Maggi Hall’s first collegiate goal was a special moment.
Almost as special as when she found out her older sister had been able to see the goal.
Maggi, the top women’s lacrosse recruit out of Maryland last year, was in her first game for the Florida Gators, and Gabi, a redshirt sophomore at North Carolina, hadn’t thought she’d be able to watch online as her little sis and her closest friend made her debut.
“After the game, when I saw my parents, they told me that Gabi saw my goal and I started bawling,” said Maggi, emotional again at just the memory. “I got a video from her friend at UNC, and when I saw Gabi she was bawling her eyes out saying she was so proud of me and so happy for me. It was a really special moment because I miss her, and it was so nice to know she was watching me even though she couldn’t be there.”
That’s because Gabi is a defender for the top-ranked Tar Heels and has a lot on her stick, too. Maggi matriculated out of Bel Air even further south, partly because of the perpetual sunny skies in Gainesville, Fla., and partly because veteran coach Amanda O’Leary has Florida ranked No. 12 and trending up in the lacrosse world after just 10 years as a varsity program.
Leary is convinced Maggi Hall is just the kind of player to continue that trend.
“Maggi has a maturity about her,” O’Leary said. “She has excellent vision, is confident with the ball in her stick. Maggi doesn’t play like a freshman.”
That’s apparent as Hall has started all but one game for the 5-2 Gators and is fourth on the squad with nine goals and tied for fifth with four assists. She’s a big reason Florida is flourishing. The Gators are scoring 14 goals a game and are in the top 30 in the country in scoring.
Hall was anxious to get back on the field this year at Florida after her high school season at Bel Air was canceled last spring, though not before she earned a spot on Inside Lacrosse‘s Preseason All-High School Team. Hall wrapped up her career with Bel Air records for draw controls (192), goals (142), points (223), among other career marks. In 2019, she had 82 goals, 36 assists and 126 draw wins for the Bobcats.
Lacrosse came naturally. The Halls’ mother, Debbie, played at Joppatowne and had a stick in her daughters’ hands at an early age.
“There are pictures of us as kids in these long shorts and baggy, [recreation-league], tie-dyed shirts,” laughed Maggi. “My mom was always my coach and I looked up to her and Gabi. She was harder on me than the other kids, but it paid off because now I’m here at the University of Florida.”
Maggi is the youngest of three sisters, but only she and Gabi play lacrosse. Maggi’s father, Sean, pushed basketball, too, and that took for a time — four years of varsity, all-county and team captain — but lacrosse was always her first love. She also played some volleyball and soccer, but basketball probably had the most ancillary benefit to the heights she has achieved on the lacrosse field.
“Offensively, the picking, rolling and the movement in close quarters are similar,” she said. “It helped my lacrosse I.Q. When I explain lacrosse rules to people it seems like I always use basketball as the example. On defense, you have to communicate the same way when a pick is set and you have to drop lower or go around high.”
She laughs at the notion of pursuing hoop dreams in college, though, compared to sticking with her first love.
“I realized I might have been good in Bel Air or Harford County, but outside I’m probably not so great,” she said. “I’m better at lacrosse.”
O’Leary thought so, too.
“Maggi has played a lot of lacrosse and she’s obviously watched a lot of lacrosse, and that has all played in her favor,” she said. “Maggi has a maturity about her game.”
Hall grew up going head-to-head with Gabi, who was a top-50 recruit nationally as a defender and defensive middie. Like the daughters of a coach and former player, they both absorbed the game like a sponge. Maggi brought that attitude south and is learning from her Florida teammates.
“We have all these amazing defenders that push us so hard,” she said. “I’ve got so many bruises on my arms and they push you to be so much better. That fall  season really helped all of us get back into the groove.”
Like most spring athletes, Hall hadn’t competed in a real game in quite some time — for her, back to the Under Armour Tournament in the summer of 2019. She had quarantined at home, mostly working out in the backyard with Gabi and sometimes with a personal trainer. Going against college athletes this fall was eye-opening, wrist-bruising and welcome.
“[Florida defender] Cara Trombetta is an All-American, on the Tewaaraton Watch List, and it seems like a lot of times, Maggi draws Cara as her defender,” O’Leary said. “In the beginning, Cara pushed her around all the time, but now it’s a pretty good battle. It’s fun to watch them compete and see Maggi step up to that challenge. Maggi wants to go against the best so she can improve. That’s the kind of competitor she is.”
Hall had two goals in her first game, a 14-7 win at Louisville Feb. 13, and then three goals and two assists in a big 20-7 win against Kennesaw State March 13, putting all that work in practice to good use. She FaceTimes with Gabi practically every day, talking about everything and anything inside and outside of lacrosse.
“She’s my best friend,” said Maggi of sticking with her sister, literally and figuratively for so many years.
Gabi injured her knee in the preseason and just got cleared to begin running. She has begun eyeing a return to the field. She played in seven games as a freshman on the 2019 ACC Championship and Final Four Tar Heels.
Older Sis has had a huge impact on her younger sister.
“She was always amazing and did so much for me,” Maggi said. “My whole family, really, has been amazing. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
But mother knows best. Besides coach and household honcho, she also became Maggi’s role model. Debbie Hall is a registered nurse in the St. Joseph’s Medical Center emergency room in Towson, and Maggi hopes to go into the same field someday. There’s a reason, though, that not many big-time Division I athletes are nursing majors — the time commitments in both pursuits are at odds — so that dream will have to wait just a bit, though it’s still on Maggi’s mind.
“I want to follow in her footsteps and help people like she does,” Maggi said. “We always talked about moving to Florida, living in Clearwater and working together in the same hospital.”
Maggi’s voice is again emotional thinking what her mother has meant to her and others.
Hey, that’s what the Halls do — they’re tight when it comes to family and they let their passions run freely, frequently to the good of others. And oh yeah, they kick butt in lacrosse.
Photo Credit: Andy Mead