Clare McLaughlin ’15 scored three goals and had one assist—a career high in goals and points—to help the women’s lacrosse team overcome an early deficit against Colby and give the team a halftime lead they would not relinquish. McLaughlin has recorded 27 goals and three assists in 16 games this season, placing her at sixteenth in the NESCAC and second on the team in goals.

McLaughlin scored two goals off of free-position shots, awarded because of drawn fouls within the eight meter attacking box. These opportunities are similar to penalty shots in that, although the other players remain on the field, the fouled player is given a direct lane for a one-on-one with the goaltender. McLaughlin’s other goal, Bowdoin’s eighth, saw her sprint down the field into the attacking box, spin off a defender, draw another and unleash a quick strike at a sharp angle. She finished up all three goals by emphatically throwing her stick to the ground, a common celebration for the team during the Colby game.  

“Clare’s really good at driving right and dodging through defenders,” said midfielder and linemate Lindsay Picard ’16. “She goes to goal with a lot of speed, which is very advantageous for her, and takes a harder shot that’s more difficult for the goalie to save.”

This season McLaughlin is a mainstay in Bowdoin’s starting lineup as one of the seven featured scoring threats, five of whom topped 25 goals this season. After seeing time in only six games as a first year, she saw time in each of the team’s games  in her next two seasons, but started no more than three. Similarly, before this season, McLaughlin had never topped three goals in a season.

McLaughlin, a Vermont native, started playing lacrosse in middle school and, though she pursued a college career in the sport, did not play at the club level before Bowdoin, instead devoting time toward skiing and soccer. McLaughlin acknowledges that she has really benefited from the team’s free-flowing style of play, which capitalizes on team chemistry to eschew set plays for quick reads on the field.

“I just try to work really hard,” she said. “I’m more of a go-with-the-flow type of player. I figure it out as it happens.”

Playing this way has led to a balanced attack that teams have struggled to defend, as anyone on Bowdoin’s offense presents a threat. Moreover, the team has played together long enough to take advantage of each player’s respective strengths. Picard notes that the other players have become attuned to noticing when McLaughlin is looking to drive. But even more, McLaughlin finds playing this way is a lot more fun.

“There’s less structure and more trusting each other,” she said. “I think it’s way more fun, and we all play better when we’re having fun.”

McLaughlin has used this approach to navigate the gauntlet that is the NESCAC playoffs as well, where all four quarterfinal games were decided by a goal.

“I have fun playing,” she said. “The more you win the more you get to go out there. I try not to think of it as pressure.”

She also looks at each day as an opportunity to improve and keep the team in the game for another week. As the team looks forward to its semifinals match against Middlebury, it puts itself in range for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, though even if it does not win the tournament, the team may have to knock off Middlebury to get it.

“At this point it comes down to having more grit and tenacity, especially at this point when all the teams are good,” McLaughlin said. “I’m always trying to get better every day and improve my understanding.”

The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.