Making it look like child's play

Notre Dame Prep's Caitlyn McFadden has been around sports since birth, so it comes as no surprise that she has become a standout in three of them.

April 05, 2006|By KATHERINE DUNN | KATHERINE DUNN,SUN REPORTER

Many of Caitlyn McFadden's earliest memories revolve around sports.

From the time she was three months old, McFadden was a regular on the Maryvale sidelines, where her mother, Mary Clare McFadden, coached three sports.

The daughter absorbed it all and grew into a three-sport standout at Notre Dame Prep.

"I always wanted to play," McFadden said. "I loved it when I was little, being around the older girls. I thought they were so good and so cool. They were my idols, I guess. I just wanted to be like them."

Now a senior, McFadden, 17, is the one the younger girls look up to.

An All-Metro lacrosse midfielder with a scholarship to Maryland, she also played pivotal roles on the Blazers' soccer and basketball teams.

Her speed, athleticism and willingness to adapt to her teams' needs made her a key contributor on both ends for all three teams.

"She makes it look easy, and I know that's clichM-i, but she's everywhere she's supposed to be," Blazers lacrosse coach Mary Bartel said. "She's got a nose for the ball. She doesn't have to think about any physical movement. She simply does it."

This winter, McFadden led the basketball team (14-11) with three assists per game and also contributed 7.8 points while guarding the opposition's best player. Blazers coach Mike Buchanan said she could be a good college basketball player if she wanted to.

"Caitlyn is one of those athletes who comes along every five or 10 years who can do it all," he said. "If she quit lacrosse and picked up a tennis racket or a golf club, I'm sure she would be just as good."

In lacrosse, McFadden is well known for her full-field defense and her ability to gain possession, but last season, she led the Blazers in goals scored with 40 - something that even surprised her when the final stats were tallied.

It's the attention to detail, the willingness to do all the little things that don't show up in the box score that add an extra dimension to her talent and skill.

Blazers soccer coach Chris Lopez has witnessed that for four years, including two that ended in Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships.

"She is really kind of an athletic soccer player rather than one driven by incredible skill, but she just puts 100 percent into it all the time," Lopez said. "She has no ego whatsoever. When we asked her to hold down the middle and play center halfback, she was all about that. When we said we needed somebody to go out and play wing halfback, which some kids would see as a demotion, she was all about that. She does whatever you need."

Soccer was the first sport McFadden played, debuting her athletic gifts at 5.

"She was playing soccer and, like everybody else, crowding around the ball," her mother said. "And then, all of a sudden, one game, she broke out, and I think she scored six goals and we were like, `Wow.' It was like the light went on, and from then on, she was always a really good athlete and she always loved it."

While she played soccer first, lacrosse has always ranked No. 1 with McFadden, just as it does with the rest of her family.

Her mother played at Maryvale and Richmond and later coached at Villa Julie College, where she is athletics administrative coordinator. Her father, Mickey McFadden, played at Loyola and William & Mary.

Caitlyn, the older of their two children, was just about born to play lacrosse. Two weeks before she arrived, her mother coached Maryvale to its third straight championship in the Association of Independent Schools A Division (the IAAM's predecessor).

Some feared Caitlyn might announce her arrival during that game, as Maryvale rallied to score two goals in the final 30 seconds to win. But she waited a couple weeks, until the day after her mother coached the Lacrosse for Leukemia high school all-star benefit game at Johns Hopkins.

One of her first gifts was a small lacrosse stick, wrapped with a pink bow from Erin and Alison Stewart, two of Maryvale's top players.

While she enjoyed playing other sports, McFadden said there was never any doubt about which one she wanted to play in college.

"It's always been lacrosse. I've always seen that as my best sport and loved it."

Her style developed naturally, with a little help from her mother, who coached all of the recreation and club teams she has played for.

"Just growing up playing for so long, and I think my mom as a coach really helped emphasize learning all parts of the game," she said. "I've always played midfield, so I think that's helped me become a defender and an attacker, and I've just continued to use that."

So far this season, McFadden has scored 10 goals and has two assists for the No. 9 Blazers (2-2).

Bartel said McFadden's talent is just the beginning of what makes her so valuable to the team on the field and off.

"She generally has no idea how good she is," Bartel said. "Her humility really sets a precedent. It sets a tone for the team. It's certainly an attitude that we embrace around her and one of the most beautiful things about her."

While McFadden is unassuming, she is also a leader. Co-captain of all three teams this year - two elected by her peers and one appointed by the coach - she leads mostly by example, but her teammates listen when she talks.

"She's more of a quiet leader, but because she's so good, everyone wants to follow after her," said fellow lacrosse co-captain Maggie Stout, who will join McFadden at Maryland next season.

"Every time we talk as a team, Caitlyn has something positive to say," Stout added. "Whether it's, `Keep your heads up,' or, `We're going to have a hard practice today,' or, `We have to learn from this loss,' she gets everybody pumped up. She knows what she's talking about because she does such a good job on the field."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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