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Morgan Rodgers is the 2015 Fauquier Times Kettle Run Girls Athlete of the Year

Tuesday, Jul. 28 | By Fred Hodge
Kettle Run's Morgan Rodgers scored 107 lacrosse goals as a senior, the third most during a season in VHSL history. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Like father, like daughter.

In 1985, Kurt Rodgers was honored as the Fauquier Times-Democrat Fauquier High Athlete of the Year, a fitting tribute for his contributions on the Falcon football and track teams.

Thirty years later and Rodgers' daughter is in the same newspaper for her sports exploits,

Regarded as the finest girls lacrosse player Fauquier County has even seen, Morgan burst on the scene three years ago to become a national recruit, ultimately choosing Duke University.

Coupled with her exploits in field hockey, Rodgers is the 2015 Fauquier Times Kettle Run Girls Athlete of the Year.

It's the first time that a previous recipient has been a parent of a later honoree in the history of the 30-plus year awards

Times have sure changed.

Two weeks ago, Morgan drove over to the once undeveloped area for a photo shoot on the KRHS football field. It took over two hours.

In Kurt's day there was only one high school in Fauquier County and only one athlete was honored, and he didn't pose with a two-person photo crew for a professionally backlit photo shoot.

Kurt was a star football and track performer for the Falcons, supported by parents Steve and Rita, who contributed to the school in a myriad of ways. The S.W. Rodgers Company donated much of the site preparation for Fauquier's football practice fields and the athletic complex to the west of the school.

Kurt's younger siblings Tom, Sid and Sarah all played sports at Fauquier as well.

Kurt, now the president and CEO of the firm, and his wife Dona have been fortunate to have three athletically-endowed children. Austin contributed heavily to multiple sports at Kettle Run and attends East Carolina University, while Morgan's twin sister Aberle will participate in equestrian sports at the University of South Carolina in the fall. Aberle also played multiple sports for the Cougars.

Now, the athlete of the year baton has passed to Morgan.

"He had told me that before," Rodgers said of her father's 1985 award. 'He has a huge scrapbook of all his success. That was pretty cool once we realized this little family dynasty."

"I'm very proud of her," Kurt Rodgers agreed, laughing about establishing a family tradition.

"We've had this running giggle with Dona about 'I have every record in everything I did.' It's nice for Morgan to get this award."

The early years

Rodgers began her athletic career in soccer when she was four years old., and the list of sports and activities quickly grew.

"I've been doing sports as long as I can remember. Name a sport and I have played it," Rodgers said, citing ballet, gymnastics, equestrian, and basketball among her many pursuits.

"Sports have played a huge part in my life," said Rodgers, noting family and academics top her priorities ahead of athletics, with friends and social life fourth."Those are the four major aspects of my life," she stated.

She loves "seeing how teams come together, and the unpredictability is so cool.

"I've met so many people I never would have met," Rodgers said.

Kurt and Dona discovered early on Morgan had a special drive that could lead to a NCAA Division I career. "This is tongue-in-cheek, but about seven years old," her father laughed when asked when Morgan's abilities became apparent.

Actually he felt by middle school Morgan's relentless nature would lead to high school greatness: "She has always had this insane drive. She likes to compete. She's always been tenacious in everything she does," Kurt said.

326 career goals

No one could have projected then Rodgers would graduate as the second-highest goal scorer in Virginia High School League girls' lacrosse history.

Rodgers scored 107 goals as a senior, which ranks as the third highest VHSL season total, according to the current VHSL record book.

Rodgers' 326 career goals would rank her No. 2 all-time and is only two behind the leader.

Her nine goals in one game ties her for seventh most in League annals.

Rodgers' amassed 399 career points. She also had career totals of 443 draw controls, 73 assists and 222 ground balls.

Ironically, a soccer misfire pointed Rodgers toward lacrosse after her travel soccer team folded. She never looked back and has been rewarded with a partial scholarship to play for national power Duke.

Rodgers received her scholarship offer from Duke before her junior year, making a verbal commitment Aug. 9, 2013.

Colleges are not permitted to make much direct contract with underclassmen by NCAA rules, but a huge loophole exists that allows travel team coaches to serve as conduits. Recruits can also initiate contact via several methods.

When Rodgers received word to contact Duke, she knew what was coming. "Oh, of course. I was talking to them for months on end already.," the future Blue Devil recalled of messages delivered by her travel team coaches."Offers don't just come out of the blue. All the contact was made through my travel coaches.

"Coaches will tell you we will give you an offer when you are ready to hear it. What that means is you have to make a decision sometime soon," she said, adding sometimes the recruit will want additional time to evaluate their options.

"Sometimes you want another month to see how the process is going. For example, when I was still trying to decide between JMU, Duke and Loyola (Md.), I was still waiting to hear from Duke. Loyola said 'Morgan, we have your offer ready for you when you are ready to hear it.' I said 'I'm not ready to hear it just yet because I would have to give you a decision, and I'm not sure I'm ready to do that.'''

Nearly 20 schools had offered scholarships or were showing serious interest, so when Duke made its pitch, Morgan was thrilled.

"I think I have one of the best coaches I have ever met through all of the colleges I visited," Rodgers began, citing the Blue Devils' Kerstin Kimel. "She is so understanding. She puts such an emphasis knowing that we are going to school to learn. We're not just going to play lacrosse. It's four years of our life. She knows she is going to be graduating young women.

"I have friends at other top Division I colleges that say 'Oh no, you go to school for lacrosse. You don't have any other life," Rodgers continued. "I knew I am going to be challenged on the field and academically. Knowing that she is a mother figure already made it easier. It's such a family dynamic that they have. They are such welcoming people," she said of the Blue Devil coaches and players.

