As a sixth grader living near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where his father Paul was serving in the Marines, Anthony Merida, who previously played football, tried a new game called lacrosse on a bit of a whim and a dare from a group of friends.
Once he encountered the game’s intricacies, fast pace, and physicality, Merida remembers being hooked and from that time on, even after moving to the area and becoming a standout goaltender for one of the area’s premier programs in Colonial Forge, he has played the sport year-round between travel lacrosse and high school play.
Merida has experienced the fruits of his labors by not only participating with a winning lacrosse program, but also in being able to join his teammate, Tyler Howard, at Virginia Military Institute, beginning next fall. Merida called the opportunity to play the game he loves at the next level “a dream” and raved about the opportunity he will get to attend a school with a rigorous academic program.
“This will be great in pushing me toward my dream of doing something in the area of business or economics,” Merida said. “And it gives me opportunities going forward if I decide to join any branch of the military.”
Merida said he will be one of five goalies in the program at VMI, so he was promised nothing in terms of playing time, but like all things at VMI, that will push him to always get better.
“I look forward to the challenge of getting better every day,” Merida said. “It is a competition I fully embrace.”
At the time he first took up the sport, Merida took up the position of goalie, somewhat by accident.
“The coaches didn’t make the goalies run, so that was the reason,” Merida said, laughing. “But the thing I like most about being a goalie is the adrenaline you get from making a big save. You don’t get that in other sports. Lacrosse is the fastest sport on two feet. It’s like no other.”
Merida said he enjoys being part of a special fraternity—goalies—because of the mental toughness the position takes.
“Goalies are a different breed of people. It’s sometimes a humbling experience when you give up the goal that costs your team the game,” Merida said. “You have to stay calm and have a case of early amnesia sometimes because the game can [sometimes] get away from you if you are not successful early in the game and your team gets down by a goal or two.”
Fortunately, as one of several co-captains and part of a talented corps of players at Forge, Merida said he usually doesn’t have to worry about the team amassing a big deficit.
“Sam Sharps and Tyler Howard really help our offense on the attack and that takes a huge amount of pressure off,” Merida said. “We also have a lockdown defense. All of the captains work together and never get down on the rest of our team. Even though this has been a bit of a rebuilding year, the younger players have stepped up and made some big plays when we have needed them.”
Merida said the success of Forge’s program for the past several years has created a competitive situation among schools in the Commonwealth District and even in the region when they play Forge.
“We realize that every time they play us, they kind of see it as their Super Bowl,” Merida said. “They play at their highest level of play when they go against us, and it’s kind of like [we say], ‘Come and get it.’ We definitely enjoy getting their best and we know that’s what we’re in for every game. But our fire comes in trying to get where no other Forge team has ever gotten before—a state championship. Other teams have gotten close, but we want to be the team that finally does it if we can.”