Imagine a long stretch of sand basking under a bright sun, with picturesque lighthouses dotting the distance. Whether she’s reading a book on the beach or wading in the water, Tufts graduating senior lacrosse attacker Catherine Lawliss has her happy place in Nantucket, Mass. Perhaps this is where we’ll find Lawliss this summer after she and her senior teammates lead the women’s lacrosse team to what will hopefully be another deep NCAA tournament run.
Lawliss hails from Portland, Ore. — also known as Soccer City, USA. As a Portland Thorns FC season ticket holder, she grew up watching women’s soccer superstars like Tobin Heath score golazos in Providence Park. Though Lawliss found great community in Portland’s soccer culture –– she even helped lead her high school soccer team to state championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017 –– her passion for soccer didn’t quite compare to the connection she felt to lacrosse.
Considering that her mother played lacrosse for Lehigh University and then started one of the first youth programs in Portland, it’s no surprise that Lawliss grew up playing the sport. Her younger sister joined her shortly after, and Catherine found her game improving as this friendly sibling rivalry pushed her to play her best. A combination of the sport’s fast pace, a shared bond with her sister and mother, as well as the friendships she made through the sport contributed to Lawliss prioritizing lacrosse over soccer.
Still, like many student-athletes who have balanced demanding academic course loads with evening practices, weekend tournaments and hour-long drives to away games, Lawliss experienced burnout by the time the college recruiting process began. She wasn’t certain if playing collegiate lacrosse was in her future until she attended a Tufts lacrosse clinic.
“I went, and I immediately loved it. Finding Tufts made me want to play again,” she said.
That experience re-instilled in her a love of the game that she nearly lost.
Considering her impressive debut season as a first-year in 2018 — finishing the season with 31 goals and picking up 18 assists — Lawliss certainly made an impact the moment she stepped onto the pitch. She continued adding to her stats as a sophomore, when her field presence helped Tufts make the NCAA Final Four for the first time in program history in 2019. For Lawliss, this moment set the standard for the remainder of her collegiate career.
“Getting a taste of that [success] as an underclassman … it was like, ‘Okay we were here, [now] we have to stay here,’” she said. Though the Jumbos did not lift the trophy at the conclusion of the 2019 season, Lawliss asserts that her team “want[s] to be back there –– we want to actually win.”
She started 2020 with this winning mindset, notching 10 goals and five assists in the first three games of the season. Unfortunately, the team never got a chance at the championship as COVID-19 halted spring sports. Lawliss made the best of the situation while in quarantine, staying active without necessarily maintaining a strict training regimen.
The benefits of that time away from the game were certainly shown this season; Lawliss started the 2021 season almost like she was picking up where she had left off in 2020. After Tufts’ second game this season, she was named NESCAC Player of the Week for her dominant offensive presence.
What makes Lawliss magnetic on the pitch is her explosiveness, her incredible field vision and most of all, her sense of confidence. It’s evident how comfortable she feels on the field. She exudes fearlessness with every step and shot she takes, and this allows Lawliss to be a fierce and decisive competitor. Considering how great of an impact the sport has had on shaping her relationships, it’s no wonder that when Lawliss talks about lacrosse, her passion for the sport is undeniable.
So what’s next for Lawliss? Her post-graduation plans include pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology, shortly followed by a doctorate. She’s specifically interested in studying either traumatic brain injuries or nutritional psychiatry. Though she plans on spending some time on the East Coast, she asserts that she’ll return to the West Coast eventually. While this means she may be hanging up her lacrosse stick for good — at least competitively — there’s no doubt that Lawliss’ tenacity, ambition and confidence on the field will translate well in her future endeavors.