Bireley finding success early in her collegiate career

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Photo by John Leuzzi

With key members of the program graduating, the Marquette women’s lacrosse team entered the 2022 season with different looks across its five positional units amid a young group of talent.

Some of the key losses included Megan Menzuber, who finished her career No. 2 in program history in points and goals, Emily Cooper, who finished her career No. 2 in program history in draw controls and Juliana Horning, who finished her career as the program’s all-time saves leader.

First-year attacker/midfielder Meg Bireley was one newcomer who looked to make an impact early on.

“I started playing lacrosse when I was in third grade, I just did the park district league. Since I was young, I was always playing lacrosse seriously, I’d say when I got to high school is when I got more serious about it,” Bireley said. 

In high school, Bireley led Glenbrook South High School to state runner-up in lacrosse during her senior season. Across her four years, she totaled 208 goals, 90 assists and 363 draw controls.  

Bireley comes from a Marquette family, as her dad earned her master’s at Marquette, making the decision to commit to the Golden Eagles an easy one.  

“Ever since I was a young kid, this was a school that I had always known about,” Bireley said. “In high school I would go to Marquette lacrosse camps and ID camps and so I knew that this was a school that I wanted to go to. I got to witness firsthand how great of a program it was and I wanted to be a part of it.” 

Assistant coach Caitlin Wolf said she has been impressed by how Bireley has adjusted to the college environment both on and off the field. 

“She is unfazed by anything that comes her way, knows how to take care of what is on her plate and (when) to ask her for help when she needs it,” Wolf said.

Along with adjusting to the college level, Wolf said she has seen Bireley grow as a player which has allowed her personality to come out more.  

“As a freshman she started out a little quieter, now she is celebrating more, directing more, just involved in the full unit more than just her play,” Wolf said.

Wolf said Bireley’s leading attributes as a player has led to her success this season.

“Meg is fierce, fearless, really quiet on the field and unassuming which I think is a huge advantage for us,” Wolf said. “She has a ton of skill and great lacrosse IQ (and) sometimes she flies under the radar, which benefits us a ton.”

Throughout the first 14 games of her career, Bireley had notched 23 goals, six assists and 29 points. She leads all first-year players on the team in shots with 63.

“When she plays, she will take some shots and I am like ‘woah,’ but then they will just go right in,” first-year attacker/midfielder Elise Smigiel said. “It is cool to watch her play because she plays without any fear.” 

Wolf said Bireley has been a contributor all season for the Golden Eagles.

“(She is) someone that we rely on,” Wolf said. “She plays all game every game, it was just a matter of time before the stats matched up and got her enough points to be recognized.”

Bireley earned BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors April 14 following her first career hat-trick performance in the Golden Eagles’ 19-14 win over Villanova.

“It was pretty exciting, our team really came together, everyone was doing their job to make it easy for us to score, it was a big game for us because it was our first BIG EAST win of the season,” Bireley said. 

Smigiel, who is roommates with Bireley, said that the recognition was long overdue for Bireley.  

“We definitely saw it coming, to get that kind of recognition we have to win those games and we had a little bit of a losing streak for a while so that’s why we weren’t able to see that,” Smigiel said. “Our big win against Villanova, she really started strong and it was awesome to see her get that.” 

Bireley said she looks up to the upperclassmen on her team, including those who share the same role and position as her.

“Our team is really good with upperclassmen trying to help younger players balance and transition from high school to college,” Bireley said. “On the lacrosse field, it is really helpful to have upperclassmen attackers. They are really positive people and try to give everyone confidence.”

This past Saturday Bireley faced off against her older sister, Greer, when Marquette hosted Butler University at Valley Fields. Greer finished the game with three assists and three goals while Meg had three goals and two assists. 

Prior to the Golden Eagles’ 24-17 victory over the Bulldogs, Meg said both were excited to play against each other, as “it would be something different.”

“Both of us are excited,” Meg said prior to Saturday’s contest. “When we were in high school, we were used to playing on the same team and playing together so it should be interesting being on opposite teams and going against each other.” 

Heading into the remainder of the season and the remainder of her Marquette career, Bireley said she knows that she has a role on the team and knows what to do with it.

“(I want to) play and work hard for the rest of the team and as an attacker, try and get some goals.” 

This story was written by Kelly Reilly. She can be reached at kelly.reilly@marquette.edu or on Twitter @kellyreillyyy.