lead by example is also really interesting because I think it helps me to work harder,” she said. “It helps me to push myself even harder for my teammates knowing that they’re watching me.”
Bunker served as captain for two years in basketball, too. Among an inexperienced team in 2020, Bunker carried the scoring load and this year, she was at the root of most of the good plays.
Leadership took on a new meaning this past year. When the pandemic struck, Bunker lost her spring lacrosse season just as countless athletes across the nation did. But when fall rolled around, private school athletes at nearby St. Mary’s, Archbishop Spalding, Annapolis Area Christian School returned to competitions.
Bunker’s school did not.
Now, she wasn’t a fall athlete. She had nothing to lose with that particular season’s absence, but that didn’t matter to her. She’d learned how to speak to her coaches, the school with the voices of her teammates already. This was no different.
“It really made me want to give other student-athletes a voice in that situation,” Bunker said. “After hearing from everybody how frustrated they were and how important sports were and how [the absence] was affecting their mental health, I really just wanted to give them a place to, you know, voice those concerns, voice that sports were so important to them.”
Bunker spearheaded a petition that accrued 224 signatures. Along with other athletes, she held conversations with the school administration. Her work directly led to Indian Creek’s decision to expand practices in the fall and tentatively hold November exhibition competitions, until the late-fall coronavirus spike shut down athletics in Anne Arundel County.
Indian Creek boys basketball coach Marcus Johnson said in February, “Without them doing that, I can honestly say I don’t know we’d be sitting here talking about basketball.”
Willett thinks Bunker’s willingness to speak up, just like her willingness to help on the field, hearkens back to her home life.
“She found the right channels, the right people to talk to and followed through. It was really something else,” Willett said. “I think it goes back to her being the oldest of six, being the second-string mom, and having to take charge a lot.”
Bunker’s work didn’t save the fall season, but it did revive the winter one. When the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, chose to hold abbreviated seasons in February and March, this time Indian Creek opted in.
Bunker suited up in an Indian Creek basketball jersey for the last time after all. Honestly, she said, it was the best thing she’s ever been a part of.
“From the first moment we stepped foot in the gym and our first practice, the goal wasn’t to really win everything or win a championship because there wasn’t a championship,” Bunker said. “It was purely just to like enjoy the sport, enjoy being there with each other and being with our team.”
The Indian Creek senior’s work to bring sports back did come at a cost.
In basketball, she wasn’t as fortunate as she was in lacrosse.
Because she could not play a full season in her final year, Bunker finished just a few points shy of 1,000. Had this been a normal year, Larkin noted she would’ve surpassed it easily.
Bunker never planned to achieve milestones. Her intention always was to play hard. She only began to realize those big moments might come when she first made second team All-County as a sophomore.
Her unusual senior seasons taught her something else besides leadership. Over the sports-less quarantine, the thought of possibly never playing basketball again agonized Bunker, until a college offered a solution. Bunker signed with Seton Hill where she plans to play lacrosse — and basketball.
She knows it’ll be tough to balance both at the NCAA Division II level, but she’s overcome tougher challenges.