Katie McLean was motivated to lead the Voorhees girls lacrosse team to postseason success in 2021.
That’s not just because she hates losing. The midfielder also wanted to extend her senior year after the 2020 season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wanted to make up for that season. I wanted to take it as far as I could go,” McLean said. “I wanted to get in as many games as possible because I’m really going to miss playing for Voorhees. I was only shy by five goals of breaking the school (scoring) record and I really wanted to meet that goal.”
For captaining the Vikings to the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex final and the NJSIAA North Group 2 semifinals, McLean is the lehighvalleylive.com Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.
McLean is the second Voorhees athlete to win the girls lacrosse award, formerly The Express-Times Player of the Year. Ex-Viking Rebecca Alley took home the honor in 2008 (the second year of the accolade’s existence).
She’s not the first McLean to be recognized by the publication.
“I come from a really athletic family, we’re all competitive,” she said. “… My sister (Megan) actually was (lehighvalleylive.com) player of the year for golf as well. That’s pretty cool that both of us have won this award.”
Buoyed by a field hockey season where she led the Vikings in both goals and assists and helped them capture a sectional title, McLean scored 89 goals this spring to finish her high school lacrosse career with 212.
While that mark was agonizingly short of breaking the program record of 216, her leadership powered Voorhees to its most successful season.
“Katie knows how to turn it on. When we’re down or facing some adversity, she can turn it on and be a playmaker,” Voorhees assistant coach Maria Miller said. “Whether that’s her scoring goals or working the ball around for her teammates. When she wants to go and she wants to win, there’s no stopping her.”
After a one-goal loss to Somerville in its second game of the season, Voorhees went on a 10-game winning streak. Halfway through that run, McLean took confidence from the Vikings’ 15-9 victory over prep power Princeton Day.
“Our game against Princeton Day School was amazing, amazing. That really showed that we could do whatever we put our mind to,” McLean said. “Everyone on our team was like, ‘They’re such a good team; I don’t if we can win,’ but since I was a captain, I had to make sure everyone was in it to win it.”
McLean helped the Vikings follow that performance up with four goals and assist in a 19-14 victorious rematch with Somerville.
McLean scored 13 goals in Voorhees’ first two games of the H/W/S tournament as the team got past Phillipsburg and Vernon. Those wins set up a championship matchup against Hunterdon Central, a Group 4 program that has won five of the last six tournaments.
The Red Devils built a 13-6 lead before McLean and fellow captain Matty Spaeth rallied Voorhees with 12 minutes to go.
“We were like, ‘This is the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex final; we have to win.’ We worked so hard for it,” McLean said. “We knew we could do it. I felt like I had to put that game on my shoulders, and I had to keep ripping shots left and right because I had this mentality that I really wanted to win.”
McLean scored four of her five goals in the final 10 minutes of a heartbreaking 13-12 loss.
Ten days later, McLean helped Voorhees earn just its second postseason win in the last decade as she scored six goals in a 19-5 win over River Dell.
A rubber-match against Somerville awaited the Vikings in the quarterfinals. McLean registered five goals, four assists, eight ground balls and 14 draw controls as Voorhees rolled to a 20-12 victory.
“I feel that she really stepped up in the harder games that we had. Our games against Somerville, she set the pace as a leader,” former Voorhees head coach Hillary Clifton said. “She wanted it. It wasn’t just scoring the goals, she had the interceptions, the draw controls, the ground balls. Katie had the intensity that led by example for her teammates.”
While the Vikings’ season came to an end with a semifinal loss to eventual Group 2 runner-up Summit, McLean will continue a family tradition of collegiate athletics in the University of Colorado Boulder.
“My sister played golf at Penn State; my dad played football at Pitt; my uncle played basketball at Arizona; my other uncle played volleyball at (James Madison),” McLean said. “... What drew me to Colorado was the beauty of the school, the coaches, the team ... When I step onto campus, I automatically want to play. I’m going to work hard.”
While playing at the Division I level will be a big jump, McLean has already proven she can perform against the best opposition.
ALL-AREA GIRLS LACROSSE
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Desmond Boyle may be reached at email@example.com.