For as much enjoyment as Melissa Lee might have received from playing for Farmington High School’s lacrosse team, after her senior season with the Falcons, she thought she was done playing the sport.
When Lee enrolled at Oakland University, she did so for academic purposes, with no inclination that there would be an opportunity to play lacrosse at the collegiate level. But after arriving on campus, some former players informed her about the women’s club lacrosse program that existed at Oakland.
It just so happens that Oakland head coach Towbey Kassa was already familiar with Lee’s work at Farmington, and the opportunity to play the sport again is one Lee chose not to pass on.
“It’s been phenomenal,” she said. “It’s a lot different than I had expected. It’s a really awesome experience. It’s pretty cool to be able to say that I’m part of a team through a university.”
And it isn’t just any team Lee opted to become a part of, as Oakland’s program, which competes in the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL), is one that has won several division and conference titles, advanced to the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) National Championships multiple times and defeated programs such as Indiana University, Michigan State University and West Virginia University.
Prior to coming to Oakland, Lee admitted that she didn’t know just how successful the lacrosse program has been. In fact, Lee, who is in her red-shirt freshman season, was part of an Oakland team this year that helped the program win its eighth consecutive division title and sixth straight conference championship.
The Grizzlies also earned a trip to the WCLA National Championships for the fifth consecutive year.
And while Lee may be having fun being a part of all that, perhaps even more important is the lessons that can come as a result of being a collegiate athlete.
“Nothing in life comes easy,” she said. “Lacrosse is a lot of hard work, long hours, late practices, especially being a full-time student with such a rigorous academic career. It’s hard. Last year, I got injured right before my season started, but I went to all the practices. I stayed with the team; I bonded with them and went on trips. Along the way, as hard as it was to watch my team play and not be able to play myself, it was a great experience being on the field this year, knowing that even though last year, I couldn’t do everything I wanted to be able to do, after my knee surgery and after I was better, it’s kind of like a rewarding feeling. Working towards goals isn’t easy, but when you get to the end, it’s pretty great.”
Lee is currently playing back-up goalie to senior Lauren Pattah, who she said has been a “great influence.” And although Oakland still has an appearance to make at the National Championships, which were scheduled to take place from May 7-10 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the opportunity that could await her next season hasn’t exactly escaped Lee’s attention.
“I’m really thrilled to continue playing,” said Lee, who acknowledged support she has received from her parents, Kassa, and her coach at Farmington, Michael Mehall. “I’m a new goalie this year. Our senior goalie is graduating this year, so next year, I get to step in and be our goalie. I’m really excited to get a whole bunch of playing time. I’m pretty excited that I have a few years left to play with my team.”
Lee is majoring in nursing.