Eureka Girls Lacrosse Team Makes History
Senior Melissa Menchella scores 96 goals to lead the Wildcats to a third-place finish at state. Eureka became the first public school ever to finish as one of the top three teams in the state.
It was a historic season for the Eureka High School girls lacrosse team, and Melissa Menchella had a lot to do with it.
The senior midfielder from Ellisville scored an area-high 96 goals to lead the Wildcats to a 15-6 record, as well as a third-place finish in the Missouri Scholastic Lacrosse state tournament. Eureka was the only public school to advance to the final four, and became the first public school ever to finish as one of the top three teams in the state.
“It feels great being on a state-ranked team. It’s a dream that any athlete can have. I love that I had the opportunity to do it on a team that I loved,” said Menchella, who also had 20 assists to lead all St. Louis area players with 116 points. She will play next year at Lindenwood University.
“There’s not much I shouldn’t not say. She’s an incredible player and incredible athlete,” Ellen Wright, a Eureka varsity coach, said of Menchella.
“She will play until the sun goes down. She just loves to play. She’s a dedicated player, an incredible teammate and great leader. She does everything a coach could ever ask her to do."
Wright said Menchella is a selfless player who doesn’t care about stats, something Wright “loves about her.”
“I really respect her as a player and as a person,” Wright said. “There is nothing I can’t say about her. She’s just phenomenal. Lindenwood is getting a great player.”
Menchella began playing lacrosse as a sophomore and was pulled up from the junior varsity team midway through the season. Originally a native of Syracuse, N.Y., which is a tradition-rich area for lacrosse, Menchella decided to ditch track for lacrosse.
“I figured I’m from Syracuse, and my family knew what lacrosse was about and it looked fun,” she said, “so I thought maybe I should try it.”
The Eureka girls lacrosse program just completed its fourth season of existence, so a third-place state finish was well beyond expectations for this season.
“It was amazing to watch that development this year,” said Sarah Anderson, the program’s head coach. “We’re so proud of these girls. From where we’ve started and to where we are with these girls, we’ve just got an amazing group. They really play with their heart. They have technical skill, but also have a lot of heart.”
Playing in the upper division seemed a bit daunting at first, but early in the season both coaches realized their team could compete.
Eureka avenged an earlier loss to defending champion Nerinx Hall by beating the Markers in the state quarterfinals. They lost to Ursuline Academy in the semifinals, but defeated St. Joseph, 8-7, in the third-place game. The Wildcats got the game-winning goal from Menchella, who scored five times in the win, with 1:20 remaining.
John Burroughs won a thrilling state championship game by scoring in the final seconds for a 15-14 win over Ursuline on May 21 at Lindenwood University.
“I had never experienced anything like that before,” Menchella said of the state tourney experience. “That was a lot of fun playing there, knowing that I’ll be playing there for the next four seasons. Playing on that field, we knew we could be a state champion or end the season with a loss. It was great to close my career with a win and be a state-ranked team.”
While Menchella and Chelsea Deleon were MSLA all-state selections, teammate Ally McReynolds joined them as a first-team all-conference selection. Jessica Bestgen and Caitlin Ward were selected to the second team while Gabby Adams and Brennan Pfeil were recognized with an honorable mention nod.
“I think it was one of those things where we kind of surprised ourselves,” Wright said. “Once we started putting all of those pieces together and they started playing up to their potential, I told the team that they had the chance to be one of the best teams in the state. They totally stepped into it and I think we surprised a lot of people.”
Wright added that, while exceeding expectations, the close-knit team played like “a little family."
"I think when you have that dynamic and the skill, it translates into something great,” Wright said. “They love the game and care for each other. Great things are going to happen when you have that.”