Inside Look: Meghan Dawson

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Kayla May

Appalachian State’s field hockey coach, Meghan Dawson, began her passion for the sport at a young age, following in the footsteps of a family tradition.

“My older sister got cut from the cheerleading team so we all kind of followed in her footsteps,” Dawson said.

Dawson is one of eight children in her family. Dawson’s sisters Rachel and Melanie played at University of North Carolina. Rachel was the 2007 National Player of the Year as a senior. Dawson’s other sisters, Natalie and Sarah, both played at Iowa.

“I’ve played against my sisters for so many years,” Dawson said. “It’s just always been a family sport.”

Rachel, Natalie and Sarah were all former members of the U.S. National Team. Rachel is also a two-time Olympian and the most capped athlete on the team with 240 marks.

“It makes you not want to fail that’s for sure,” senior forward Caroline Phillips said. “UNC is quite the team and with her sister with the Olympic team, it just makes you want to try a little harder cause she has such a good background.”

The Dawson sisters were not the only successful athletes in her family. Her brother David played football and baseball at Monmouth College and Andrew played football and baseball at Williamson Technical School.

Dawson’s sports achievements started at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, New Jersey, playing defense.

Her field hockey team won four state championships while she was there, and an additional win later on while she was coaching there. She was honored as the team’s MVP, as well as New Jersey Player of the Year in both 2005 and 2006.

Dawson also played nationally and internationally during her high school career.

She played for the South Region team in the 2009 USFHA National Championship, was a member of the 2008-2009 U.S. Junior National Development Squad and played for the U.S. Under-19 team at the USA-Canada Challenge Cup.

With so much success at the high school level, Dawson never had a doubt in her mind about playing field hockey in college. Once again, she followed in her sister’s footsteps and decided to continue her career playing at UNC.

As a Tar Heel, Dawson’s performance garnered many awards, including the All-South Region second team honors, All-South Region second team, NCAA tournament honors, the team’s Marjorie Moses Schwab Unsung Hero Award, and All-South Region first team.

She even helped the team to two NCAA National Championship titles in 2007 and 2009, and appearances at the Final Four in 2010 and 2011. Dawson was injured five games into the 2008 season, granting her another year of eligibility after being redshirted.

Dawson was also a winner in the classroom, having been named to the Dean’s List and the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll during her time at UNC.

After college, Dawson participated in the 2011 Champions Challenge with the United States Field Hockey Developmental Squad where she earned a silver medal playing at the highest level of competition in the world.

“It’s definitely motivating to know that we have someone behind us with so much experience,” junior defender Jordan Van Cleave said. “She has so much depth behind her … When she says something you know it’s correct … and everyone on the team really respects that.”

In 2013, Dawson began assistant coaching at Bucknell. In just two seasons she helped Bucknell reach their first winning season in five years and the program’s first-ever Patriot League outright regular-season championship.

Dawson’s coaching resume is just as in-depth as her playing achievements. She is currently an assistant coach to USA Field Hockey Futures Program, and has been the head coach of Bison Field Hockey in Pennsylvania, Carolina All-Star Field Hockey Club, and assistant coach at her alma mater, Eastern Regional High School.

In her first year as a collegiate level head coach, Dawson saw moving to Boone and coaching at App State as a blank slate.

“I didn’t know too much about them and I kind of liked it that way,” Dawson said. “I came in expecting a blank slate and to go from there and the girls have really been a lot better than I thought it was going to be.”

Dawson hopes to leave a legacy of a hard-working team not only on the field but also in the community and in the classroom.

The team received their first win of the season, and the first of Dawson’s collegiate head coaching career, against Missouri State on Aug. 30.

“It was a hard-fought team win and that’s what made it exciting,” Dawson said. “It wasn’t just one person or two people. The whole team fought really hard for it and that’s what we’re really developing is a team strategy and building individuals through that kind of mentality.”

Jordan Van Cleave said that Dawson influenced their team motto for the season: “Be better than you were yesterday.”

“She believes in every single one of us to the highest degree,” Phillips said. “She definitely makes us want to push beyond what we think we can do and she challenges us everyday to get better and grow.”

Despite Dawson’s field hockey accolades as both a player and coach, she says her achievement in the sport has been the friends that she has met along the way.

“I think that’s the best thing you can get out of any sport,” Dawson said.

 Dawson’s team will face off against her alma mater, No. 3 UNC, Sunday at 1 p.m.

Story by: Kayla May, Intern Sports Reporter