Maeve McNamara prepares for Sweet 16 and basketball season at Amherst College

  • Maeve McNamara is a two-sport athlete at Amherst College, playing for the women’s soccer and basketball teams. The soccer teams plays William Smith in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Saturday. Sarah Corso

  • Jay, left, and Eileen McNamara watch their daughter Maeve play for the Amherst College women’s soccer team during the season. SARAH CORSO

For the Gazette
Published: 11/18/2016 6:58:59 PM

AMHERST — When Jay and Eileen McNamara travel from Arlington to watch their daughter Maeve compete for the Amherst College women’s soccer and basketball teams, they do so with sheer admiration of the way she handles college on and off the field: with positive energy and purpose.

“She is a very intense athletic competitor,” Jay McNamara said. “But she has got a great sense of humor.”

After the soccer team fell behind 1-0 in the NESCAC championship game against Trinity, Maeve McNamara was ready for the challenge, encouraging, willing her teammates to push through with repeated cheers of “Let’s go Amherst!”

Her teammates followed her lead as Amherst scored two goals in the second half to bring the championship back to Amherst.

“Maeve is just always going a hundred percent and she encourages everyone,” said teammate and roommate Mia Bongiorno. “She’s always getting back, always picking us up.”

McNamara has scored three goals and leads the team with six assists in her sophomore season. Head coach Jen Hughes attributes this on-field success to the mentality she brings to every game and practice.

“She doesn’t stop until she gets it done. I think it’s more of a mentality. It’s a rare mentality and she has it,” said Hughes.

Participating in more than one sport is common in high school. In college, it’s not as common, and even rarer if the playing seasons are back to back. McNamara is an exception and will be joining the women’s basketball team once soccer season has concluded.

In her first year playing collegiate basketball, McNamara scored 56 points and had 32 rebounds in 25 games.

The transition from soccer to basketball requires a high level of athleticism from McNamara. After months of pacing her runs up and down the length of a soccer field, she has to quickly adjust to being a point guard, which requires a swifter lateral motion.

“It was a whole summer of crazy training for soccer and a whole fall of playing 90 minutes of soccer and then to go into basketball, which is a whole different kind of pounding,” McNamara said. “I was in shape but it hurt for a little while.”

McNamara has to train for both sports during the summer so being prepared for back-to-back seasons is achieved through commitment and with a little family help.

She handles her own soccer training by doing fitness and endurance workouts, even while vacationing on Cape Cod with her family.

“For basketball she gets up with her brothers and they go to this gym called Boston Basketball and they do drills together,” Jay McNamara said.

Colin, 17, and Brendan, 14, make their sister a better player by fueling her competitive drive.

“The first day I came home from school within an hour my little brother dragged me to the gym. He was like ‘Maeve we are going to go shoot’,” Maeve McNamara said.

In addition to being a two-sport athlete, McNamara serves on the Class of 2019 Senate and is a part of Amherst LEADS, a leadership development program for student-athletes at Amherst College. Undeclared, McNamara is pursuing biology and pre-med majors but also has a unique interest in film studies.

“She likes to be involved in things whether it is the teams or student government,” said Eileen McNamara. “I’m still surprised that while being this busy she still wants to be a part of the conversation about what’s going on and how we can improve things as a group.”

On Saturday, McNamara and the soccer team look to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament as it takes on No. 1 William Smith at 1:30 p.m. at Brandeis, while the women’s basketball team opens its season at home against Albertus Magnus at 6.

William Smith (20-0-0) will prove to be the toughest matchup of the season for Amherst (17-2-1), but McNamara will be ready to compete hard for a spot in the next round, even if that means not joining the basketball team just yet.

“Shortcuts are not in her vocabulary,” Eileen McNamara said. “The harder the better.”

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