Many would say that senior Meredith Sholder is just another player in the long and decorated dynasty of Emmaus field hockey, but her play on the field makes her anything but that.
Sholder has helped imprint Emmaus as a national powerhouse, leading them to the number one slot in major field hockey rankings. Now, she and her teammates — who earlier this month claimed their 28th straight District XI title — are up for the biggest challenge. On Saturday at 2 p.m., they face Palmyra — a past rival in state finals — for the 3A state championship at Whitehall High School. If they win, the team would capture its 12th state crown.
Sholder’s start in field hockey began when she was 3. That’s when her family first introduced her to the game that she would grow to love.
“My cousin played field hockey and put the stick in my hand,” said the University of North Carolina recruit. “I started playing league when I was in 2nd grade.”
Sholder’s family has a history of playing at Emmaus, as her mom, Jane Sholder, also took the field for the Hornets alongside her aunt. Both were led by Sue Butz-Stavin, the nation’s winningest head coach, who surmounting a record 840 wins last year. Jane Sholder helped shape her as a player.
“[Mom] influenced me greatly, she was my youth league coach until the end of elementary school,” Sholder said, “so she has helped me develop into the player I am now.”
However, Sholder finds her greatest motivation from an unlikely place.
“My motivation, to be honest, is myself, I just love this game and being motivated and believing in myself has helped me improve,” Sholder said.
When Sholder entered her freshman year, she made her mark early, scoring 47 goals and totaling 18 assists. She was no stranger to Butz-Stavin, who she had already been learning from.
“[Butz-Stavin] has been coaching me since 5th grade. What makes her special is that when something doesn’t work, she knows exactly how to fix it,” Sholder said, “she can be tough on us, but in the end, everyone can agree she is an amazing coach.”
Sholder continued her dominance in her sophomore and junior seasons, but now she began racking up the assist numbers, boosting her to 90 assists by the end of the 2015 season, while she totaled an impressive 159 goals.
With the season’s end nearing, Sholder will leave behind records that very few will reach — and she’s cemented her place into Emmaus field hockey history, joining the 100 goals 100 assists club, of which only four players belong.
Butz-Stavin admires Sholder’s unselfishness on the field, while also motivating her teammates to improve.
“Everyone wants to play to her level, but she is a very unselfish player, one of the most unselfish I have ever coached.” Butz-Stavin said, “She wants her teammates to do just as well as her, and she doesn’t care who scores, as long as the team is successful.”
Meredith’s communal play style has made her historically one of the most decorated field hockey players in the nation, earning her a spot on the United States National Indoor Field Hockey team and U-19 Outdoor team. International competition has done nothing but good things, according to Sholder.
“The [National Team] is a lot more challenging, and much more competitive,” Sholder said. “You can’t slack off in training, because selectors are there watching, while at the school I can get away with resting. Playing for the national team you find a way to stand out.”
Sholder trained with the U-17 United States in April 2016, and competed in the Four Nations Tournament in May, against Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Sholder and the other Americans finished third, but the experience was more important for Sholder, who wants to advance her career in international hockey.
In her sophomore year, she verbally committed to the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, much earlier than usual. Two years after, her freshman teammate, Madison Orobono, followed Sholder’s early-commit precedent, also to UNC.
“It was between North Carolina, Duke, and Princeton. I visited all of them in one weekend, and it was my first time seeing them,” Sholder said, “I fell in love with North Carolina, the girls were so nice and they wanted me to come play with them, the coaching staff was also very keen on me joining them, so that’s what helped me make my decision.”
Coming into her senior year, Sholder looks to cap off an unbelievable high school career with back-to-back state championships, just another award to Sholder’s already extensive list of achievements.
“Well because of the modern-day changes to the game, going from grass to turf, the game has become faster,” Butz-Stavin said. “The nature of the game has produced more and more goals, and she could easily be the most decorated turf field hockey player in the Valley,”
Athletic director Dennis Ramella remains impressed with the magnitude of achievement Sholder has had at Emmaus.
“First, she is arguably the most accomplished field hockey player in Emmaus history. Because of her play on national team, she has brought a high level of success to the school,” Ramella said. “She has a winning attitude, she plays with high level teams and brings that playing level to the school.”
Now, in her final season at Emmaus, Sholder must keep up that same mentality that has won her three conference and district titles, along with a state championship in which she scored the winner. As of Oct. 19, Sholder has scored 46 goals, and has assisted 33, a remarkable season to end a remarkable high school career.
“She holds all of our scoring records, and they are going to be hard to surpass,” Ramella said. “Hopefully she can leave with four straight conference and district titles, and back-to-back state titles. She is an example for younger girls both in the program and going into it.”
Butz-Stavin agrees that the season is far from over, but hopes that both her and Meredith can help continue the legacy of Emmaus’ dominance in field hockey.
“I wish that we can continue our success this season, hopefully keep up the streak of district titles,” Butz Stavin said. “We want to be playing in November, so we have to keep working hard to get right back to the state final game.”
Sholder was very reminiscent about the years she spent as a Hornet, but also excited about what the future holds as a Tar Heel. Sholder will fit nicely in a team that barely missed the NCAA Championship last season, losing to Syracuse 4-2 in Michigan.
“I will miss the team more than anything. We are all really close on and off the field, which is unlike any other team. I want to keep improving by working with the coaching staff to make the U-21 [National] Team,.” Sholder said. “I will bring my coachability and offensive push [to North Carolina]. I want to form a relationship with the coaches like I have with Sue.”
Feature photo by Rachel Reed