Sports Person of the Week
McDonald Stands Tall in Goal as a Sophomore
After helping the Guilford field hockey team win a state title last fall, sophomore goalie Julia McDonald guided the girls’ ice hockey squad to a conference crown this winter. (Photo courtesy of Julia McDonald )
Whether she’s in the field or on the ice, Julia McDonald has an answer every time that she steps into the net for the Guilford Indians. Julia played in several big games for Guilford’s field hockey and ice hockey teams throughout the past year, and the sophomore proved that she was ready to come through in the clutch in the most critical moments.
During the fall season, Julia was the backup goalkeeper on the Guilford field hockey team for the majority of the campaign. When starting goalie Eve Young got injured, Julia took over in the cage for the Indians during their run in the Class M State Tournament. Julia helped Guilford earn a 3-2 victory over Hand in the state final to cap off a perfect season with a record of 23-0.
“It was a great experience to have to step into action in the State Tournament. The unexpectedness of it all definitely had me a little nervous, but it all ended up working out,” Julia says. “I’ve always played goalie for all of my sports that I’ve competed in, so I know what’s expected of the position. I love the intensity of it, and I like being the person that the team depends on to stop a shot when it matters the most.”
Julia’s experience in field hockey paid dividends for both herself and the Guilford ice hockey team this winter. Julia got the starting nod in goal and led the Indians to an overall record of 17-6 in a historic season that saw them claim their first SCC title and then win a game in the State Tournament.
Head Coach Rich Binkowski says that Julia outperformed any expectations for a goalie who was thrown into the fray as a sophomore.
“Julia really didn’t see a lot of playing time as a freshman, so when we gave her the starting job, we didn’t know what to expect right away. She exceeded those expectations,” says Binkowski. “Julia was a tremendous player for us this year and always came to the ice ready to improve. She did everything in her power to become a better player, and I respected that the most about her.”
Two games stood out to Julia from the season. The first one came when Guilford notched a 5-4 win over the Hamden-Wilbur Cross-Lyman Hall co-op squad early in the year. Of course, there was no sweeter moment than when the Indians defeated Amity-North Haven-Cheshire by a 4-2 score in the final of the SCC Tournament.
“Those games had the most meaning to me for a couple of reasons. Our win against Hamden proved to all of us that we were ready to win this year, and that we were capable of so much more than we realized. It gave us our confidence,” says Julia. “Then in the SCC championship game, it was like all of our hard work had paid off. We battled all season long to win a conference title, and it was an awesome moment for all of us.”
Julia turned in an exceptional performance in net during the conference final. Julia racked up 39 saves against the defending champion Blades on her way to being named the Most Outstanding Player of the SCC Tournament.
“Julia’s effort in that game was amazing to watch. And I see that game as an opportunity for her to continue to grow as a player,” Coach Binkowski says. “There is always room for improvement. After the success we had this season, we are going to have a target on our backs. To beat Guilford, they are going to have to beat Julia, and that’s a tall task for any team.”
Binkowski adds that one of Julia’s finest moments of the season came when the Indians lost to Simsbury in the second round of states. In a game where Guilford faced a big deficit entering the third period, Julia was pleased to see some of her team’s third- and fourth-line players get a chance to skate in a playoff game.
“In that moment, Julia showed me why she belongs on this stage. She showed class in net and was happy that some girls that don’t usually get to play got to see some time on the ice,” says Binkowski. “I know she will be ready to lead us again in net next year, and we are going to come back stronger.”
Julia feels that maintaining a positive attitude plays a big part in her success. Julia knows that it’s important to stay upbeat, even when things aren’t going your way.
“I didn’t play a lot my freshman year, so I was happy to see some of the other girls get that time on the ice,” she says. “I believe that if you stay positive, good things will happen.”
Outside of sports, Julia is a member of the Feminine Alliance, the Women’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Club, as well as the Pilgrim Fellowship at Guilford High School. She’s also a high honors student who is planning on taking several Advanced Placement courses in her junior year.
“All three of those organizations have a lot of meaning to me, because it helps be more open and communicate,” Julia says. “The Pilgrim Fellowship is great, because we get to help people in need. We were actually supposed to go on a mission trip during spring break, but that got canceled because of coronavirus.”
On the heels of its landmark campaign, Guilford has great expectations for what it can achieve on the ice next season. With Julia firmly entrenched in net, the Indians should once again be a force to be reckoned with.
“We know what we’re capable of,” says Julia. “I’m excited to see the strides we take next year.”