The Ravens field hockey standout has translated her experience on UNC’s national-championship team into leadership — and the record books — as a graduate student playing for Temple.
By the time Megan Ragusa ’16 was in the Middle School at Ravenscroft, she was an avid swimmer and tennis, basketball and lacrosse player. Heading into her freshman year, she was hoping for a future as a college athlete. Little did she know that a willingness to push herself out of her comfort zone would prove to be the key to realizing that goal.
The years since have taken Ragusa from Ravenscroft to playing and coaching field hockey in England, winning the NCAA Championship (three times!) and, as a graduate student at Temple University, being recognized as the Big East conference leader in shutouts in 2021.
As Ragusa prepares for what’s next — medical school — she reflects on her journey and how her Ravenscroft coaches helped her chart a path to collegiate field hockey and, more importantly, the growth and leadership opportunities that came with it.
From her beginnings as a Middle School lacrosse goalie (left, standing at far left) to her senior year as goalie and captain of the varsity field hockey team (right, at center in red jersey), Ragusa dreamed of pursuing collegiate athletics. Photos from the 2011 and 2016 Corvus yearbooks, respectively
“Kind of a scary position”
Ragusa had her first exposure to goaltending as a Middle School lacrosse player. She says her coach, now-Associate Head of School for Philanthropy Phil Higginson, suggested she try goalie and pushed her to gain confidence and grow in leadership.
“I’m not going to lie, when I was in middle school I was not the fastest kid. I think [Higginson] knew that I would do whatever it takes to make an impact on the team,” she said. “When you are in the seventh grade, nobody wants to play goalie because it’s kind of a scary position.”
But taking that chance proved critical. The week before she was to start high school, a call from then-varsity field hockey coach Kerry Norman opened another door: The team needed a goalie; would Megan give it a try?
After a two-hour training session that Ragusa said consisted mainly of getting dressed in the layers of goalie gear and working on clearing the ball without tripping, she defended her first game of what would become a 10-year international career in field hockey. “I never looked back,” she said.
“The goalie position is a difficult one, and successful players have both courage and resilience,” Norman said. “Megan demonstrated both of those strengths. She dreamed of playing at the next level and did everything she could to gain experience and improve her skills. She is a role model for players who would like to play at the next level.”
“It was a joy to coach Megan,” Higginson remembered. “She is highly competitive and committed to giving it her best effort every day. While she did not like to lose, she was the first to get the team laughing after a hard loss.”
“There are different types of leadership”
By the time Ragusa was a senior, she was captain of the field hockey team and had achieved All-Conference and All-State recognition in both field hockey and lacrosse while also earning academic honors in the classroom.
She participated in the school’s Student Athlete Leadership Training program, or SALT. The program’s focus on the value of communication, mutual respect and leadership in a cross-disciplinary setting of young athletes, coaches and administrators impressed her.
As a committed student-athlete, Ragusa — shown here in the 2016 Corvus on the first day of her senior year — was a member of SALT, which gave her her first taste of leadership training.
“SALT was a great way to connect in an introspective way,” Ragusa remembered. “Students felt heard and understood. There was mutual respect. I was surprised to see something like SALT in a high school environment — for so much time and effort to be made on it and to be chosen to be a part of that.”
After graduation, Ragusa spent a year volunteering, coaching and playing with the Surbiton Hockey Club in Southeast England. She then returned to the U.S., joining the powerhouse field hockey team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also participated in the Richard A. Baddour Carolina Leadership Academy as part of the university’s prestigious Carolina Incubate program, of which Lead From Here co-creator, the Center for Creative Leadership, is a partner.
“One of the things that I learned the most from my experience with CCL is that there are different types of leadership,” Ragusa said. “The leader doesn’t have to be the person who’s the loudest, the best player on the team, and doesn’t have to have the most spotlight.”
At UNC-Chapel Hill, Ragusa became part of a national-championship team, earned academic honors and delved deeper into leadership development through the prestigious Carolina Incubate program. Photos courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications
“All the pieces falling at the right time”
In addition to being a member of four ACC and three NCAA championship teams as UNC’s goaltender — living that middle-school lacrosse player’s dream — Ragusa achieved academic honors all four years on the ACC Academic Honor Roll and the NFHCA National Academic Squad.
Her goal to attend medical school landed Ragusa next at Temple University in a rigorous post-baccalaureate program for pre-med students — and, with additional years of NCAA player eligibility, she also found herself back on the hockey field.
Ragusa and her parents display the 2019 ACC championship trophy, part of a winning tradition throughout her time as an undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Celebrating the 2020 National Championship — one of three during her tenure at UNC — Ragusa and her teammates exude the joy and passion that have defined her career in field hockey.
“I ended up getting into the program at Temple, and I was lucky enough to have these two years of eligibility,” she said. “Field hockey was the cherry on top — I wasn’t expecting to get that opportunity, but I am so glad I did.”
She certainly made the opportunity count: in 2021, she led the Big East Conference in shutouts — five — and has earned the spot as ninth all-time in program history for career goals-against average at 1.73.
“Temple was just kind of like all the pieces falling at the right time,” she said. “I think it was also just another thing for me to do to get out of my comfort zone.”
Additional NCAA eligibility gave Ragusa the opportunity to play field hockey at Temple University, where she put her leadership and top-tier playing experience to use. Images courtesy of Temple Athletics
Today, Ragusa is studying for the MCAT and applying to medical schools. While she feels drawn to rural medicine and alleviating health care deserts, she is keeping her options open as to a specialty.
Reflecting on how far she has come, she said she sees the critical role Ravenscroft has played in her life. “Ravenscroft was such a nurturing environment that showed me that nothing is too small,” she said. “If you feel like something should be done, do it.”