Nakeeya McCardell

Some people really are the best. Nakeeya McCardell transferred from the University of Oregon to Clemson University before her junior year of college to be part of Clemson’s “Team One” – the first year of Division One lacrosse at Clemson. The Tigers, now ranked in the top twenty-five lacrosse teams nationally, notably embraces women’s sports.  McCardell credits her squad’s success to their hard work in the offseason. “Best is the standard,” McCardell says, “We want to come out with our best, and be the best.”

Tenacity Houston

When she joined Tenacity Houston in her sophomore year of high school, Nakeeya McCardell already knew she wanted to play collegiate lacrosse. Coming from a less traditional lacrosse area, Nakeeya appreciated that Tenacity was “all about growing the lacrosse community in Houston.” She enjoyed having the opportunity to “come together with girls from different areas and just play” McCardell says when asked about her Tenacity experience.

A New Recruiting Process

Nakeeya’s recruiting process was one of the first to comply with new NCAA recruiting regulations. Current NCAA lacrosse rules state that college coaches cannot contact an athlete before September 1st of their junior year of high school. While that regulation may seem normal to athletes today, McCardell’s recruiting year was in unfamiliar territory. “I didn’t know what to expect,” McCardell recalls. “The first couple days were crazy, I was just trying to get a feel for it,” she says. This new rule served to keep coaches from recruiting girls at a young age. “Everyone was committing in the eighth grade,” says McCardell. “Nobody knows what they want in eighth grade!”. Nakeeya committed to play lacrosse at the University of Oregon, where she spent her freshman and sophomore years dominating the field – McCardell played in every single game over the course of her two seasons.

Clemson’s Appeal

Everyone wants to be taken seriously, and “Clemson wants to see women succeed,” McCardell says when asked about the motivation behind her transfer. In the past three years, the school has brought in three new women’s sports – softball, gymnastics, and lacrosse. “[Clemson] buys in – and once they buy in, we produce results,” Nakeeya asserts. Clemson softball won the ACC last year, in their second ever season. As the participation and representation of women in sports continues to gain recognition, it’s impossible to “not want to be a part of it” at such a high level.

The Importance of the Offseason

But how exactly does a lacrosse program go from nonexistent to contending for a national championship? McCardell credits their knowledgeable coaching staff, but also speaks to the importance of the fall season. McCardell uses the offseason to challenge herself and her teammates because she knows that if “I put my all into the fall season, the spring will be that much easier”. She speaks to the importance of discipline and responsibility, “If you’re not doing the work,” McCardell says, “someone else is.” With the 2024 season officially underway, McCardell shares her team’s goal for their second ever season – “we want to get one percent better every single day,” she says.

Clemson lacrosse may be new to the playing field, but they have already cultivated a championship mentality. Led by strong and capable athletes like Nakeeya McCardell, this program has a bright future. McCardell’s final advice? To keep working hard. Because she knows it pays off. Tenacity Builds Strong Women.