If the Huron River Rats ever set sail Mairead Erhardt would be a good choice to captain the ship. The senior has been a captain of the girls’ lacrosse team for the past two seasons and more recently helped captain the Huron field hockey team to a state championship.
“I think I know when it’s time to work hard but at the same time I recognize that we are playing sports because we love the sport and because it’s fun,” said Erhardt, who also captained the field hockey team as a junior. “I want it to be as fun as possible because that’s the reason we play.”
Erhardt got her first introduction to field hockey through the local recreation program when she was in third grade.
“At the time my older sister was playing for rec and ed and then played at Clague and later Huron,” Mairead said. “She was my role model and that’s how I got involved in field hockey.”
Her older sister, Keeley, recently graduated from MIT. Not a bad sister to have for a role model.
Mairead moved up to the Pinnacle Field Hockey Club in Ann Arbor and “that’s when I started getting serious about it,” she said. And then she followed her sister to Clague Middle School and right on into Huron High School with a field hockey stick firmly in hand.
As a freshman, Erhardt didn’t crack the Huron starting lineup but still saw plenty of time on the field. The River Rats lost in the first round of the playoffs that season.
“Yeah, we’ve come a long way,” she said.
As a sophomore, the team improved and last year, during her junior season, Huron reached the state semifinal game. This year they wanted to take that one next step which they discovered was more like a giant leap.
“We set a pretty clear goal this year before the season started that we were going to make it to the finals and we were going to win a state championship,” Erhardt said. “I thought it was cool that winning it all was going to be our goal and then we set out and did just that. We worked really hard to accomplish our goal. It wasn’t easy.”
To set such a lofty and ambitious goal even before the season faced off required not only talent and experience but plenty of confidence on the Huron side of the field.
“It was my fourth year in the program and I had seen how much we were improving and I knew what it took to accomplish our goals,” Erhardt said. “I just felt like we had it. We all did. It just felt like it was our time. Last year was a little disappointing so we set out to win it all.”
And win it all they did.
The River Rats scored a 2-1 victory over the Dexter Dreadnaughts in the finals on Saturday for the school’s first Division 1 title since 2013. It was quite the run for Huron, which included a perfect 19-0-1 overall record, a 6-2 win over Marion in the semifinal game and a 2-1 win over city rival Pioneer on Oct. 16.
The road to the goal was one paved with desire.
“I think we just wanted it more,” Erhardt said. “We worked super hard to get to where we are and this year we were able to finish it. I’m just so proud of everyone on the team.”
Erhardt gave plenty of credit to their coach, Lauren Hall, for guiding them through the season and keeping everyone focused.
“She is very encouraging and positive,” she said. “She was great at keeping us on track for the goal we set at the beginning of the season. She kept us honest. If we weren’t running hard in practice or working hard she would remind us of what our goal is and that it comes only with hard work. She told us all the time that we are a state championship team so let’s practice like one. That was a big motivator.”
Captains lead in different ways and as a two-year captain, Erhardt led not only by example but with positivity and purpose.
“I saw my role as just making sure the team was ready to play,” she said. “I worked hard in practice and led warmups. I wanted everyone to be ready and fired up.”
Erhardt isn’t a one-sport athlete. She also plays midfield on the Huron lacrosse team. It’s a sport she takes very seriously and is looking forward to returning for her final season in the spring.
“Like field hockey, we have gotten better over the past few years,” she said. “We just need to keep working hard, improving and have fun.”
Erhardt already has her calendar filled up for the next four years after committing to attend Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. The Generals, who have only three seniors on the roster, are 13-4 overall this season and take a perfect 7-0 league record into their Division III Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.
“The campus is beautiful and Lexington is beautiful,” said Erhardt, who hasn’t decided on a major yet. “The school is really intriguing to me with a lot of diverse classes. The players I met and the coaches are just super nice so I’m really excited about going there.”
And if they need a captain…well, here she comes.
Photos courtesy of Brian Sabb