Already an SSSAS Hall of Fame inductee on the 1997 girls lacrosse team, this time Melissa Biles receives individual distinction for her participation in lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, and track. When a player achieves such a high level of success in powerhouse programs like Saints girls lacrosse and field hockey—under legendary coaches and alongside gifted teammates—it might be easy to chalk up her success to being in the right place at the right time. But listen to her coaches talk about her, and a picture of the ultimate sportswoman emerges.
Former Field Hockey Head Coach Marsha Way says, “Melissa was the kind of kid you never wanted to miss a game. She was almost irreplaceable. She was an attack player but then got moved back to center midfielder and seemed to be everywhere at once. She was quiet but very much a leader; the epitome of leading by example. Without a doubt she was one of the most talented, hard-working team players I have coached.”
Girls Lacrosse Head Coach Kathy Jenkins adds, “Melissa Biles was a true leader who led by example. She inspired her teammates with her extra effort and performance and with her intensity to go after every ground ball, hustle play, and draw control. Melissa had a great attitude and cared more about the team than individual statistics. She was tough, relentless, and competed with class.”
True to form, Melissa attributes most, if not all, of the credit for her strong work ethic to those around her. “The girls ahead of us were such great role models, so honestly I think it would be hard to be on one of those teams and not have a good work ethic,” she says. “They created such a high standard of working hard, but also having fun with it. I 100 percent attribute my attitude and standards of effort to the girls in the grades ahead of me, whom I was fortunate enough to play under and with. I would definitely not have been as successful with my career if it hadn't been for the groundwork that they laid for us to follow."
Melissa clearly felt the benefit of great coaching as well. “Mrs. Jenkins is obviously an amazing, powerhouse coach and individual presence in the lacrosse community, on both the high school and collegiate levels,” she says. “We were all incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to play for and learn under her—and her emphasis on basic skills, which are critical to any successful career. But more importantly, she always advocated for all of her players and wanted the best for us. She wanted us to succeed on the SSSAS team, but also personally and in our future careers. I am forever grateful to her for the focus and attention she gives to her players and students."
She continues, "Ms. Way was also an amazing coach to play for, and you could tell she enjoyed working with the students. Always saying she was going to retire—I think it took her two decades to do so! Ms. Way had her sayings to make us work through the hot fall practices: 'She who has the will to win ... ' Anyone who played for her knows how that one ends!” Of other role models Melissa recalls, “Anna Yates McDermott ‘92 (fellow hall of famer) was another incredible influence. She came back my freshman year and coached JV field hockey and varsity lacrosse. She was always the person we had heard of and looked up to, so it was surreal to have her as a coach. She was hard on us, but she did it in a fun way. She always found a way to encourage us in the best way possible.”
These were special times for both the field hockey and girls lacrosse programs. The level of greatness had been set high for both teams and for the individual athletes. Melissa notes that she came late to lacrosse: “I was a little bit of a late bloomer. A lot of people grew up playing it since kindergarten, but I started in fifth grade PE. I was also short, which is sometimes tough for a lacrosse player, especially a defender. Lacrosse didn't really start to click for me until my sophomore year.” Perhaps this made Melissa work just a little bit harder. Surprised by her level of success, she put her all into it. “If you are playing that hard and at that level, you want to be good at it,” she explains. “I remember when they pulled me aside to take the individual picture for the All-Met Player of the Year. I thought that they were just taking it of everyone and was in literal shock when they said that I was the player of the year.”
Expectations for the lacrosse team were high, having been No. 1 in the country in 1997, when Melissa was a sophomore. “When I was in high school, the lacrosse team had always been good,” she says. “It was all I knew! I was incredibly lucky to say that I was on the 1997 team. Those juniors and seniors were the best influence ever on me.” Melissa went on to exceptional lacrosse performances at Georgetown University, where she started every game in her four-year career. Among other accomplishments, she was on the All-American First Team and NCAA All-Tournament Team in 2002. Her Hoyas team played in the 2001 and 2002 National Championship games.
Melissa took away many valuable life lessons from the fields of St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes. “The value of teamwork and being able to work well with others resonates the most,” she says. “Not only with your peers but also your superiors, as well as those who follow you and look up to your work. Another takeaway is the ability to read individuals' different personalities and what pushes and motivates them. My coaches did an excellent job of adjusting to players on an individual level, knowing how to motivate different personalities at times of stress. Additionally, growing up with such structure all the way through high school—school, practice, game, school, practice, game. Having that discipline going into college and the working world is irreplaceable. But most importantly, I feel that team sports teach the importance of taking personal responsibility and accountability for your contributions to the people around you." Leaders help those around them live up to expectations. When the expectations are as high as the sky, it is those intense, quiet, hardworking leaders like Melissa Biles who help keep entire seasons and teams aloft.