A Camden Catholic girls’ lacrosse game sometimes feels like a family reunion to Katie Walsh.
Starting on the varsity with Walsh are her two cousins, senior Erin Wheeler and sophomore Neve Murphy.
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Off the field, there's the crowd at each game that usually consists of too many family members for Walsh to even count.
“All of our cousins, our parents, aunts and uncles, my brother, my grandpop,” she said. “It’s a lot.”
Camden Catholic athletics runs in Walsh’s family. Among those spectators are Walsh’s aunt, Karen Walsh, who is Murphy’s mother. Karen Walsh was the first player to score 100 career goals for the Camden Catholic girls.
Katie Walsh’s father, John, played football and baseball for the Irish. Her mother, Liz Vigrass, was a lacrosse player and state champion field hockey player.
It’s a legacy to which Walsh is adding an emphatic chapter this season.
While her aunt may have scored 100 career goals, Walsh is coming close to scoring 100 goals — this season.
The junior attacker had 78 goals and 16 assists for the 19-1 Irish, who have locked up the Olympic Conference National Division title and are poised to make a strong run in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament.
“It’s amazing honestly,” Walsh said. “There’s no better feeling than to play with your family and to know that so many generations came before us. It’s been wonderful. And it’s great that we’re all able to live up to what came before us.”
This is the first year all three cousins have started on varsity together after Wheeler missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Coach Bridget Sipera described the three as close and competitive, and each helps to set the tight-knit culture of a program that has been among the area’s most consistent in recent years.
“The whole team really is just a big family atmosphere, and that’s huge,” said Sipera, who is also a teacher and former lacrosse star at Camden Catholic. “The players want to be here. They have fun with each other, and the coaches are having fun. So it’s just a great atmosphere, and I think that’s why we’ve been so successful.”
Walsh grew up in Marlton and played on the same local lacrosse team as Wheeler for most of her childhood.
But, unlike many of the area’s top programs, starting young in lacrosse isn’t the norm at Camden Catholic.
Without a proper feeder system, several of the team’s top contributors didn’t pick up a stick until their freshman season.
But they learned to love the sport and thrive in it, partly with the help of Walsh and her cousins
Sipera described Walsh’s love for the game as contagious.
“It’s great to have teammates that are so open to helping each other out and to learning and just talking and things like that,” Walsh said. "That’s just how all of us are on this team. We all have a great connection.”
In a sense, the only real feeder system Camden Catholic has is the product of alumni who want their kids to experience the atmosphere they loved so much.
The system has worked.
Wheeler, a midfielder, has 30 goals and 31 assists. Murphy has seven goals and three assists. And other family connections, including Brynn and Olivia Eilbacher, are major contributors to an offense that, in general, is putting up huge numbers.
And then there’s Walsh, a quick and crafty goal scorer who has already shattered her previous season-high of 48 goals from last season.
Walsh agreed that she has improved from her freshman season. But team chemistry has also helped.