Every team needs a leader and senior women’s lacrosse captain Julie McBrien has more than delivered on carrying that responsibility, both on and off the lacrosse field. This year’s team features a majority of underclassmen, including nine freshmen and eight sophomores, all of whom are lucky enough to have McBrien to look up to in the game and in the classroom.
McBrien’s interest in lacrosse started at a young age as she first picked up a lacrosse stick in middle school.
“I started playing lacrosse in middle school with all of my friends and continued to play throughout high school,” she said. “I also played for the Hudson Valley Hurricanes club team in the summer. I never thought I would play lacrosse in college and just enjoyed playing the sport with all of my friends.”
McBrien didn’t have the traditional recruiting experience and ultimately did not decide to pursue the sport at the collegiate level until her high school career came to a close. Her choice to attend Lehigh was purely academic.
“I chose Lehigh based on its academic reputation, its campus feel and location,” McBrien said. “After taking a tour of the campus, I knew this environment was a good fit for me to succeed and feel at home. I decided to pursue playing lacrosse in college after my final high school game. I was nostalgic and realized I did not want my career to end at that point.
“I e-mailed [coach] Jill [Redfern] prior to the start of school and took part in a one-week tryout with the team,” McBrien continued. “It was definitely the most overwhelming experience I’ve had to date. However, I consider that one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Despite her late decision to play the sport in brown and white as a Mountain Hawk, McBrien has made a major impact on the field through all four years of her college career.
In her freshman season, McBrien was a Second Team All-Patriot League selection following an impressive rookie campaign. She started in all 18 games, scooped up 23 ground balls, caused 10 turnovers, and won 21 draw controls.
Her success as a freshman carried over into her sophomore season when her move to offense resulted in her earning 29 points, good for fifth on the Mountain Hawks. Once again starting in all 17 games, McBrien was also named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.
As a junior, McBrien finished third on the team with 36 points via 24 goals and 12 assists. Starting in all 15 games, she also posted 18 groundballs, 27 draw controls and a career-high 15 caused turnovers. She had five straight multi-point games to end the season and 11 for the year. She garnered the Scholar-Athlete of the Year award at the annual end-of-year banquet and was named a Second Team All-Patriot League honoree. For the second year straight, she also secured a spot on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.
Having game-time experience as an underclassman definitely helped McBrien mature into the player that she is today.
“I have much more confidence this year knowing that I have been in similar situations many times before,” McBrien said. “Freshman year I found the pace of the college games to be much quicker, however I became more comfortable over time and now feel I can be more in control of my own performance rather than react to what is in front of me.”
Her development into Lehigh’s strongest offensive threat has not gone unnoticed by Redfern, the Mountain Hawks’ fifth-year head coach.
“I am most proud of Julie’s overall development as a lacrosse player,” she said. “Her role has changed every year in our program. This year, she has become an offensive weapon.”
McBrien’s success on the field has been coupled with strong performance in the classroom, something that she’s worked incredibly hard for.
“As an active high school student, I always followed a disciplined schedule,” McBrien said. “I carried that over to college. I found the transition to be difficult in the beginning, but it was a learning curve, and I discovered that time management and organization were the keys to success.”
Ready to share what she’s learned about balancing the responsibilities as a student-athlete, McBrien has led an energetic group of underclassmen in her role as team captain this spring.
“With only three seniors and three juniors on the team, we realize that seniority and experience will not be our forte,” McBrien said. “We try to set the best example possible and pass down any advice or lessons that have worked for us and that may be of use to younger players. It is difficult not having a strong senior presence, but our younger players are gaining a lot of experience. That will be extremely useful in the future.”
“As a senior captain on a team with many younger players, Julie’s patience and composure through the season has been admirable,” Redfern said.
Her senior campaign has been possibly her strongest yet. McBrien leads the team with 33 points via 30 goals and three assists. She’s started in all 14 games and has posted a team-high 22 groundballs and 21 draw controls.
Although her final game as a Mountain Hawk is drawing near, McBrien has many fond memories that she will carry with her when her playing days are over.
“Whether is was an Easter egg hunt at the Patterson’s house or karaoke on bus rides, I always have a good time with our team,” McBrien said. “My favorite game was my sophomore year when we beat Navy in their stadium. We have always has a tough rivalry with Navy in the past and beating them in that environment was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had.”
McBrien’s dedication to her efforts in the classroom served her well and she is one of the lucky seniors to have a job lined up following graduation.
“Last summer, I interned for Morgan Stanley and was fortunate to receive a full-time offer for next year,” McBrien said. “It has definitely been a weight off my shoulders senior year knowing that I have secured a job for next year in a field that I am really excited about.”
McBrien’s presence will certainly be missed in the Lehigh Lacrosse program, but Redfern is sure that Julie will continue her successes in the read world.
“Julie is both a standout lacrosse player and a standout Business major,” she said. “She has a tireless work ethic that will serve her well throughout her future.”