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Maddie McSally: The anchor of Maryland’s women’s lacrosse was just gaining momentum

The sophomore goalkeeper started coming into her own just as the season abruptly ended.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

A chocolate chip bagel with peanut butter and jelly, “White Walls” by Macklemore and an impromptu dance party are all sophomore goalkeeper Maddie McSally needs to get in the zone before hitting the field.

Before every game McSally headed over to The Bagel Place in College Park before locking in while listening to the classic Macklemore song.

“We just get kinda pumped up,” McSally said, as the dance party with her teammates acted as the icing on the cake for the Terps goalkeeper while she got loose ahead of games.

Due to the shocking turn of events concerning the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the cancelation of all spring sports, McSally won’t complete the precise routine again this season.

After losing three consecutive games for the first time in head coach Cathy Reese’s tenure, Maryland women’s lacrosse rebounded to an end 2020 with an even 3-3 record, thanks in large part to the emergence of McSally in the cage. The Terps struggled out the gate, but defeated Navy and Hofstra at home since McSally took over as the full-time starter.

Reese had a difficult time in the early going of the spring season deciding who would take the reigns in goal following the departure of Tewaaraton Award winner Megan Taylor, shuffling between freshman Emily Sterling and McSally between halves.

The teammates each earned time in between the pipes across the first three games, but since her 13 save performance in a 10-5 loss to then-No. 4 Syracuse, McSally took control of the position.

Her stellar play continued into the two-game week against Navy and Hofstra, where McSally recorded 11 and 16 saves, respectively, en route to her first two career wins. Following her impressive results against the Pride, McSally was awarded Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in her career.

It was a toss-up between McSally and Sterling in early-February, however McSally’s previous experiences learning behind Taylor groomed her to fill the large shoes.

As early as when she was in middle school, McSally received lessons from Taylor. The two proceeded to spend some time together at Glenelg High School during McSally’s freshman season in 2015. After learning under Taylor’s wing, McSally led the Glenelg Gladiators to three consecutive state championships with an overall 55-6 record in the cage.

“She’s been such a role model, somebody that I’ve looked up to my entire life,” McSally said. “It’s been so cool being able to be on her team and to watch her play, and then get the opportunity to do it myself.”

This applies to both the sophomore’s illustrious high school career and her emergent collegiate career, as the Terps’ starting goalkeeper continued to make strides before the coronavirus outbreak upended her breakout season.

Senior defender Meghan Doherty has been McSally’s go-to mentor on the team this season, with McSally saying, “[She] has always been in my ear giving me that extra self-confidence boost.”

Over her three games as the full-time starter, McSally stifled opposing offenses with 40 saves, stopping an average 59 percent of the shots she faced, including several remarkable stops with her feet on low shots. She set her career-high against Hofstra in another full 60 minutes with 16 saves in the team’s 16-11 win.

“She’s been phenomenal,” Reese said. “I’m really excited about her and where she is at this point in the season and her potential for growth.”

As the team trended upward over its final three games of the season, the mentality of the goalkeeper greatly improved as well. McSally remained humble in her starting position and made sure to give credit where credit is due.

“My defense in front of me is amazing,” McSally said. “Once we get that stop, it’s just like a momentum shift and it really carries throughout the rest of the field.”

The emergence of McSally on defense translated nicely to a more effective offense, and senior attacker Kali Hartshorn noticed just how McSally’s play had paid its dividends.

“Being thrown in there, I think she’s done a great job,” Hartshorn said. “All very well-deserved and I know she’ll keep it up.”

McSally’s career-day against Hofstra saw the Terps cut down on turnovers (9) and successfully convert on a high percentage of clears (.913), two coinciding statistics that were troublesome at times for Maryland this year.

The self-proclaimed “badass” shined for the Terps before the season’s abrupt end. With the combination of McSally finding her zone and the mind and experience of Reese, the team was getting back on track to continue its historic success. Instead, McSally must hang up her pads and stick, heading into 2021 with a ton of confidence and momentum in her corner.