WESTON – Outmaneuvering Maclaine Lehan seems to be downright impossible.
“Nobody gets by her,” Susanna Donahue, the varsity girls’ soccer coach at the Rivers School, said of the four-year defensive stalwart.
“I’ve never had a defender like her. I think she is one of the best defenders to ever come through the Independent School League.”
At 5-feet-11, the senior tricaptain from Shrewsbury, and the oldest child of John and Michele Lehan, plays center back for the Red Wings, and is described as “incredibly fast, fearless, and technically very good.”
Her soccer exploits — combined with her consistent high-honors academic performance — have attracted the attention of numerous Division 1 college recruiters, including Brown, where Lehan has verbally committed to play next fall.
But what differentiates Lehan is a special blend of qualities: innate selflessness, tireless work ethic, deep-seated humility, and unquestioned loyalty.
“Mac is by far the best center back I have ever played with,” acknowledged Rivers sophomore defender Elizabeth Webber. “She always does her job and then a little bit more.”
‘I’ve never had a defender like her. I think she is one of the best defenders to ever come through the Independent School League.’
Last season, Webber, who commutes from Natick to the private school in Weston, was unofficially welcomed by Lehan to the team. Since then, the two have formed an unmistakable bond — often on display as they warm up together before each game — that extends beyond their side-by-side positioning on the soccer pitch.
“Mac went out of her way to make sure that me and all the other freshmen felt like we were included,” Webber said.
Lehan plays down the gesture.
“We’re definitely very close,” she said when asked about her actions. “Liz plays center back with me, so everything we do on the field we need to do together and work as a unit. She started playing early freshman year, so I took her under my wing and helped her on the field. And off the field, we’ve become very good friends.”
Close friendships have long been a vital component in Lehan’s athletic undertakings.
Though she first started playing soccer in Shrewsbury at the age of 2, she eventually joined Mass Premier Soccer, a Waltham-based club team. And despite having numerous opportunities to abandon MPS for other programs — something many of her teammates opted to do — Lehan adamantly refused, instead showing steadfast allegiance.
“There’s a group of six of us who have been there since we were 13 years old,” she said. “Ever since then, we’ve lost and gained a bunch of players. We’ve had our ups and downs, but there’s a group of us that have never left. I think it makes us really strong.”
For three seasons, from 2010 to 2012, Lehan’s club coach was Darren Gallagher , who also coaches the women’s team at Worcester’s College of the Holy Cross.
“She’s one of the best center backs around, certainly in the New England area,” Gallagher said when asked about Lehan’s talent. “She was a rock for me at the club level. Extremely athletic, understands the game extremely well, and very difficult to beat in 1-on-1 situations. So she is a top, top player.
“She’s been extremely loyal to me and to Mass Premier Soccer,” added Gallagher.
“Maclaine is just a very down-to-earth girl. She’ll work hard and will keep her head down. Certainly that first year she was quite shy and unassuming. She’s grown into a confident young lady, but certainly never one to seek the spotlight. She’s quite happy to be support cast for her teammates, extremely humble, despite her obvious talent.”
Gallagher attempted tried to recruit Lehan, but realized his efforts were futile when Brown showed interest.
“She had her heart set on Brown, it was one of her big schools,” he said. “When they came calling, it was a simple decision for her.”
At Rivers, Lehan has displayed similar character.
“She works so hard and is so humble,” Donahue said. “You never hear her talk about herself at all. She does what she has to do. And I know it’s a cliché, but she leads by example. She’s not a rah-rah kid at all,’' she said, adding, “it’s nice when your best player is also your hardest-working player.”
Though the Red Wings have struggled to find consistent offensive production – with 29 tallies through 13 contests, and more than a third of the total (13) coming in three games – Rivers’ solid defense, led by Lehan, has been a constant.
“The other players around her are good and she makes them better,” Donahue said, “and we have a great goalkeeper. But nobody beats her.”
Thus far, the Red Wings have surrendered three scores on their way to a 10-0-3 record entering Saturday’s contest at St. George’s.
It’s been a performance akin to last fall, when the Rivers defense, which allowed four goals in 18 games, including two in league play, carried the Red Wings to a second-place finish in the Independent School League, and a Class B NEPSAC tourney finals appearance.
And while Lehan appears positioned to repeat as league defensive MVP, especially after her unanimous selection last fall, individual awards remain secondary.
“That was a really big honor,” she said about the award. “I didn’t really expect it. But we had a really successful season last year and our back line was extremely strong.”
For Lehan, success is intimately tied with what she and her teammates accomplish both on and off the pitch.
“Obviously, our goal is always to get a banner’’for winning the league, “get into the tournament, and have some good results,” Lehan said, “but also just having a strong team where we genuinely like each other.”Paul Lazdowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @plazdow.