Johns Hopkins women’s lacrosse senior defender Annika Meyer recently chatted with PressBox about her mother’s influence, her memories from playing at Notre Dame Prep and more. The 5-foot-6 Meyer earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2021 after picking up 45 ground balls and causing 28 turnovers.

PressBox: How did you become interested in lacrosse?
Annika Meyer: I grew up in a big athletic family. My mom, [Rosemary], actually played basketball at West Virginia University and she’s in the Hall of Fame there, so I grew up playing basketball and really wanting to kind of create something of my own. I found lacrosse as a knack, and being from Baltimore and Maryland, it’s so prevalent here. So I picked up a stick when I was in elementary school and having so many similarities to basketball, I really found my knack in this sport and then eventually on the defensive end.

PB: How did your mother influence you growing up, especially given that she played college hoops?
AM: My mom is my biggest role model and supporter ever. She’s my best friend. She was my coach growing up when I was little. She always pushed me to be my best, whether it was what I wanted to hear or not. She grew the competitor in me because she’s one of the most competitive people I know as well. She really was like, “Look, if you want something you have to work hard for it. It’s not just going to come to you.” She really instilled that in me. While I didn’t want to do the same thing as her in playing basketball, athletics was just [so] second nature to me and then eventually playing college athletics at the Division I level was my ultimate goal just because of that competitive desire and the want to be the best you possibly can be.

PB: What are some of your favorite memories from playing at Notre Dame Prep?
AM: I owe so much to NDP — the memories that I’ve created there, the coaches, the bonds. I played basketball and lacrosse there for four years, while lacrosse was my primary sport and my coaches in Mac Ford and Brian Hartman were incredible. Beating McDonogh my senior year and breaking their streak, that’s something I’m never going to forget. But I also have great memories of playing basketball there, too, because that was something different I could still excel at and sort of have a break between going all summer and fall playing lacrosse and eventually in the spring at NDP. But I got a little bit of a break and got some time on the hardwood as well, which is also really fun.

PB: Why did you choose to come to Johns Hopkins?
AM: I’m a big homebody. I’m so close to my family, and that’s everything to me. I have a little brother who has become so, so important to me, and I was looking … to stay home. I didn’t really want to go far. I was looking to stay local, and growing up in Maryland, that legacy of the [Hopkins] lacrosse tradition has always been in the forefront of my mind. I’m a bio major academically, so the health care and the world-renowned medicine that Hopkins also offers was super appealing to me while also playing at such a highly competitive lacrosse school. [Head coach Janine Tucker] is hard to find. She’s an anomaly. She is ultimately one of the main reasons I came to Hopkins after meeting her for just a couple hours. She made me feel like I was at home. Even though I was going to be away from home, I had a second home in Hopkins.

PB: What is your favorite thing about Hopkins and Baltimore?
AM: One, there’s a lot of interesting things in Baltimore. It kind of has a stigma. You have to watch out where you’re going. But the people in Baltimore are incredible. You can meet so many great people. There are so many different cultures, and the food is incredible also. Being at Hopkins, the campus is so diverse so I go to class with people who aren’t from around here. They’re from all over the country and all over the world, so it really broadens my horizon. Where I’m from is such a small part of the greater world, and I get to meet, interact and learn from those people every day.

PB: Who is your best friend on the team and what’s a story that underscores your friendship?
AM: I think ultimately our defensive unit at Hopkins, they’re some of my best friends. Being welcomed in as a freshman, I’ve had such good care taken of me. That idea has been instilled in us from our associate head coach, [Tara Singleton]. Defense is hard. We have to cover each other. We’re playing for the greater good of making each other look good and protecting our 8-meter [arc]. Ultimately, while you’re taking risks and trying to be the best player you can be, defense is a family and we have to buy into that in being the best unit we can possibly be. I have my roommate, who’s a goalie, Kaitlyn Pham. She’s one of the best teammates I know. She’s an incredible leader. She pushes us as defenders to be as good as we can be every day. I’m also great friends with our goalie, who’s the current starter and fifth-year, Kat Garvey.

And I have a couple friends who I play defense beside every day — Jeanne Kachris, Cam Levine. They inspire me to be better every day. The one story I always think about that actually happened in this fall — in practice, we’re doing this 7v7 drill but it was more of an unsettled situation. The ball was dropped, an attacker got the ball. I doubled the ball with Cam on my side and Jeanne was right below us and then Haleigh Moore, another defender, was above us. It was executed perfectly. … We ended up getting the ball. It was so fun and energetic. Then that weekend we play at Loyola. We’re in a play day. We’re actually playing Loyola, and the exact same thing happened, plays out beautifully. Cam and I were in this double, Jeanne and Haleigh completely sealed off the adjacent attackers and everyone just erupted when we got the ball back. We eventually scored. Our sideline was jumping up and down like crazy. I gave Cam a hug and I eventually found Jeanne and Haleigh and thanked them because they were the reason we ended up getting the ball back. Our goalie, Kat, was so excited, too. It was just great memories, and I think that just really encapsulates how we celebrate each other on the team. I see it every day on the defensive end. It’s just a really fun way of pushing each other to be the best we can.

PB: Who was a player you looked up to when you got to Hopkins?
AM: A player I looked up to was our senior captain [when I was a freshman]. Her name was Nicole Demase. I’m No. 22 and she was [No.] 2, so we had a little bit of bond going there. I would say, “What’s going on, 2?” and she would send it right back with a twos joke. I looked up to her. I wanted to be the leader she was someday. This year I was fortunate enough to be voted the captain by my teammates, a great honor. And the first thing I did was [send] her a text, and I was like, “Look, I’m stoked to fill this role, but I want to be the best possible leader. What advice do you have for me?” Within like 15 minutes, she had sent me the biggest text ever — how proud of me she was. It was all the advice you could think of. I can’t thank her enough for the impact she’s had on me as a player and a person, whether she’s known it or not. I still try to be more like her every day just because of the impact she’s had on her team.

PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
AM: I think for younger players, dream big first. As a little kid, I don’t know if I ever dreamed that I would be playing at Hopkins and competing in the Big Ten and for a national championship. It comes from hard work, though. You can’t expect anything from anyone, really. You’re a self-made player, and the harder you work and the more you invest in yourself, [the better off you’ll be] — and also having fun in doing it. Lacrosse is a team sport and you’re ultimately playing your best game when you’re having fun and doing it with your friends. That would be my best advice: No. 1, have fun playing, enjoy the game; [No.] 2, work hard and make yourself the best player you can be and dream big.

PB: What are your goals for after lacrosse?
AM: Ultimately I want to end up in the health care field — still undecided about what that’s going to be, whether it’s more the physician route or more of a therapy route. I’m trying to figure that out now. In my sophomore year in high school, I ended up tearing my ACL playing for NDP and I had such a phenomenal experience — well, as best as you could with an injury like that — with my doctors and my physician assistants and my physical therapist, they made such a huge impact on me, knowing that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to make people feel this good and help them get back to where they were before an injury or something like that.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics

Issue 273: February/March 2022

Originally published Feb. 16, 2022

Luke Jackson

See all posts by Luke Jackson. Follow Luke Jackson on Twitter at @luke_jackson10