One season after scoring 13 goals as a freshman on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County women's lacrosse team, 2015 Catonsville High graduate Lauren McDonald is leading the Retrievers in goals scored with 52 through 15 games.
McDonald, who scored 111 goals and had 61 assists during her junior and senior seasons at Catonsville, always knew how to score in high school, but this season she has taken it to a new level.
In a 21-10 victory over Binghamton on April 12, she scored a career-high eight goals.
In UMBC's next game, 10 days later, she scored six in a 19-8 loss to Stony Brook, ranked fourth in the nation in Division I schools at the time.
McDonald also scored six goals at Virginia Commonwealth on Feb. 18 and at home against UC-Davis on March 28.
She is currently tied for 13th in the nation in goals and her 3.47 goals per game is 11th. Her shot on goal percentage is .831.
"She has been getting more and more opportunities, and to her credit, any time we do any type of shooting, any type of work prior to practice, she is always out there," UMBC head coach Amy Slade said. "I will say in the beginning of the season she struggled a little bit with her shot and since that point she is just a smart player and she could make those adjustments."
She did just that against Stony Brook after the Retrievers fell behind, 4-0, with 17:55 left in the first half.
She scored six of the Retrievers next eight goals from a variety of angles.
"The first two shots of the game she shoots high and the next five shots she shoots low and that's why she gets her six goals," Slade said. "She is just a really smart player and I think she is taking that into account and honing in on that and it's really been successful, on top of being a phenomenal player."
Leading point scorers Sam Nolan (40 goals, 28 assists, 68 points) McDonald (52 goals, 5 assists, 57 points) and Sara Moeller (32 goals, 35 assists, 67 points) helped the Retrievers to a 10-5 overall mark.
With a 3-2 America East Conference record, they clinched the third seed in the conference tournament and will open up against second-seeded Albany at Stony Brook University on May 5.
It's the third season in a row the Retrievers have qualified for the four-team tournament.
McDonald likes the chemistry of this year's team and attributes that to her individual success.
"I think I have great teammates," McDonald said. "I have great chemistry with everyone on the attack and me and Sara Moeller have just been on it this year. I've just been fortunate that Moeller's got my back and I've gotten a lot of opportunities."
McDonald's biggest opportunity was moving positions on the attack.
"Last year, as a freshman I did play behind the goal a little bit because one of the girls got injured, but whenever coach has an opportunity, I'm not going to say no to it, so I just take the opportunity and do the best you can with it," McDonald said. "This year, there was an opportunity on the elbow and that's the opportunity I took and I think that's my favorite spot to play anyway, so it worked out well."
Things always didn't work out so well in athletics in high school for McDonald.
Before her sophomore soccer season in 2012, she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and had knee surgery.
She missed soccer and basketball season, but came back and played lacrosse with a knee brace in the spring of 2013.
The following year she helped lead the Comets to the state championship game, a 15-5 loss to Severna Park.
In McDonald's senior year at Catonsville, she led the team in scoring (62 goals, 30 assists) and impressed first-year coach Cantey Evans with the way she did it.
"Most of her games when she had multiple goals were not against the lower- end teams. They were against the better teams," Cantey said, after McDonald was named Catonsville Times co-Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row in 2015. "Against the lower-end teams, she would have so many more assists. She was really a team player and she didn't want to pad her stats. As a coach, that is ultimately what you want."
Although his role for UMBC is to score goals, she still appreciates helping her teammates get assists.
"I love my teammates. They are the best," McDonald said. "Sara Moeller trusts me and feeds me the ball and when someone gives you that opportunity, you've got to make it because it's not just my goal, it's her assist, so I want to get that for her."
Sometimes, it takes an acrobatic move on McDonald's part to make the catch off the pass and get in the right position to score, but she likes it that way.
"I'm kind of an un-traditional player, because everyone in practice always laughs at me," said McDonald, who admitted free-position shots are her toughest challenge. "I miss the easy shots, but I make the hard ones. That's just kind of just the way that I've always been."
Against Stony Brook, she scored one goal after a high lob pass with defenders rushing toward her.
On another goal, she caught a pass back-handed, reversed field, made a couple of fakes and beat the keeper low.
With 12:11 to play in the second half, she cut the lead to 16-8 with her most impressive tally.
She caught a pass about 20 yards out, spun and shot and rolled over and over on the ground as the ball singed the net.
"I don't think it's anything I really practice, I think it's just me," McDonald said. "I like the more difficult situations. They are actually easier to me."
Coach Slade attributes it to facing more difficult situations on the Division I college level.
"There were a lot of things Lauren did in high school in her comfort zone and now she is having to play outside the comfort zone, where maybe she was more of a dodger, now she has to make a catch inside and has to make that finish," Slade said. "She has just done a really great job of playing outside of her comfort zone and being okay to be pushed outside her comfort zone."
The one comfort she has maintained is being able to play close to home in Catonsville.
"I love it. I think it's fun going to all the local Catonsville places I've been going my whole life, going with my teammates and going with friends on other teams," said McDonald, who lives off campus with teammates. "It's great, my parents and my family are able to come to every game and to have support and to have friends from high school, it's just a really good environment."
On the field, the camaraderie is just as good.