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2018-19 High School Female Athlete of the Year: McDonogh three-sport star Julia Dorsey

2018-19 High School Female Athlete of the Year: McDonogh three-sport star Julia Dorsey
Julia Dorsey has earned a scholarship to play both lacrosse and soccer at North Carolina. (Steve Ruark / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Julia Dorsey has been playing sports since she was 5 years old, but nothing could prepare her for the journey she took to get back on the field as a senior at McDonogh.

Most of her junior year was wiped out after she tore her ACL at the end of the soccer season, her first significant injury. So, instead of moving on to basketball and lacrosse, like usual, she put her competitive fire into rehabilitation.

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Sure enough, by the start of soccer tryouts, the three-sport star was back to her old self.

Switching positions for the betterment of the soccer team in the fall, Dorsey moved from forward to defender and earned All-Metro first-team honors in leading the No. 1 Eagles to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown.

In the spring, she was the steadying influence at midfield for the lacrosse team, named an Under Armour All-American and All-Metro second-team pick as the No. 1 Eagles won another conference title.

In between, she was a key role player for the basketball team, bringing pestering defense at guard and the same leadership she showed in the other sports.

For her perseverance, consistent excellence and fierce competitive spirit, Dorsey has been selected as The Baltimore Sun’s 2018-19 High School Female Athlete of the Year.

“I’m very proud of the championships my teams were able to win. But what I was most proud of was just how close my teams were,” said Dorsey, who has committed to playing soccer and lacrosse at North Carolina. “All three teams, we were extremely close and I think that’s why we were so successful. So, obviously I’ll always remember the championships, but I will also never forget my teammates, my coaches and the relationships I was able to form this year — it was amazing.”

If anything, the injury she experienced made her stronger and more appreciative of her athletic career. She had a difficult time not being able to play all the sports she loved, but was determined to make a quick recovery. Cleared to play by the end of the spring lacrosse season, she proceeded with caution. After wearing a knee brace during club lacrosse in the summer, she took it off for the first day of soccer tryouts.

McDonogh teammates Julia Dorsey, left, and Sam Thacker carry the championship plaque after their win in double overtime over St. Paul's during the IAAM A Conference lacrosse championship at Gerstell Academy on Saturday, May 11.
McDonogh teammates Julia Dorsey, left, and Sam Thacker carry the championship plaque after their win in double overtime over St. Paul's during the IAAM A Conference lacrosse championship at Gerstell Academy on Saturday, May 11. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“I will never forget that day. I was so proud of myself and just thankful to be on the field,” she said.

Dorsey’s combination of speed, skill and game sense has made her a standout athlete. But her coaches and teammates agree that her finest attribute is her overwhelming desire to be the best and the natural way she brings her teammates along the same path.

Kemper Robinson, a rising junior who plays soccer and lacrosse, remembers how much awe she was in when she first met Dorsey at freshman orientation a couple years back.

“She was someone I always looked up to since middle school and I finally met her and got to talk to her for so long. I honestly felt like I was meeting someone famous. She was just so awesome,” Robinson said. “And then coming onto the team, she was completely welcoming and no matter who you were, she would push you to the best of your abilities, always encouraging everyone to hustle and give it 110% no matter what situation.”

The Eagles soccer team, which won its seventh conference title in nine years, opened the season with plenty of offensive firepower but inexperience on defense. Dorsey welcomed the challenge of moving to the back — where she will likely play at North Carolina — and thrived. She kept the right side of the field clean with her one-on-one defensive skills and was a constant threat on offense with eight goals and six assists.

“She was the heart and soul of our team and the first thing you notice about Julia is how hard she works,” McDonogh soccer coach Harry Canellakis said. “And it’s not just for games, it’s every training session, every small-sided game that we play. She’s the most competitive, most hard-working kid consistently in everything we do. For the rest, it’s hard to be around a person working that hard and not work hard yourself.”

Lacrosse coach Taylor Cummings, who played the same three sports during her career at McDonogh, went to watch Dorsey play soccer after her injury and was happy to see her confident and excited to be on the field.

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“She just looked like she had a newfound appreciation for the sport and I knew that would translate over to the lacrosse season as well,” Cummings said.

Julia Dorsey, a defender on the McDonogh girls soccer team, also plays lacrosse.
Julia Dorsey, a defender on the McDonogh girls soccer team, also plays lacrosse. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

It did.

Dorsey had 19 goals, 18 assists, 41 draw controls, 25 caused turnovers and 19 ground balls to help cap a 21-0 season as the Eagles took back the conference championship it owned for nine straight years before their national-record 198-game winning streak ended in the 2018 IAAM A Conference final.

“Her workhorse mentality and being a solid defender at that end and a true team player on the offensive end was really great for us. She’s a competitor and we had some close games this year and there wasn’t a doubt in her brain that we were going to win,” Cummings said.

Of all the sports she played, soccer and lacrosse have always been Dorsey’s favorites, and when it came down to considering a college, she couldn’t imagine playing only one. She received plenty of D-I athletic scholarship offers — some to play one sport and a couple that would allow her to play both.

North Carolina was the best fit as she’ll become the sixth female Tar Heel to play both soccer and lacrosse.

“Obviously, there’s definitely a higher pace that is more demanding when you get to college, but I feel pretty well prepared,” Dorsey said. “I think the hardest transition is the mindset coming into college because it is so different in that it’s almost like a job. But I feel like I’ve been prepared to jump right in.”

Dorsey, who is considering between business and political science as her major, started taking classes June 24.

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