Mia Haughton was prepared to assume a supporting role as she looked forward to making her debut with the Amherst College women’s lacrosse team this March.
But on the eve of the first game of the 2013 campaign, former Princeton High standout Haughton got a surprise.
“One of our best midfielders broke her hand in a preseason scrimmage against Trinity and had to get surgery,” said Haughton.
“I didn’t know I was going to start until the day before our opener vs. Colby — it was a great feeling.”
Haughton made a great first impression, picking up two assists in a 10-7 loss. In the team’s next contest a day later, Haughton tallied a goal and two assists to help Amherst post a 9-8 victory.
For Haughton, scoring her first college goal was a special moment.
“The goal was off an assist from one of my captains, Hillary Densen,” recalled Haughton.
“It was a quick stick goal off a cut through the 8. I don’t remember much except that after I scored my captain Marta Randall ran over to me and picked me up. It was one of the best feelings ever to hear ‘Goal scored by number 4 Mia Haughton’ announced over the loud speaker.”
That opening weekend success was years in the making. “I started seriously thinking about playing lacrosse in college the summer before my sophomore year of high school,” said Haughton, who also starred for the PHS girls’ soccer team.
“I started my freshmen year at PHS which was a huge confidence boost and my coach Christie Cooper continually urged me to try to play at the next level.”
Haughton took Cooper’s advice and ended up at Amherst. “At first I was considering a bunch of D-I schools like Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell, and Colgate but eventually decided that I wanted to play D-III due to the fact that I really wanted to study abroad a semester of my junior year and that’s really hard to do at a D-I program,” said Haughton.
“After that I pretty much narrowed my options down to schools in the NESCAC [New England Small College Athletic Conference] since its arguably the most competitive D-III conference in the country. Amherst had everything I was looking for in a school. It’s small, in a quaint town, and extremely competitive both academically and athletically.”
Upon arriving at Amherst this past fall, Haughton quickly realized that she faced no small task in both arenas.
“Fall ball was extremely challenging and time consuming but also very rewarding,” said Haughton.
“During the fall we would have two days a week of sprint class, three days a week of lifting and three days of practicing, all led by the captains. The biggest challenge was definitely balancing my time between school and lacrosse. Amherst is very challenging academically and it was sometimes hard to manage it especially during the season.”
The presence of former PHS teammate and good friend Katie Reilly as a fellow freshman on the Amherst team helped Haughton deal with the challenges.
“It’s awesome to have Katie at Amherst with me,” asserted Haughton. “We’ve been playing sports together so long that we can almost read each others minds on the field and we know how to push each other and make each other better. It’s also really fun to have someone to reminisce about high school with.”
The PHS pair leaned on each other as preseason practices got underway this February.
“Preseason was a little bit of a shock; I was definitely really nervous but it helped having 11 other freshmen with me who were going through the same thing,” said Haughton.
“The upperclassman were also super welcoming and encouraging so I was able to feel comfortable pretty early in the season.
Haughton acknowledges that she had some nervous moments in making the adjustment to the next level.
“College lacrosse is very different from high school lacrosse,” noted Haughton.
“Girls are generally bigger, faster, and more skilled. Scouting also has a much larger role in college than in high school. The NESCAC allows coaches to swap films of their team’s games with other league coaches so that they can do a good amount of scouting and preparing before every game. This makes the games way more competitive and strategic. In high school, it is not abnormal for a girl to run the ball all the way from the defensive end to the attacking end. In college, the second you try to do this you will be swarmed by at least three defenders every time.”
As the spring went on, Haughton felt that she was competing better and better.
“My confidence as well as my stick skills definitely improved as the season progressed,” said Haughton, who ended the season with 15 points on seven goals and eight assists as she played in all 15 of Amherst’s games starting 12 for the 9-6 Lord Jeffs.
“It was really uplifting to see how much confidence my coaches and the veterans had in me and I wanted to make them proud. I would say I most improved in making smarter decisions like passing it down the field in transition rather than trying to run it.”
For Haughton, one of her proudest moments of the season came in a 10-8 loss at Connecticut College in mid-April.
“My biggest personal highlight was in the Connecticut College game,” recalled Haughton.
“We were down one player due to a yellow card and Conn was trying to set up a scoring opportunity in the attacking end. I noticed the girl I was defending put her head down for one second so I checked the ball out of her stick, picked up the ground ball, sprinted the length of the field and scored.
Although the Lord Jeffs had hoped to do better this spring, Haughton sees a lot of highlights ahead for the program.
“It’s always disappointing to not do as well as you were hoping to do or knew you could do,” said Haughton.
“We were a really young team with only five juniors and three graduating seniors, so it was definitely a transition year for us. In 2012, we graduated almost our entire defense, including our goalie. So considering the inexperience of our defensive unit, anchored by a freshman goalie, I think we did pretty well. We’re definitely looking forward to the future.”