During the preseason, McDonogh girls soccer coach Harry Canellakis provided a quick-to-the-point status report on All-Metro senior Julia Dorsey, who missed the back end of last season with an ACL tear.
It was good news for the defending Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champion Eagles and not so much for opponents.
“She’s stronger,” he said. “And the same or maybe faster.”
Assessment aside, Dorsey — a two-sport star who will play both soccer and lacrosse at North Carolina next year — is simply happy to be back on the field.
From Oct. 20 when she was sidelined, to the surgery that followed Oct. 31, to May 1 when she was cleared to play during the end of her junior lacrosse season, Dorsey put her work ethic to a different use having never before endured an injury with a lengthy rehabilitation process.
“I started playing soccer when I was 5 and lacrosse a bit later and never not played, so it was hard,” she said. “I think [the toughest part] was just having to work out and keep up my work ethic and not be able to compete. Really, I just had to push myself and keep myself honest throughout the whole rehab, but I never got to compete. It was hard to watch because I’ve never been sidelined before.”
It was a hot and humid August day last month, one that would prompt anybody to want to stay inside, but Dorsey was content to take on the sun with the No. 1 Eagles hosting Hereford in a scrimmage.
Seeing time at her usual forward position and also some at outside back, she showed the complete game she has displayed throughout her four-year career.
Having stopped wearing her brace shed during the club lacrosse season earlier in the summer, the knee is no longer a concern. She said she thinks about working hard with her teammates, trying to make them and the team better every day, and closing out her soccer career with another league championship.
“Everybody works hard around Julia because she’s working so hard,” Canellakis said. “She really does bring up the level of our entire team just by who she is on the field.
“[With her at outside back], you have the whole package in terms of great attitude, dangerous in the attacking third and outstanding [one-on-one] defending. It’s really a special combination.”
Last season, Dorsey was injured with only a couple of games left in the regular season, leaving a young group of Eagles to find their way through the playoffs without their top player and leader. They managed, bringing home the program’s sixth league title in the past eight years. With junior Lily McCarthy helping lead a potent offense and all the young talent back with last year’s championship experience, the Eagles (3-0) are primed for more success.
Dorsey’s return is invaluable.
“Jules is a special player, a special person,” McCarthy said. “She always shows up at the field ready to play — it’s life or death with her all the time. Even when we’re juggling, she wants to beat you. And that’s what makes us so good because you can never show up to practice not pulling your weight because she’ll call you out.”
Having played and loved soccer and lacrosse throughout her life, Dorsey, who has one goal and three assists this season as the Eagles prepare to face No. 9 Mercy on Friday in a rematch of last season’s IAAM A Conference title game, wasn’t ready to give up one when it was time to go to college. Her athleticism, speed and game sense in both sports makes her qualified to the demanding challenge of playing both at North Carolina.
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She’s banking on her discipline and work ethic to help her succeed when she becomes the sixth female Tar Heel to play both soccer and lacrosse. Current senior Maggie Bill was the latest North Carolina player to do it.
McDonogh girls lacrosse coach Taylor Cummings — a three-sport standout at the school who at Maryland went on to become the first three-time Tewaaraton Award winner as the country’s top college lacrosse player — said she saw Dorsey’s drive during the lacrosse season in the spring.
“She came back from an ACL injury faster than I’ve seen any other kid come back from one,” Cummings said. “It’s kind of a game with herself to see how hard she can push herself. As a coach, you love that because you don’t have to fight her to work hard. You almost have to fight her to get her to slow down and get her breath.
“She’s just a super competitive person and that helps her on the field and I think it helps her in the classroom, and I think that’s what’s going to help her excel when she gets to Carolina and plays two sports.”
It’s another big challenge, and Dorsey wouldn’t want it any other way.
“When I started to think about college, I realized I could never go without playing one,” she said. “I think anyone adjusting to college sports, there’s a big difference, and I just think mentally being ready to commit to something as big as a college sport, I’m definitely ready for that.”