A Phoenix to Dallas commute a couple of times a month can really wear on someone.
Yet, Mackenzie Meegan feels pretty special these days - winning a national title can do that for you.
Meegan, a senior at Desert Vista, is forward on the U19G Alliance Bulldogs team that recently finished first place at Tier II Nationals in Frisco, Texas.
“It feels amazing,” Meegan said. “It was a hard competition. We played teams from all over the place, like back east and out west.”
The Bulldogs, an all-girls hockey team based in Irving,Texas, faced teams from New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan and Colorado, and they went undefeated against them all.
“Most of the games were close, but as we got towards the finals, they kind of got easier,” Meegan said. “I definitely think we had more momentum and played better (as the games went on).”
Meegan got involved with the Bulldogs when she started yearning for a higher-level competition.
While attending the Rocky Mountain Developmental Camp in Salt Lake City, Utah, three years in a row, she met a couple of the players from Texas who piqued her interest about playing there.
It wasn’t before long that Meegan was lining up as forward for the Bulldogs, as she flew to Texas on her own at least once or twice a month to practice with the team.
“I think it’s fun, but traveling is kind of a lot,” Mackenzie said.
The trips proved worth her while after the finish at nationals and seemed to be a far cry from her initial start in the game.
Maureen Meegan, Mackenzie’s mom, admitted to being a little hesitant when Mackenzie first suggested playing hockey. Maureen has gotten used to supporting her through different levels of competition since then, but nothing beat seeing Mackenzie and the Bulldogs win at nationals.
“(My husband and I) were ecstatic,” Maureen said. “It was unbelievable. There were games that were complete blowouts to games that were nail-biters. It was very exciting to see her play and very exciting to see her get to that level.”
Maureen’s memory of the first time Mackenzie got out on the ice with an AZ Selects team still shines through her recent accomplishments, though.
“It was really funny because she was skating around and they were a lot faster (because) they had been together for a while,” Maureen said. “She was doing alright, holding her own and they were doing circles around the goal when (the coach) said, ‘Alright, girls now go backwards.’ Mackenzie just looked at him and said, ‘I don’t know how to skate backwards.’”
As Mackenzie progressed, so too did the level of competition that she sought out. Mackenzie played on the Phoenix Lady Coyotes team that was the first girls hockey team from Arizona to make it to Tier I Nationals played in Pennsylvania in 2008.
“The kids on the East Coast were quite surprised at the level of competition these girls actually had,” Maureen said.
Looking ahead, Mackenzie would like to continue playing hockey in college, and Maureen believes it’s something she could do.
“She’s a good, scrappy player,” Maureen said. “She’s not a big goal scorer, but she makes things happen out there.”
• Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.