Wheeler’s Erika Donley will head to Auburn, where she plans on studying exercise science.

Erika Donley remembers when she picked up the sport of lacrosse.

Friends in middle school began playing, and they encouraged her to join. It quickly became one of Donley’s favorite sports.

In eighth grade, Donley was playing for a Marietta junior program. Fast forward four years to her junior season at Wheeler, and playing Marietta, she now had to face off against many of the players she once called teammates.

During the game, a member of the Lady Blue Devils team brought a stick down on top of Donley’s head.

“I was stunned,” she said. “I was freaking out wondering what had just happened.”

What had happened was she suffered a concussion, and if that was not bad enough, it spoiled Donley’s plans for her spring break trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

“I went there with my family, and I couldn’t ride any of the roller coasters,” said Donley, a four-year member of the Wheeler varsity squad, this year’s co-captain and the only senior on the roster.

Despite that, Donley thought there would be time for redemption.

“This season, the (Marietta) game was supposed to be April 1,” she said. “It was supposed to be our senior night.”

Unfortunately, that game did not get played because of the coronavirus pandemic. Donley said she expected to go back and pick up the season after the original two-week disruption to the schedule, but she quickly realized that was not going to happen.

“The season was over,” said Donley, twice nominated as a Georgia Positive Athlete, who also played four years of volleyball and was a swimmer for Wheeler. “I soon realized this is how it’s going to be.”

While the season did not end the way she wanted, Donley said there are plenty of great memories she has from playing lacrosse and bonding with her teammates. She said one of her favorite moments came her sophomore year against Lanier.

“The game was tied (11-11) and we were about 5 minutes into sudden death,” Donley said. “I got off a hard shot, and it went in for the game-winner.”

Donley said her younger teammates have made missing senior night a little easier. She said they told her they felt bad, but that they were excited about Donley’s future when she heads to Auburn University this fall.

Donley will not be competing in any of her sports in college, but she wants to remain active in the sports world. She plans on studying exercise science and kinesiology so she can work as an athletic trainer.

“I want to be able to mix sports and medicine,” Donley said. “I love being around volleyball, and Auburn has a great program.”

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