Oct. 10, 1997

Sticking Around

Fifth-year senior Kelly McLaughlin leads the Cavaliers

For the last five years, Kelly McLaughlin has been a key part of the University of Virginia women's soccer team. Now in her final season, the fifth-year senior from Scotch Plains, N.J., who is also in her second season as a captain, has high expectations for the team. "We have already accomplished a lot this year, like going to the West coast and winning the Portland Invitational," McLaughlin says. "That gave us a look at what we can do this season. I really think we can do well in the post-season." McLaughlin brings advantages to the Virginia Cavaliers which extend beyond her skillful play. She brings a level of intensity and persistence which set the example to her teammates. "I am definitely a very intense, competitive player," McLaughlin says. "I am very focused and concentrated. I always keep track of what I am doing individually - winning head balls, tackling, or how many times my opponent beats me. I think of myself as a hard player." As one of the leaders on this year's squad, McLaughlin is focused on the importance of every game. "Since this is my last season, I want to put everything I have into it and really enjoy it," McLaughlin says. "The atmosphere of collegiate sports is a unique one. Every game I try to play like it is my last game. I do not want to be wasting games because I'm not into it or because I don't feel good." McLauhglin's hard work ethic is reflected by the path she took to become a member of the women's soccer team.

During the summer before her senior year at Scotch Plains H.S., McLaughlin tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. An All-State selection in each of her first three years at Scotch Plains, McLaughlin was forced to miss the most important portion of the recruiting season, and many schools chose not to pursue her.

At UVa, the coaching staff urged McLaughlin to walk-on to the team, where she red-shirted in her first year. During that season McLaughlin practiced with the team, but her knee was still not fully healthy. During the next season, McLaughlin saw action in only six games but was still recognized as the team's Most Improved Player. "I had some tough times," Mclaughlin says. "I was not used to the role of not playing, and it was tough just getting to know the team."

McLaughlin established herself as a force for the Cavaliers during the 1995 season. That year, she started in 20 of the team's 21 games and was second on the team in minutes played. She scored six goals from her defensive midfield position, including game-tying goals against Clemson and William & Mary. McLaughlin's greatest moment at UVa occurred in the first start of her collegiate career. "We were at a tournament in California," McLaughlin says. "It was the first game of the season, and I scored my first collegiate goal and our team's first goal of the season. It was really exciting." Although McLaughlin is a fierce defender, she admits that she still finds great satisfaction in scoring the occasional goal. "I love to make a tackle or a save on the goal line, but when you score a goal everything stops and everyone is excited," McLaughlin says. "I think the feeling is the same, but with a goal it is magnified. If I make a tackle the feeling is personal, but when I score a goal it is usually a header off of a corner kick, which is real exciting." After this season, McLaughlin will pursue a career in veterinarian medicine, but she will always reflect fondly on her days as a member of the UVa women's soccer team. "I would like to be thought of as a quality soccer player who really worked hard to get where she was and succeeded."