McGrath A Catalyst for Franklin High’s Volleyball Team

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Lauren McGrath has a firm grip on competitive perspectives. The all-star player and forceful captain is also a top-notch team player who usually provides the spark that propels the Panthers’ volleyball fortunes.
Issue Date: 
October, 2018
Article Body: 

Lauren McGrath is the sparkplug that drives the engine for the Franklin High girls’ volleyball team.
A four-year varsity player, the 5-foot-4 McGrath started as the Panthers’ setter as a sophomore and quickly made her mark. She won the Hockomock League’s Underclassman of the Year Award as a sophomore, then earned league all-star honors last year. McGrath, who’s played club volleyball for six years, not only knows the intricacies of playing setter, but she’s also adept at controlling tempo and allowing her hitters to excel.
“Lauren is versatile, confident and has great court awareness,’’ said coach Kelsey Weymouth. “She knows how to slow down the tempo and when to speed it up. She’s a captain who has a dominant presence and she works to make our hitters dominant.’’
The 17-year-old senior, who also competes in indoor track in the hurdles, long jump and high jump, has a passion for volleyball, and she’s extremely comfortable playing a position that has its share of pressure attached to it.
“I like setting because you’re active, always touching the ball,’’ McGrath said. “To be effective a setter has to lead, be enthusiastic, focused and able to rely on good skills and technique. Resiliency is also a key because so often a setter may make a poor pass or use bad judgment. It’s important to fix the play quickly by being strong, positive and resilient.’’
McGrath has a variety of strengths that include athleticism, quickness and speed, a high volleyball IQ, an aggressive style, an instinctive nature and confidence running an offense. But, she’s acutely aware that her game can always improve. “My serving could be more consistent,’’ she emphasized. “And, my sets could be smoother. I work on those areas a lot in practice.’’
McGrath’s desire to take her game to a higher level coincides with her goals for her final year. She firmly believes the Panthers can compete for the Sectional title. So far, Franklin is off to a good start, winning its first three matches.
“Winning the Sectional championship is realistic as long as we stay sharp, positive and committed,’’ she emphasized. “We’ve got nine seniors and our sophomores and juniors are improved. We’re talented and we’ve also got lots of potential.’’
McGrath is bullish on Franklin’s other senior captains — middle hitter Maggie Doyle and defensive specialist Shannon Gray. She also admires senior libero Riley Marino.
“Maggie knows the game, is a strong hitter and has a very high volleyball IQ,’’ she noted. “Shannon is athletic, quick and mentally tough. Both are good leaders. Riley is very skilled, tough and vocal.’’
Weymouth, who took the coaching reins this year from Kate Horsmann, is a fan of McGrath’s leadership style. “I like the way Lauren leads by example and also by being vocal,’’ Weymouth said. “She’s supportive, and she’s also willing to offer help or advice. Lauren has been a dominant asset in our 3-0 start. She’s excelled in setting, but with her on the attack, she takes advantage of setting from the front row when our opponent isn’t expecting that. Her positive energy lifts her teammates.’’
McGrath admits that she enjoys getting her teammates into a high-compete mode. “I like getting our players hyped for our games,’’ she offered. “I can be loud, but that’s because I want us to succeed. I always strive to encourage and to be an effective communicator.’’
A good example of McGrath’s ability to be a catalyst was evident in games against Mansfield and Bishop Feehan last year. But, her efforts in the Panthers’ tourney opener against Wachusett were superb. After compiling a 15-5 record, Franklin entered tourney play and squeaked out a 3-2 win over Wachusett before bowing to Hopkinton.
“I’d rate the Wachusett game as my best,’’ McGrath said. “I played an all-around game, and my setting was strong. Our team stayed motivated and focused. It was a great team effort.’’
McGrath enjoyed competing for Horsmann the last three years and calls her “a coach who was positive and a fine role model.’’ Weymouth also gets high marks from McGrath. “I’ve been fortunate to play for two excellent coaches,’’ McGrath said. “Coach Weymouth knows the game and still plays it. She’s knowledgeable and very motivating.’’
An honor student, McGrath isn’t sure where she’ll attend college but she plans on majoring in either education or business. Whether she’ll play volleyball at the collegiate level remains in doubt. “If I don’t play varsity volleyball, I’d likely play at the club level in college,’’ she said.
But, as she heads for the finish line at Franklin High, McGrath will continue to rely on a solid competitive philosophy and also keep learning valuable life lesson from athletics.
“When I compete, I try to be the best I can be and reach my potential while still having fun,’’ she emphasized. “If I succeed in those areas, then winning will follow. Sports have helped me to learn some great life lessons. Leadership is one, and others include being responsible and accountable, being able to overcome adversity, and to work as a team and be unselfish.’’