USA TODAY High School Sports is publishing a series called “The Class of 18,” highlighting 18 members of the Class of 2018 whom we will be watching in the coming year. The athletes were selected by the USA TODAY HSS staff.
Name: Maddie Jenner
School: McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.)
MORE CLASS OF ’18: See all the athlete profiles here
When you’re the nation’s best player on the nation’s best team, there’s no doubt you’ll be playing with a target on your back.
That’s the exact situation for McDonogh School’s (Owings Mills, Md.) Maddie Jenner, last year’s American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.
The pressure doesn’t end there, though. The Eagles are also riding a 177-game winning streak, one that’s spanned nine seasons.
For Jenner, that pressure is fuel.
“I think the outside pressure and the pressure to maintain the streak makes everyone want to work harder so we can meet that expectation,” she said. “But I also think the streak gives us confidence, because of those expectations, that we go into each game mentally prepared and planning to win, so we play with that pride.
“But we have to be careful and not go into games knowing we’ll win because of the streak, because nothing really matters while you’re playing.”
That was never more evident to Jenner than during her sophomore year in a game against Century (Sykesville, Md.), which McDonogh trailed by four goals with just over eight minutes remaining. The Eagles ended up winning in overtime, but it stands out as a cautionary tale for Jenner.
“We came out a bit slow, thinking we’d win but not playing up to our standard,” Jenner said. “They had two really solid Maryland commits that year, and they played really well.”
Jenner will have plenty of help this season on a loaded McDonogh squad, though she may have to step up her game in some areas due to an injury to Julia Hoffman, the Eagles’ main attacker.
“Until she’s 100 percent, the rest of us will have to fill the void offensively,” Jenner said. “Last year I had games where I scored a lot and there were some where I didn’t, so I feel I need to be more consistent there.
“There are aspects throughout my whole game where I could take it up a notch. Personally, I want to have a better year than last year, so that’s the motivation to keep training hard.”
If Jenner does indeed continue improving, expect the Eagles streak to continue, which, of course, is the goal.
“Our team goal is the same—go undefeated and win a championship,” Jenner said. “Each year there are different challenges. There may be pressure, but I try not to think of it like that. It’s more of just another responsibility.”