TOWNSEND -- North Middlesex Lady Patriots senior goalkeeper Julia Murray is tough to beat.
Murray stopped 23 shots in her team's 1-0 shutout of Algonquin late in the season at John E. Young Memorial Field. Algonquin had not been shutout all season, up until that night.
The peculiar thing about Murray is that when she arrived at North Middlesex, she came into the program as a forward. But during freshman year, then head coach Charlie Valacer decided to give her a chance between the pipes -- and a stalwart goalkeeper was born.
"In the season before I came to high school I was mostly a forward," Murray said. "But when I came up -- they didn't have anybody. They needed me to fill the spot and I was happy to."
Murray put in the work after practice and fine-tuned her skills in goal. Her preparation did not stop once the season concluded. Murray went to numerous camps throughout her career to learn the technique of becoming a skilled goalkeeper.
"I kept getting better every year," she said. "I think this year was definitely my best year. Even as a forward, I was really aggressive so I think it worked to my advantage. I was able to be even more aggressive as a goaltender. I really like that aspect of it."
Murray helped lead the Lady Patriots to its best finish in her four years with the program of 5-8-5. The Lady Patriots had a chance at the playoffs in both of its matches against Shrewsbury, but it was not meant to be.
Murray is also a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court for legendary head coach Pat Murphy. Her leaping ability on the hardwood transitions nicely to the soccer pitch.
"You have to be really agile in goal like in basketball," the senior said. "I really like playing defense in basketball because it is like the same kind of movements. As a goalie, you have to be able to jump really high. That's one of my big advantages in basketball -- I can jump higher than girls who are about my height. Going up for save is kind of like going up for a rebound."
In October, Murray made the decision to enlist in the United States Navy following graduation. Murray leaves for basic training in August, and is excited about the opportunities her service will bring.
"Unless I was going to play a sport in college -- I really didn't like all the freedom that you get," she said. "I need something with more structure. ...As I was researching all the branches, the Navy really stuck out to me. I love the water anyway, so I thought, why not travel the world and get trained to be a firefighter?"
As for her final year of basketball under Pat Murphy -- Murray is very optimistic.
"I definitely see us going pretty far this year," she said. "We have an upcoming freshman who is looking really good and four returning seniors. We got moved down a division, and a lot of teams lost a lot of people. We did, too, but we played a lot over the summer and won a couple of tournaments at Assumption and UMass Lowell."
Murray and the rest of the Lady Patriots varsity basketball team open their season in the Pete Trainor Memorial Tournament on Dec. 16 against Groton-Dunstable.