Rising junior Lizzie McLaughlin is spending her summer on the fast track, traveling to camps and tournaments to improve her game.
Lizzie McLaughlin is always moving around when playing lacrosse.
And this summer, she’ll be moving a lot farther.
But instead of moving from offense to defense like she does when playing midfield for the Penn Charter high school team, she’ll be going around the country.
Shortly after school got out for the summer, McLaughlin hopped on a plane with teammate Leah Sax and went to lacrosse camp at San Diego State University.
After spending time on the West Coast, she arrived home and hit Villanova’s camp. Later this summer, she’s earmarked to go to Dartmouth in New Hampshire to compete in their camp, and all summer she’ll make trips to Maryland to compete in tournaments against the best competition in the nation.
The trips will be fun, but these aren’t social calls.
“I love it because you get to meet a lot of people and learn a lot about lacrosse,” said McLaughlin, a rising junior from Torresdale. “When we were in San Diego, we learned a lot. There were a lot of players from the West Coast and East Coast and you could see the difference.
“We had fun, after the camp we went to Los Angeles for a few days. I got to see the Hollywood sign, went to Beverly Hills and went to Venice Beach, the typical things you do when you go there. It was fun because I got to go in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.”
She also proved she belonged with some of the best lacrosse players in the country. Not bad for a girl who came into high school with very little experience in the sport she now loves so dearly.
McLaughlin entered high school as a blue-chip point guard and she’s been everything that she was advertised, being one of the better young point guards in the area. But unlike when she arrived at the school, her passion is now her spring sport.
It certainly didn’t start out that way.
McLaughlin played a little lacrosse when she was younger in Torresdale, but she certainly didn’t have the experience most of the players who compete in the Inter-Ac had coming into high school. So when she first started practicing with her team, she was behind her teammates.
It wasn’t fun, but she hung in.
“It was hard, it’s not easy trying to control the ball,” McLaughlin said. “In some ways, it’s a lot like basketball. You have people setting picks and you have to cut. But learning how to use the stick was frustrating.
“It was hard because most of the other players knew exactly what they were doing and I was still learning. But they helped me a lot. They were very patient with me and I learned a lot just by playing. Eventually, I got better and now I’m still trying to get better.”
They say good things come to those who wait and that’s exactly how Penn Charter must feel. Because after McLaughlin was one of the top three-point shooters in Southeastern Pennsylvania, she returned to the lacrosse team where she was no longer a rookie who didn’t know how to cradle the ball.
She was a superstar.
“I was a lot better, mostly because I was able to use my speed,” said McLaughlin, who scored five goals and added five assists last year. “I think a lot of it had to do with the coaches and my teammates. They were everything that I love about Penn Charter. They helped me, they were patient and they made me better.
“The Inter-Ac is so good at lacrosse. You get better just by playing them. You learn a lot by playing the tough games. But the team definitely helped me a lot. And I love our lacrosse coaches. They’ve made me a better player.”
They helped, but the biggest reason for McLaughlin’s improvement has been McLaughlin.
This summer, she’s playing in the HEADstrong Lacrosse League.
When she’s not participating in an organized outing, she hits the playground, where she perfects her stickhandling, her shot and her catching.
In reality, McLaughlin is still a newcomer to the game, but the way she plays, she looks like a crafty veteran.
That means there’s potential for her to get even better. But she’s not trying to get by on her God-given ability.
“I want to get better and better,” McLaughlin said. “I’m really happy I’m getting an opportunity to play in these camps because you learn so much. I’ve learned so much by playing for Penn Charter, but you can learn other things from going to these camps. You meet people and learn a lot about the game.”
If that continues, so will her growth.
Lacrosse is now in her blood and she’s very happy she is playing the sport.
She’s also happy she’s playing it at Penn Charter.
“I’m very happy there, I feel like I really belong there,” McLaughlin said. “I’m so happy I’m able to play at Penn Charter. The team is great, the coach is great and we’re getting better. It’s perfect.”