McDonagh plays lacrosse for the fun of it

Will Costello
Reading’s Emma McDonagh helped lead the Middlebury College lacrosse team into the NCAA Division 3 Championship game.

Emma McDonagh

Emma McDonagh, a junior attack out of Reading, helped lead the Middlebury College lacrosse team to a 20-3 record, the New England Small College Athletic Conference title, and into the NCAA Division 3 Championship game for the second time in the last three years. Middlebury won the 2016 championship in McDonagh’s first season. This time, it fell in the title contest, dropping an 11-9 decision May 28 to defending champion Gettysburg College in Salem, Va. McDonagh scored 54 goals with 21 assists this season to lead her team in scoring, and she was named first-team All-NESCAC. McDonagh, who played four years of hockey and two years of field hockey at Reading High as well as lacrosse, is majoring in architecture and the environment.

Q. What was the team’s reaction to the loss in the championship game?

A. It was obviously so tough to lose that. It was sad that day because it was our last day together. We tried to get over it in some ways by reflecting on our season as a whole. It’s obviously a great accomplishment to play in the last game. We have real high standards and to win the NESCAC championship is a great accomplishment. We know the hard work that goes into it. We had a great season and had so much fun. Winning it all is obviously the peak, but we’re still having great experiences each season.

Q. How does the team shape up for next season?

A. We had five seniors this year and all of them were awesome, and three especially were huge impact players. Replacing them all will be tough. But in our grade, we’re lucky to have a ton of experience, and hopefully the seniors can lead everyone back there. Our sophomores also played a lot.

Q. When did you first start playing lacrosse?


A. I was in fourth or fifth grade. My older brother Andrew played lacrosse and I still played baseball at the time. As soon as I tried lacrosse, I fell in love with it, and I switched over a year or two later.

Q. What do you hope to do with your degree?

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A. You have to go to architecture school if you want to become an architect. I’m super excited about my major. I studied abroad in Copenhagen last fall and studied architecture. That was a huge pull of going to a NESCAC school: I wanted to go abroad to study. I worked on two real-world projects this spring. One was designing two Habitat for Humanity houses in Middlebury. That was a great experience, working with people of the town and Habitat. The other was a zero-energy design competition the United States Department of Energy put on. It was a senior-led team, and the class submitted designs for a zero-energy elementary school in Middlebury, and we ended up winning in our category.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you ever got from a coach?

A. It isn’t real concrete, but one thing I heard coming up from high school and college coaches was I play better when I’m having fun. The idea is to stay loose and remember the reason we’re playing sports. At the end of the day, it’s to have fun, and I’m always trying to embrace that.

Q. What’s a tip you’d give to a young lacrosse player?

A. I’m coaching with a youth team this summer, the New England Twisters out of Wilmington. I probably should figure out what I want to tell them. I think it’s like, be dynamic and always be a threat, whether that means to pass to someone who’s open or get yourself moving at full speed. Always be a threat. I wasn’t able to score as much in hockey. My hockey coach would get mad at me and say I always scored in lacrosse. I did that without thinking.

Q. What’s your favorite place to visit in New England?

A. I grew up hiking in New Hampshire and then went to school in Vermont. I love doing stuff outdoors. I can’t say there’s one specific mountain. Any mountain in the White Mountains or Green Mountains and some of the lakes there.

Allen Lessels can be reached at