WESTFIELD, NJ — A 16-year-old junior at Westfield High School, Lila McMahill stepped in as the varsity field hockey team’s goalie in the pre-season, and she’s moved at full speed since.
McMahill recorded a save percentage of 81%, allowing only 35 goals this season. McMahill is this week’s Ron Bansky and Associates Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week. While tending goal is new for her, it is a role she had come to appreciate.
“I like how it’s pretty unpredictable,” McMahill said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. I see the whole field so I have to tell everyone what they don’t see.”
Highlights for her season include recording 16 saves against Millburn and recording 22 saves against Oak Knoll in the county semifinals, said head girls varsity field hockey coach Caitlin Cheddar.
“Watching Lila in goal, you wouldn’t know that it’s only her first year as a varsity player,” Cheddar said. “She has learned to take control of her defense, stay calm, communicate and help her teammates read the field of play.”
McMahill said she wasn’t sure about playing goalie when she first started in the role, but she has come to enjoy it.
“It’s fun when there’s a close game, and everyone’s shouting, and we score,” McMahill said.
Her season’s greatest moment came during a county game against Kent Place recently during which there was little time left in the quarter and the opposition was coming at the goal.
“They shot and I made a stick save,” McMahill said. “We ended up winning that and advanced.” The resulting win meant entry into state championship play.
McMahill is not just a powerhouse on the field hockey field. She runs track and recently wrapped her last season playing softball.
Collegiality has been key for McMahill, who has been playing field hockey since she was in eighth grade.
“Even through our losses we picked each other up,” McMahill said. “We kept going through the end of the game, the end of the season, and we left everything on the field.”