Editor’s Note: This story includes descriptions of personal accounts of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Feb. 14, 2018. 

A spot on an all-conference rookie team is a major accomplishment for any new collegiate athlete, but the recognition means much more for Sammy Fisher — a midfielder for Elon University’s lacrosse team and survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Last year in her freshman season, Fisher appeared in 15 games, making 13 starts. She was tied for third on the roster with 16 draw controls and totaled 20 points for the season, including 19 goals and one assist. In addition to being named Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week March 7, Fisher made the 2022 CAA All-Rookie Team to finish off a strong freshman season. 

“I was definitely proud of myself for being able to accomplish everything I did, being a freshman,” Fisher said. “It’s a whole new atmosphere being on a college team.”

Fisher said in middle school she played all types of sports but quit lacrosse after seventh grade before she got to high school. She began playing lacrosse again after encouragement from her father.

“Honestly, I don’t even know how he convinced me. But it was just like, ‘You’re fast. You’re good. Just try it again,’” Fisher said.

Fisher began her lacrosse career at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and was in ninth grade when a gunman opened fire in the school on Feb. 14, 2018, killing 17 and injuring many others.

The gunman pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. On Oct. 13, 2022, a Florida jury sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Head coach of Elon women’s lacrosse Josh Hexter said he admires Fisher’s strength and composure on the field, despite all she has had to overcome. He said Fisher’s bravery is nothing short of inspirational. 

“Since she was courageous enough to share that, it’s been easier for the team to really be more understanding and to really just love her for that and take care of her,” Hexter said.

Hexter said as a parent to a 19-year-old, he couldn’t imagine if his own child experienced something to the magnitude that she has.

“There’s no rulebook for something like this,” Hexter said. “I put it into my own personal life, what if that was my child?”

Fisher said she remembers sitting in creative writing class when the fire alarm began to sound. She ran into the hallway with classmates, thinking they heard a computer cart crashing. Soon, they realized it was gunshots. 

“The teacher behind me started screaming for everyone to get back in their room,” Fisher said. “Me and nine other students got back into my classroom which is located right next to the stairwell — which the shooter came up.”

The shooting lasted six minutes, but Fisher said that time felt like eternity. 

“We saw that this was real,” Fisher said. “We just heard moaning noises from the hallway, and we had no idea what was going on.”

When the SWAT team arrived, everyone was escorted out of the building, but not before Fisher said she saw the gunman’s weapon dropped next to her classroom. 

“I saw a body laying down next to the bathroom,” Fisher said. “My school had locked our bathrooms to prevent kids from smoking. He tried to get into the bathroom to hide, but unfortunately, the door was locked.”

Fisher later learned this victim was 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, a teammate of Fisher’s older brother. Fisher had become friends with Oliver in the weeks before the shooting, after he came to watch her first varsity basketball game. She said she planned to return the favor by supporting him at his next basketball game. She never got the opportunity. 

“I did not realize it was him at the time,” Fisher said. “I just didn’t believe it. Like I couldn’t comprehend that I was just talking to him and I’m never gonna be able to speak to him again.”

To honor Joaquin Oliver, one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sammy Fisher played her freshman season with an avocado sticker on her lacrosse stick. The sticker serves as a reminder of him when she steps onto the field. Photo courtesy of Sammy Fisher. 

Oliver’s support of Fisher is something that she carries with her to this day. She said everyone in her town called him “Guac,” so she played last season with an avocado sticker on her lacrosse stick — serving as a reminder of him when she steps onto the field.

“If I’m ever sad or down or stressed during a game, I just look at that and remember my motivation for playing,” Fisher said.

Fisher said she feels grateful for her Elon teammates and coaching staff, who have helped her navigate the aftermath of the shooting.

As Fisher prepares for the lacrosse season approaching, she said after being on the all-rookie team, she hopes to get to the CAA team — First Team All-CAA or second team All-CAA. But more significant, she said, is the success of her team.

“More importantly is my team goal, which is, one, to win the conference championship, but to get to the NCAA finals,” Fisher said. “I think that’s a lot more important than my individual goal at the moment.”