Female Athlete of the Year: Maria Kemiji-McDonald

St. Ignatius junior midfielder Maria Kemiji-McDonald pushes the ball up-field against Palo Alto on March 21 at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

In a banner year for St. Ignatius girls athletics, Maria Kemiji-McDonald was often in the center of the action.

Arguably the most athletic player on the field or court in any given game, the three-sport standout was a key component in each of her teams’ successes this year, amassing a combined 75-17 record across the volleyball, basketball and lacrosse seasons.

St. Ignatius junior Maria Kemiji-McDonald takes the ball up the court against Bishop O'Dowd on March 12 at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland. (Photo by Doug Ko)

That’s why she’s the Female Athlete of the Year.

“It takes a lot of effort, but playing sports at SI is so rewarding,” Kemiji-McDonald said. “In all of the sports I played, there was such good team atmosphere. All of my teams were really close, and that helped me a lot.”

The 5-foot-10 junior stood out most on the basketball court, where she made a considerable case for city Player of the Year. A first-team All-West Catholic Athletic League and All-City selection, Kemiji-McDonald led the Wildcats in scoring and to a second-place finish in the brutal WCAL.

She also played her best basketball in some of the most important games of the season, including a state tournament run that only ended at the hands of eventual NorCal champion Bishop O’Dowd.

“[She is] one of the best female athletes to wear the red and blue in recent memory,” said St. Ignatius girls basketball coach Mike Mulkerrins. “Maria hates to lose and will do anything to win.”

While she often occupied the spotlight on the basketball team, she was a key cog on a loaded and dynamic St. Ignatius volleyball team in the fall.

Primarily starting at outside hitter, Kemiji-McDonald earned All-City honorable mention honor after a historic season for the girls’ volleyball program, winning its first Central Coast Section championship in school history.

St. Ignatius junior Maria Kemiji-McDonald puts a ball past a Drake blocker on Nov. 27 at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Eric Soracco)

“Maria has an ‘X’ factor about her,” said St. Ignatius girls volleyball coach Lisa Becerra. “She has a lot of fire in her, and her being on our team really sparked that within everyone else. Nobody would question that Maria is a natural athlete. She’s exciting to watch.”

Two sports would be seemingly enough for most, but after an extended basketball season, Kemiji-McDonald joined the St. Ignatius girls lacrosse team that went 17-1 and was regarded by many to be the best in the state.

Due to the overlapping seasons, she only played in 11 games for the lacrosse team, but still had an impact as an all-around midfielder, scoring seven goals with six assists, a point total that was seventh on another stacked SI squad.

“Her innate athletic ability is key and she’s a great defender,” said St. Ignatius girls lacrosse coach Amy Harms. “Her speed on the field is a significant asset and she has a motor that doesn’t quit. Her contributions are more significant in volleyball and basketball, but when she comes in to play for us, she’s ready to play and takes that competitive spirit with her.”

Even with all the success that the past academic year included, a simple fact should excite St. Ignatius supporters and frighten WCAL opponents — heading into her senior year, she might get better.

“After this year, we know what it takes to play against the best,” Kemiji-McDonald said. “Now everyone knows what we’re capable of. We just need to prove to everyone that we can go even further.”

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(Photo Illustration by Josh Jalil)

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One Comment

  1. Paul Totah says:

    Congratulations Maria! We’re proud of you for this historic accomplishment!

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