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McLaren motivated

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Senior, who led Newport Harbor to title in Irvine So Cal Championships, now wants a CIF Division I crown for the Sailors.

February 10, 2012|By Matt Szabo
(Scott Smeltzer…)

Casual water polo observers who don't know the intricacies of set defense still recognize Maddy McLaren.

Even with a water polo cap on, McLaren's red hair is easy to spot. The Newport Harbor High senior, who is so competitive in the pool, has sometimes wondered if that bit of notoriety has come with a price.

"I totally know that people [think] that, 'Oh, that's the redhead from Newport,'" she said. "Trying out for the national team I was almost more in the spotlight, just because I had red hair. I always wonder if that helped me or hindered me during tryouts. I felt like if I do something good, it's more noticeable, but if I do something bad it's more noticeable too. I stand out, which can be a good thing or a bad thing."

Her play has stood out lately, and it's been a great thing for the Sailors. Nobody really cared about the color of her hair last weekend, when McLaren was shutting down rival Corona del Mar at two meters in the championship match of the Irvine Southern California Championships.

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McLaren had a match to remember. Again, the casual observer would notice that she only scored once. But the all-tournament team selection also had three assists, two field blocks and two steals before running off with many of her teammates to the school's winter formal dance at Knott's Berry Farm.

Defense is a specialty for the UCLA-bound McLaren, although she also leads the Sailors (23-4) with 58 goals scored. She's also tied for second in assists, with 18.

"She's a very versatile player," Coach Bill Barnett said. "She's also a very good counterattack player, she can set and she can drive. She's a multi-tasker."

She also is very tough.

Last year, she cracked a rib during the SoCal Championships, causing her to miss the end of the regular season. Last summer, McLaren broke her nose — twice — playing water polo. OnNew Year's Eve, she busted her lip open during the third-place match at the Holiday Cup. She was stitched up the same night by Dr. Lavinia Chong, the mother of CdM senior Pippa Saunders.

"I still hung out with my friends and stuff, but I couldn't really feel half my face," said McLaren, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week. "In all the photos I took, my smile is half-off. I mean, that's a sacrifice you have for having a tournamentNew Year's Eve."

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