After missing half of her junior season thanks to a broken foot, Sam Winklemann surged back onto the field for the Lady Panther lacrosse team.
Winklemann, the daughter of John Winklemann and Cheryl Majka, spent little to no time getting her game back to speed. One of Winklemann’s most impressive performances this season came in last week’s round one win over Wheaton United in the state tournament. O’Fallon defeated Wheaton in a close 9-8 victory.
“Sam was pivotal in our win,” said varsity girls’ lacrosse coach Rob Garrison. “Since her return she has been the most vocal and hardest working athlete on the team. After missing the first half of the season I told her she would have to earn her spot back as a defensive leader on the team. I think she took it to heart and when she came back for her first practice she had something to prove. She gave a hundred percent in every practice and game to get her position back. What started out as a negative for her, turned into a real positive.”
Throughout the second half of the season Winklemann averaged three groundballs and one forced turnover a game.
Not only has Winklemann been helping her team with her leadership but also with her ability to adapt to a new playstyle. After struggling in the early parts of the season, Coach Garrison and the Lady Panthers made a decision to switch up their defensive play style.
“Last year, in a similar situation, we played a settled defense. This year we knew going against Loyola we had to switch to a high pressure defense. Sam was major part of that switch for us. She was the first to realize when we needed to move and the first communicate it to her teammates on the field,” said Garrison.
The switch to a new defense worked well for the Lady Panthers, who ended up fighting their way into the second round of the State Tournament before losing to top ranked Loyola Academy.
Although their season is over now, the Lady Panthers are sure to benefit from having a full season with Winklemann next season.
“Most of the starting defenders will be seniors next year and have played together for three or four years. Sam and the defense responded really well to the high pressure defense and I think we are going to run with it. Sam will be a leader again next year and I’m really excited about it,” said Garrison.