Field hockey has been vital to making Colorado Academy's Katharine Merrifield a better girls lacrosse player

Colorado Academy Rocky Mountain girls lacrosse

(Lance Wendt/LanceWendt.com)

Katharine Merrifield didn't fancy herself much of an offensive lacrosse player until she started playing field hockey. It was that sport that taught her the benefits of being aggressive on the attack.

That mentality has worked wonders for Colorado Academy.

The Mustangs are the defending champions in both sports and Merrifield has been a big part of those wins. A big part of the reason is Merrifield and her ability to attack and score almost at will, something she didn't adapt to until she started playing field hockey in middle school.

"In field hockey, I'm really attack-based," she said. "That's a different mindset for me that I had to pick and learn while playing forward. It's really helped me with lacrosse."

She scored 48 goals for the girls lacrosse team as a freshman and added 59 more as a sophomore. Her freshman year she scored one goal as the Mustangs beat Cherry Creek 13-7 to claim their fourth straight state championship. She would claim another her sophomore year then added a field hockey championship last fall. She scored one goal to help her team edge Regis Jesuit 2-1.

"Winning your first state championship regardless of sport; I think lacrosse was more memorable," Merrifield said. "It was my freshman year and there was a lot of build up to it. Field hockey though was definitely a sport where I felt like I had to work at it more and we didn't succeed as a team in my first two years. That build up was also very special."

The success that she's now found on both fields has paid in the way of a college scholarship. She'll attend the University of Michigan to play lacrosse.

She's been playing lacrosse seemingly since she was able to hold a stick and wanted to pursue that sport after high school. But she acknowledges that field hockey has been crucial in the development of her lacrosse skills.

"They're both games where you don't have full control and they overlap in that sense," she said.

She started playing field hockey in middle school and when she started, she was playing the game on grass. When she got to high school the Mustangs were playing on a turf field and she instantly noticed the different.

"It was a lot faster," she said.

Initially the idea of playing field hockey boiled down to the fact that the time of the season is different than lacrosse. It was a way to refine her skills in a sport played on an open field with a stick.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the sports are interchangable. Learning to play with a ball that is ground-based over air-based was definitely a challenge. But in all, they've complimented her and her growth in each avenue, something that has paid off with the opportunity to play collegiately.

"They're completely different sports," she said. "They have some similarities when it comes to stick skills and footwork and that's why I was attracted to (field hockey)."

Playing both sports has certainly made her a better athlete and with championship banners as proof, multiple Colorado Academy teams have seen the benefits.

Colorado Academy Grandview field hockey

(Paul Soriano)