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updated: 4/14/2011 10:21 PM

In hockey or softball, Neuqua's Meyer thrives on pressure

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Neuqua Valley needed all of one game this spring to be reminded its shortstop position was in good hands.

Brooke Meyer's 3-run double in the season opener broke up a tie with Benet, Neuqua erasing an early 5-0 hole.

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"You need to have short-term memory as a player," Meyer told me matter-of-factly after her first varsity game.

Meyer knows about that quality all too well.

Her first sports love, the one she has played since she was 5, is hockey. Since Day One Meyer has been a goalie.

Meyer forever has played on boys teams. Two years ago she was in goal with Neuqua Valley's team; that was more to play with her older brother Zack, though, who is now in the Marines.

Every other year she has played club, now the Romeoville Huskies.

Meyer has made the national camp once and is in the process of trying to qualify this year through a series of tryouts for the women's U-18 national team. She plans to play hockey collegiately and has already visited Wisconsin.

All you need is one short conversation with the high school junior to realize she has the chops to thrive between the pipes.

"I love the pressure -- take me to a shootout any time," said Meyer, who has never lost one. "I love being the last person my team can count on. You gotta love pressure to play sports."

Meyer is in a high-pressure spot with Neuqua's softball team, and it isn't just because she plays shortstop. Meyer is stepping into the shoes of four-year starter and 2010 Daily Herald All-Area captain Jenna Marsalli, now a freshman at UIC.

Nobody relishes being the person to replace the star, but Meyer is wasting no time carving her own niche. Through six games Meyer was hitting .556 with 3 doubles, a triple and 8 RBI while fielding at a .933 percentage.

"She's done a fantastic job," Neuqua coach Melissa Wilson. "Losing Jenna was heartbreaking because she is such a great athlete, but Brooke is very similar. They are both athletic young ladies and confident in what they do. Being a middle infielder you have to be that way."

Meyer's softball story is unique to her Neuqua teammates.

She did not play softball until last spring, when she was the top hitter on Neuqua's JV team. Instead Meyer played baseball, last summer with the boys for the Wheatland Ducks travel program.

Last summer she fell short in her bid to become the youngest of 18 women across the country to make the 2010 USA Baseball Women's National Team. Meyer, who can hit 73 mph throwing a baseball, made it through the first round of tryouts but was one of the final cuts.

Moving from baseball to softball has its advantages and disadvantages.

It is a bigger ball, and Meyer is used to hitting a ball coming at her 75-80 mph as opposed to 55-60. A disadvantage is the amount of reaction time Meyer has when a ball is hit to her in softball compared to baseball.

"People associate softball to baseball, but it's two completely different sports," Meyer said. "It's like playing hockey and then baseball. Different size field, different size ball, strategy different, different pitches."

By now Meyer is used to being asked if she prefers baseball or softball.

"I used to say baseball for sure, but if I wouldn't pitch I wouldn't play," she said. "Softball is different. The team is what makes it fun and makes me keep coming back every year. From a team perspective it's softball, but my passion is baseball."

Wilson can clearly tell that Meyer has played other sports and played with boys. There is no playing around with her -- an intense athlete is there to get the job done.

Meyer made only open gym before softball season because of hockey commitments, but you could hardly tell in the Benet game.

"She's just a natural, completely a natural," Wilson said. "First game out and she hits like a champ.

"She's used to competing for a spot and having to prove herself. She listens, observes and does what she needs to do -- there's no drama. There's a drama factor sometimes with girls but she just has a go get it attitude."

jwelge@dailyherald.com

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