April 25, 2013
By Tim Miguel - Cal Athletic Communications
The following is an article originally published in the spring edition of the Cal Sports Quarterly magazine.
Megan Takacs earned MPSF Player of the Year honors last season after setting a Cal record with 53 goals during her junior season on the Golden Bear lacrosse squad.
Taken apart or together, both are noteworthy accomplishments. What makes them even more remarkable is that her 2012 campaign ended early due to a severe knee injury with the regular-season finale against Stanford and the MPSF Tournament still on the Cal slate. Clearly, she could have easily added to her scoring total, yet the conference accolade came as the biggest surprise.
"It was an incredible feeling to receive that award," Takacs said. "I honestly wasn't expecting it because I had just ended my season about a week before the [awards'] banquet. I felt so honored that the MPSF coaches picked me to be the MPSF Player of the Year even after missing a conference game. I have a lot of respect for every single student-athlete in our conference, and I'm happy that our team had a few individuals representing some of the conference awards."
Following eight months of rehab, Takacs was back in the starting lineup when the Bears took to the field for their season-opener at James Madison. Although she did not find the back of the net against the Dukes or in Cal's next match at Maryland-Baltimore County, she scored four times in the Bears' home opener, an 18-9 romp over Saint Mary's.
Given Takacs' drive to succeed, second-year head coach Ginger Miles is excited to see what her star attacker can do now that she's healthy again.
"She blew the lid off of our expectations last year," Miles said. "With the confidence she's bringing into this season, she's going to blow the lid off of it again. She has the want, the hunger and the determination every single day to help this team. She's a very selfless player. She just wants to help this team win any way she can, and she'll step into any role that we need her to. She'll have a huge impact on our success this season."
Added Takacs about recovering from the injury: "It really tested my mental game, and I learned a lot while playing a sideline role. I am 100 percent and feel even stronger now. Being off for eight months has made me love the sport even more, which seems almost impossible."
If Takacs wants to repeat her feats of 2012, she will also have to deal with opposing defenses targeting her as the player to watch this spring. It's a challenge and attention level that Takacs relishes.
"I like when someone is guarding me tightly because I have learned different ways of using my speed to get around them and therefore creating a clear lane to goal," Takacs said. "I also like messing with their heads in the sense of telling my teammates something I will be doing and making sure my defender can hear me and then doing the complete opposite. I toy with my defender and play sort of a cat-mouse game; I have fun with it."
In a way, Takacs has been fooling players and coaches for much more than her time here at Cal. As a high school freshman back in Ohio, she participated on a club lacrosse program. When the 11th grade team did not have enough players to participate in a tournament, the coach asked Takacs to join the squad.
Takacs immediately earned the attention of NCAA schools, Cal being one of them, not knowing she was only a freshman. Over time, Takacs researched Cal and always kept the idea of trekking to the Bay Area in the back of her mind throughout her recruiting process.
After being courted by multiple top-10 lacrosse programs, Takacs decided she wanted to be a Bear and join the up-and-coming Cal team.
"I realized that Cal fit my personality and needs in every way," Takacs said. "I chose Cal because of the girls on the team, the academic excellence, and more broadly speaking, the Bay Area in general. I wanted diversity and I wanted to get a four-year academic and athletic experience that would help me grow in the best way possible. Cal has exceeded my expectations."
Takacs wasted no time in taking advantage of her time in Berkeley. After a productive freshman campaign when she ranked fifth on the team in scoring, Takacs earned first-team All-MPSF notice as a sophomore in 2011 with her team-leading 48 points.
But it wasn't until just before the start of her junior campaign when Takacs received her biggest opportunity to shine.
Just before the season opener, Cal lost one of its season captains and key attacker, Tara Arolla, to a season-ending injury. Miles and her staff decided to move Takacs from midfielder to attacker.
"We knew that our offense had to make some adjustments," Takacs said. "The coaches then decided to move me down to attack so I could solely focus on the offensive piece of the game. I was excited because my favorite part of the game is offensive sets, assisting and scoring goals."
Takacs went on to have a monster season that included being named to all-region, All-MPSF team, MPSF All-Academic and, of course, MPSF Player of the Year. She finished the year as Cal's leader in goals (53), draw controls (63), game-winning goals (4) and free-position goals (11 of 16 attempts).
"I wouldn't have had the year I had if it wasn't for our attacking coach, Allison Comito," Takacs said of the Bears' assistant who was a two-time first team All-American at Maryland. "She specializes in attack, and I learned moves that I never even knew existed in lacrosse. She made me see the big picture of the attacking side of the game and the importance of utilizing the skills individuals bring to the attack. With that [knowledge], my teammates and I used our best skills in order to have a fluid attack."
Although her Cal career will come to an end at the conclusion of this season, there is still plenty more in Takacs' lacrosse future. Because her mother was born north of the border, Takacs will be able to represent Canada at the World Cup over the summer. Following her international experience, Takacs, an American studies major, hopes to return to the Bay Area and start her post-collegiate career.
Given some of the numbers Takacs has posted for the Bears, she'll also be sticking around in the Cal record book for years to come.