Duke's reputation as an educational superpower only enhanced her interest. "It's a prestigious school academically, and I wanted that. I also wanted an opportunity to win a national championship," she emphasized.

Fauquier who?

Most high and medium level collegiate programs depend heavily on scouting clinics, camps, travel team showcase events and tournaments to identify quality players.

"This isn't a hot bed of lacrosse," Kurt Rodgers began, citing some opinions they encountered. "You come from a no-name school from a no-name area, it's tougher."

Morgan said that if she went to a certain tryout for a regional team to go to a national tournament many of the spots were earmarked for the players of the high school and travel coaches selecting the elite squad, which made it hard for her at times.

"It's particularly hard hearing 'Oh, you're from Kettle Run, I've never heard of that school. I'm probably not going to pay that much attention to you,'" Rodgers recalled.

But her attitude became one of taking lemons and making lemonade.

"Personally, I think it's better that I came from an area like this," she now professes. "It made me work so much harder. I was not going to be looked over. I wanted to make sure you could not miss me on the field. Who cares if I'm not from [your] area or your school."

Missing field hockey

Rodgers was a key four-year cog for the Cougars' field hockey program, amassing 35 goals, 16 assists and 156 steals.

She earned first-team all-district/conference honors for four straight years and was all-region for three seasons. She was first-team all-state as a sophomore.

"She's an awesome athlete. She's a competitor," says Joanie DeGoosh, who coached Rodgers for each of her eight hockey and lacrosse campaigns. "Morgan had a goal: she decided early on she wanted to play lacrosse in college."

DeGoosh said Rodgers brought a superior level of physical and tactical ability into play and practiced longer than anyone she'd seen. "She could read the field and see things most other players couldn't. That comes from experience. She has that big picture. You can't coach that," DeGoosh said.

DeGoosh said Rodgers would often speak up and say "'I've got a drill for that, coach," when DeGoosh told the team to work on something.

"She has so much experience and been exposed to so many good coaches," Degoosh said. "We were pulling on her knowledge, on her experience. I'd like to see her be a coach some day. She would be good at that."

Rodgers suffered a hip injury her sophomore year, preventing her from playing in the hockey team's regional playoff contest against Charlottesville, a loss that ended the team’s season

It also kept her from continuing a KRHS hoops career, which ended after ninth grade. "I played basketball my whole life. My freshman year I had a really good time."

Even after missing her sophomore campaign, the Cougar still yearned to play basketball, but her verbal commitment to Duke lurked in the family's mind, and three sports seemed too much, so she opted to lift weights and work on footwork.

My twin

After transferring from Highland, Aberle and Morgan both played field hockey and lacrosse as KRHA freshmen.

Aberle gave up hockey the next year and lacrosse the next to dive into a new endeavor in track.

Aberle excelled, winning the Conference 27 400-meter dash in 2014. Aberle decided to give riding her full attention as a senior after developing shin splints.

[Aberle] knew what she wanted," Rodgers explained. "She is such a talented rider. .. "It was a little odd. I played every single sport with Aberle. It was a little weird losing my little partner in crime," Morgan continued. "She's been extremely supportive."

With Aberle headed to Columbia, S.C., they're headed to different universities in the Carolinas.

"It was a little weird but it was good to break off a little bit," Morgan said. "We have twin telepathies. We will finish each others' sentences," Rodgers said while giggling. "It's scary how our thought processes are the same.

"At graduation, we were talking to a friend right next to us, and we said the same exact sentence at the same time. It was like 15 words. Everybody at graduation in front of us, behind us and beside us just turned and stared at us

"That was the weirdest thing ever. It's really cool."

Morgan traveled to Vail, Colorado in late June to play in a 20-school tournament for players committed to the respective colleges for the classes of 2015 through 2017.

The 16 future Duke players won the tournament against top-quality teams, leaving Rodgers with a tantalizing vision of the next four years.

"It was one of the best weekends of lacrosse I have ever experienced," she stated. "It was a truly unforgettable weekend with the most athletic and enthusiastic [of] teammates. It made us even more excited to go to school together."

DeGoosh feels Rodgers' legacy will extend past her final Kettle Run game and continue paying dividends for the Cougars' program.

"She's been phenomenal to watch," DeGoosh said of the conclusion of the of the Rodgers' era.

- - - - -

Family: Father Kurt is president of S.W. Rodgers Construction. Mother Dona, brother Austin; twin sister Aberle will attend the University of South Carolina.

Favorite places: Pawley's Island, South Carolina and Vail, Colorado

Favorite foods: Filet mignon and twice-baked potato (or anything with tons of protein) .

Favorite restaurants: Chipotle, The Cheesecake Factory, Coastal Flats.

Favorite music: Everything except country.

Favorite artists: Frank Ocean, G-Easy, Avicii.

TV: Enjoys "Modern Family and "Orange Is The New Black."

Favorite movies: Forrest Gump and Bridesmaids.

Favorite teams: Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. Plus, "I always follow JMU football because our family has season tickets."

Favorite athletes: Jen Adams, Mia Hamm, Grayson Allen.

Favorite subjects: English and psychology.

Least favorite subjects: Math and history.

Possible major/career: Psychology field. "Right now I'm looking at sports or industrial organization psychology with a minor in communications or business. I am planning on doing some sort of post grad."

Hobbies: "I love yoga. It's so relaxing. In winter, I go snowboarding a lot, especially with my sister. I tried on my first pair of skis when I was in kindergarten."

Summer plans: "Continuing with my daily workout schedule at Next Level Fitness and Performance, vacationing with my family and friends and making some extra money for school at Old Town Athletic Club and The Inn at Vint Hill."

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