Suzy Willemssen wanted to believe the news but between her excitement at its potential and the seemingly long odds of it happening, the Lee softball coach tempered her expectations.
“At the end of last year, I’m hearing that Meghan might play softball and I’m thinking ‘yeah right,’” Willemssen recalled. “I would see her in the halls and ask her if she was jerking my chain but she said she was serious. So I had an inkling, but it wasn’t until February 18, even though she told me, that I actually believed it.”
On that day, Cox joined her younger sister, Courtney, along with the other Lee players for varsity softball tryouts. And it didn’t take long for Willemssen to realize that although Cox had never played the sport, she was a natural.
“I knew pretty quickly that she would probably be our starting center fielder,” the second-year head coach said. “She’s out there making ESPN catches and showing how much of an athlete she is.”
The surprise move gained steam last May, when Nikki Gunta told her players that she was stepping down as Lee’s girls’ soccer coach. Soon after, Cox, a midfielder who had earned first team All-Met honors in leading Lee to the Virginia AAA Northern Region quarterfinals, began considering a change of her own.
“Last year, I accomplished a lot of my goals, like being first team All-Met and committing to play at James Madison, so with my old coach leaving and my younger sister playing softball, I thought maybe I’d try something new while spending more time with my sister before soccer becomes my full-time job.”
Trying her hand at another sport was nothing new for Cox. Not only has she also played field hockey and basketball during her high school career, but Cox served as the kicker for the Lancers football team in 2011.
Still, Cox admits to feeling nervous during her first day of tryouts.
“I’m used to running and doing fitness tests for soccer in the spring, so softball was a completely new experience for me and I didn’t know what to expect,” Cox said. “It’s still early, but as time has gone on, my confidence has built up to where I think it’s a good fit for me. I have a strong arm, can chase down balls and I’m learning all the ins and outs of the sport.”
Prior to Wednesday’s win against W.T. Woodson, Cox was hitting .400 for the Lancers (3-2) with three stolen bases and a quality at-bat average of .667, according to Willemssen.
“Meghan loves a challenge and she’s the ultimate competitor. I’ve never seen an athlete like her,” Willemssen said. “She had never hit before, so we’ve had her learning how to lay down bunts mostly. But as she starts to pick it up more, I’m sure she’ll be swinging away by the end of the season.”
While Cox mans the outfield, her younger sister, Courtney, serves as the Lancers’ ace pitcher. What’s more, their mom, Kim, played on Madison’s state softball championship team in 1984, further explaining Meghan’s diverse skill-set.
Cox still plays club soccer for the VSA Heat, allowing her to continue prepping for college when she’ll just have one sport to focus on. But in the meantime, Cox is relishing the opportunity to bond with her sister and master yet another sport.
“Softball has probably been the biggest transition because it’s a completely new sport. With football, I kicked, so it wasn’t much different than what I did in soccer,” Cox said. “With me being new as a senior, I’m working to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches in softball. I’ve made some new friends and I’m also having a lot of fun, so I’m happy about my decision.”