By Steve Sears
After a freshman season that saw her score her first collegiate hat trick, be named American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week in March, and also be selected the James Madison University Athletic Director’s Scholar Athlete for the spring of 2023, former Morris Knolls High School lacrosse star, Brianna Mennella, will be ready to go when the calendar year changes.
“Yes,” Mennella said, “I’m very excited.”
And with good reason. The Dukes finished 19 – 3 last season, and Mennella played a huge part in that success. And, coincidentally enough, Mennella’s Morris Knolls Golden Eagles also finished 19 – 3 during her 2022 senior campaign.
As a first-year James Madison midfielder last spring, Mennella had seven goals and nine assists, and had an excellent shots-on-goal percentage of .864 (19 out of 22 shots). The American Athletic Conference competition was stellar for the Dukes, the schedule populated with the likes of Florida, Cincinnati, Old Dominion, and Vanderbilt universities, while outside the conference loomed the University of North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, and Maryland.
For Mennella, it was a leap of going from high school to college, but she was prepared to handle it. She said, “It was a lot different; it was a lot faster here in college. We have the shot clock now, while in high school, we were able to just hold the ball for a while if we were winning and just take possession. But now with the shot clock, we have to score and make decisions. We have a lot more plays in college than in high school.¨
Mennella at Morris Knolls was a three-sport athlete. She played volleyball just for one season, and on the hardwood scored 688 points for her career and grabbed 190 rebounds. However, it was in lacrosse that she truly excelled, scoring 228 career goals and 109 assists for 337 total points. COVID-19 robbed her of her and her teammates of their 2020 sophomore basketball and lacrosse seasons
Mennella had the pleasure of playing Gaels lacrosse for coach Connor Rush during her junior and senior seasons. Mennella said, ¨It was a good experience. I had fun every single year. He was a good coach, really intense, and we had really good practices.” Rush also had his team do extra work a lot in the weight room, which was different for the Golden Eagles, who also never looked ahead on their schedule, but took each game and competitor one at a time.
Mennella, the daughter of Michelle and Vincent Mennella, has two older sisters, Krista and Lia, and also a twin sister, Kira, with whom she played lacrosse at Morris Knolls. ¨We always knew where each other was on the field,” Mennella said. ¨She would always find me and assist me. It was always great playing with her.” Kira has moved on to the University of Georgia, where she plays club lacrosse, and the duo keeps in touch regularly.
Mennella, a Sports and Recreation major with a minor in Business at JMU, is focused on working hard and achieving her goals, including securing an internship in the future.