GOLDEN IN GOAL

Madi Horrell leaves a lacrosse legacy, 318 saves later

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 7/22/20

PITTSBORO — The stats are eye-popping enough. But to truly appreciate Madi Horrell’s 2019 season in goal for Northwood women’s lacrosse, you need the context.

Last spring was the Chargers’ …

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GOLDEN IN GOAL

Madi Horrell leaves a lacrosse legacy, 318 saves later

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Posted

PITTSBORO — The stats are eye-popping enough. But to truly appreciate Madi Horrell’s 2019 season in goal for Northwood women’s lacrosse, you need the context.

Last spring was the Chargers’ first lacrosse season. Ever. Head coach Amanda Huegerich and assistant Larry Fritsche assembled a roster of 40 players, most of whom had never formally played the sport once.

In the Triangle, there’s no easing into a schedule. Northwood’s 11 games were all against 3A and 4A stalwarts, from nearby Carrboro and East Chapel Hill to Heritage and Wake Forest.

And offense takes center stage in the sport — games are fast, fluid, free-flowing and more often than not dominated by flashy scorers. Double-digit goals are the norm for most teams.

Case in point: as a junior goalie, Horrell earned every bit of her 24.5 saves per game, .622 save percentage and first-team all-league selection for a team that went 0-11 and 0-7 in Conference 3 play.

“It kind of felt like nonstop practice, because that’s how practice is: nonstop repetition of shots, over and over again,” Horrell said. “But without a break.”

“Defense wins championships,” added Fritsche, now Northwood’s head coach. “We had a new defense that rose throughout the season, but we’re talking a lot of breakaways at Madi. A lot of shots — very high volume shots.”

Horrell, a graduated senior set to play lacrosse at Meredith College in Raleigh, now looks back on that initial season as a formative one. She faced 432 shots on goal and saved 269 (the most in the state and sixth most in the country in 2019, according to MaxPreps).

Trial by fire was the best way forward.

But when she first learned Northwood would field a women’s lacrosse team two falls ago?

“I was actually kind of mad,” she said.

Horrell, who picked up the sport when she moved to Pittsboro in eighth grade, had spent her last two seasons on the men’s JV lacrosse team — a unique role that earned her a feature in Chatham Magazine’s 2018 Women’s Issue. She played minimally as a freshman but started every game in goal as a sophomore for an 8-4 team.

She was settled. Plus, the men’s program was well established; it offered consistent spring games to supplement her club games with Red Devils United Lacrosse in the fall.

A virtual expansion women’s team, she thought, had its issues: fewer games, lots of losing. In their inaugural game March 5, the Chargers fell 15-4 at home to Carrboro.

“After that first game, I was just mad,” Horrell said. “I had never been scored on that many times before, and I was not happy about it. It sucks to lose, but it sucks to lose by so much more.”

She quickly came around, though, after watching her teammates’ positive body language and work ethic in later games and practices. Horrell liked the strides Northwood made its first season — and she loved the summer and preseason workouts the team dedicated itself to leading into 2020.

The Chargers hit a few high points in that much-shortened second season this spring: a shutout win in a preseason scrimmage, and their first ever win — 18-1 over Union Pines — on March 4. Horrell was proud, too, of a competitive 12-8 loss to Heritage on March 9, where she had 24 saves and felt especially in sync with her fellow defenders. In three games, she finished with a .644 save percentage.

“She has that mental toughness, that commitment,” Fritsche said of Horrell, a two-time team captain. “She works year round … as far as learning the game, I’ve said it multiple times: she could teach a rules class to other coaches. She’s so well versed in the sport.”

Horrell’s also a perfectionist. She enjoys watching and learning from her own game film. She remains perturbed that she allowed one goal instead of zero against Union Pines and just missed her senior goal of a .65 save percentage. Outside of a summer job at Taco Bell, her main quarantine activity has been bench pressing in a neighbor’s garage.

“And I love looking at my own stats and everything,” Horrell said, “because that motivates me so much.”

At Meredith, where she committed in November, she’s looking forward to joining in on the team’s winning ways. Under coach Lauren Scott, the Avenging Angels have won six straight league titles in the Division III USA South Conference.

Horrell, 18, will have to duke it out with a returning senior and fellow freshman for the starting goalie spot — and she’s excited for the competition. She’s also planning on an engineering degree, and she’ll take full advantage of Meredith’s dual-degree program with nearby N.C. State to accomplish it.

At Northwood, she leaves behind a strong legacy, which includes selections to the 2019 HighSchoolOT All-East Team and statewide 2020 Bull City All Star Game. And a lot of saves. Try 318 for her women’s team career in 14 games, good for a 22.7 per game average.

Fritsche put it simply: “She’ll be missed.”

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twiter at @chapelfowler.

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