Posted: October 20, 2008
She was going to help change things for the Lehigh women’s lacrosse program. She would lead the way as the Mountain Hawks began building towards a Patriot League Championship. “We were jumping for joy when we found out that Sara was coming (to Lehigh),” Jill Redfern, Lehigh’s head coach explains. “She had a different level of ability; she has amazing hands, she’s a great thinker on the field and she’s talented enough to change games.”
Growing up, Sara MacIntyre says she was a serious softball player, often traveling with multiple All-Star teams at once to play as many games as possible. As she grew older, MacIntyre grew tired of the game and in the seventh grade, decided to take up lacrosse. She also played field hockey and soccer, but lacrosse was the sport she dreamed of playing in college. When it came time to choose a college, however, MacIntyre did not have Lehigh at the top of her list. That is, until former head coach Liz Brode Ota ’95 found out about the Agnes Irwin School product.
“Liz’s best friend, Brooke Fritz, was the head coach at Springside School, which is in the same league as my school, Agnes Irwin, and after she saw me play, she spoke to Liz,” MacIntyre explained. “During the recruiting process, Liz spoke to me about growing the program and how our class would be the cornerstone for the next four years, so that was all I needed to hear.”
Now a senior, MacIntyre burst onto the scene as a freshman, scoring 47 goals, which at the time broke All-American and 1996 graduate Jill Altshuler’s ten-year old record for the most goals by a Lehigh freshman in program history. MacIntyre netted seven goals in her first-ever collegiate game against Fairfield. “I didn’t realize I was on pace to break Jill’s record,” Sara matter-of-factly states. “I wasn’t even the best player on my high school team so to come in here and achieve that much success from the beginning was a lot of fun.”
For her efforts, MacIntyre was named the 2006 Patriot League Rookie of the Year; the first of three consecutive Rookie of the Year honorees for the Lehigh Women’s Lacrosse program. “The success that Sara had in her freshman year definitely helped us in recruiting,” Redfern says. “Attackers who were looking at Lehigh saw the opportunity to come here and score quite a bit, so her success helped open some doors for us.”
Entering her final season in the Brown and White, MacIntyre has scored 121 career goals on the lacrosse field and is a three time All-Patriot League honoree. She has also made multiple appearances on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, carrying over a 3.0 grade point average as a finance major.
“Sara has improved every year she’s been with us,” Redfern says. “She’s taken on a leadership role more and more as she’s gotten older and with a talented supporting cast around her, it’s allowed her to develop other facets of her game. Sara likes being part of a system and she enjoys seeing her teammates achieve success.”
Hearing Redfern describe MacIntyre’s enjoyment coming from seeing others achieve success may not hit home until one hears of MacIntyre’s 2008 summer travels. It was during this time that “Smac,” as her teammates affectionately refer to her, headed to Africa for two-and-a-half months through a program called Cross Cultural Solutions. While in Tanzania, she taught first-grade to orphans and slowly fell in love with not only the children she was with, but every facet of education, mentoring and caring for those less fortunate.
“I planned on going there and using my background in finance to work with women’s groups,” MacIntyre explains, “but when I got there, I quickly began to realize that wasn’t going to work out. It was a bit unsettling at first because I did not get a chance to speak with my parents for a week to let them know I had arrived safely. And once the finance thing didn’t work out I wondered if I had made the right choice. But once I began working with the children I absolutely loved it.”
A typical day for MacIntyre would begin at 6:30 AM. She lived in a village with others from the Cross Cultural Solutions program that was closely watched by security guards. “It wasn’t as rough as I thought it was going to be,” MacIntyre says. “We had running water, we had electricity, we didn’t have to sleep on the ground, but it was obviously a big adjustment.”
She continues, “We would eat breakfast at the village and then walk a half-hour to the orphanage. From 7:30 until noon I taught children at the school and at around 12:30 we would return to our village. After lunch, it was our time to be students; different speakers came in and spoke to us about issues in Africa, political situations, so we were getting educated, too.”
In order to effectively communicate, MacIntyre learned Swahili and quickly developed lesson plans so she could outline what she would teach the children. “The children had been at the school for seven or eight months when I arrived. They didn’t know the alphabet; everyone was on such different educational levels that I just had to keep it simple,” MacIntyre explains.
“I made sure that each person in class had a role. They needed to feel a part of something. The educational system in Tanzania is not free, and therefore the level of value the orphans place on school and these classes was really something unbelievable. They took in as much as they could and loved learning; it was truly inspiring.”
Following what she called a life-changing experience MacIntyre returned home and soon began her senior year at Lehigh. Her time in Africa left such an impression that she is considering a return trip and possible career launch as a teacher in underprivileged countries. “I had never thought of teaching but now I’m doing research on what all of the different opportunities are,” MacIntyre says. “I’ve also explored some things in the financial and consulting industries, so I have several options.”
For now MacIntyre can focus her energy on her senior season and a goal she and her teammates have been building towards for four years. “Our goal remains to win the Patriot League Tournament. It’s been exciting to see how far we’ve come as a class and all that we have been able to accomplish. But we all realize that this is it, and as leaders, we let the freshmen know how big a part they are of everything and how far this program has come.”
“Sara will be highly successful post-college,” Redfern explains. “She is bright, determined and is very level-headed. She will challenge the status quo and has the potential to effect change and be a proponent for things she believes in.” Redfern continues, “Sara is a highly perceptive young woman with a strong sense of right and wrong and is an exceptionally compassionate human being. We are very proud to have her in our program.”