Family Affair: Well-Traveled Trinity McPherson Finds New Home in Denver

How do you define home?

For Trinity McPherson, home is where her family is.

It sounds like something you might find on cross-stitch projects. But the McPhersons are a tight-knit group, and Trinity has called many countries home over the years. She was born in South Africa to James and Rebecca McPherson.

The McPersons are a diplomatic family. James McPherson is a foreign services officer who has worked in U.S. embassies around the world. Rebecca McPherson is an education and youth program specialist in the U.S. Department of State’s Global Community Liaison Office.

The family moved to Catonsville, Maryland, in 2003, shortly after one of Trinity’s two younger sisters, Madison, was born. They enrolled their daughters in soccer when they were old enough.

One day, a dad approached them and asked if they considered lacrosse.

This was Maryland. Lacrosse was a way of life for everyone — except the McPhersons.

“We were like, ‘No, what’s that?’” James McPherson recalled.

The sisters loved playing sports, so their parents signed them up for a rec league. They caught on fast — in part because Trinity was fast.

“My biggest gift was always my speed,” she said. “From a young age, being given a green light to sprint up the field set me apart from other players.”

The McPhersons also got an assist from a babysitter who was taking the lacrosse world by storm: Katie Chrest Erbe, a 2009 world champion with the U.S. national team who won the Tewaaraton Award with Duke in 2005. She told them about Sky Walkers, one of the nation’s elite club programs based in Maryland.

“I fell in love with lacrosse right away,” Trinity McPherson said. “All of my friends played it. The camaraderie was amazing.”

“If there was a wall and there was some grass, we were going to try to use it.”

— Trinity McPherson

Both sisters were on a trajectory to play Division I. Trinity committed to Army, her father’s alma mater, in early 2015. Madison was building a relationship with Janine Tucker at nearby Johns Hopkins.

In a conventional story, the sisters would have starred at Catonsville High School, turned their tassels and went on to two of the nation’s most prestigious universities.

But the McPhersons don’t follow a script.

“Unconventional? You mean not everyone does it like this?” James McPherson joked.

In August 2015, the McPherson family — which by then included the youngest, Eden — took an overseas assignment Manila, the capital of the Philippines. More than 8,530 miles from the only home they consciously knew, Trinity and Madison became each other’s retreat.

“Madison is my best friend in the entire world, and I’ve been all over the world,” Trinity McPherson said. “The sense of peace and calm she brings me was a key part of being so grounded over there. She was a safe space.”

But the sisters also stepped outside their comfort zones. They played soccer and basketball and ran track. They traveled to other countries to compete in tournaments, making friends on three different continents.

Missing from the equation was lacrosse. The Philippines isn’t like Australia, Canada or the U.K. Lacrosse isn’t a top draw there — yet. The sisters were so advanced they served as volunteer assistant coaches for a club team, where the players used men’s sticks. Honing their skills to play college ball in the states was on them. But the McPhersons are a resourceful bunch.

“If there was a wall and there was some grass, we were going to try to use it,” Trinity McPherson said.

Trinity’s love for lacrosse was clear. Her future? Less so. The commitment she made to Army as a sophomore at an American high school no longer felt right as a senior in the Philippines.

“I was really excited to take after my dad and go down a similar path,” she said. “I knew that they were going to be overseas, and my access to family was going to be limited already. The thought of adding the rigorous structure of West Point was too much.”

The problem: It was the fall of her senior year. There were no fall tournaments in Manila where she could showcase her skills in a last-ditch effort to get recruited — to find a home. College coaches had moved on to future classes, anyway. Madison had already decided to go to Hopkins.

Trinity admits she thought it was over. Her parents did, too. James McPherson didn’t care that his daughter was spurning his alma mater, but he was worried about what was next.

“It was October,’” he said. “At that point, it was like, ‘What are you going to do?’”

Tucker had impressed the McPherson family during Madison’s recruiting process. Could Trinity play there too? James and Rebecca broached the subject with the coach. Tucker immediately had two requirements: Trinity had to do things the right way by formally de-committing from Army before Tucker could even entertain the idea. She also had to ask Madison if it was OK.

James and Rebecca agreed.

“We didn’t want to take away Madison’s shine,” James McPherson said. “This was her thing. They wanted her.”

After Trinity McPherson informed Army she was out, it was time for a talk with her little sis.

“I was just like, ‘I don’t want you to go anywhere you’d be unhappy. Being able to play and be together will be an incredible experience,’” Madison McPherson said. “The great part is that she asked me. That was all that mattered. It wasn’t just about what was right for her.”

It wasn’t a done deal. She needed game film — still a challenge in 2016, especially for an athlete who hadn’t played a high school game in almost two years. But in true Trinity fashion, she worked fast. She pulled together track times and an interview after a win with Catonsville High School.

“She’s a ball of muscle and was super-fast,” Tucker said. “The biggest draw was her energy and personality. You could tell she was raw. That was something we were used to doing. We would find kids who were just athletic and basically try to teach them everything we needed for lacrosse.”

McPherson had a lot more than lacrosse to learn. She hadn’t gotten to know her new teammates at the Under Armour All-American game or during campus visits.

“I remember studying the roster,” she said. “I was freaking out at practice, not knowing what to call them. I was worried about not knowing anyone — again. It felt the same as being overseas. I felt out of touch with lacrosse.”

So, just like she did during her early days in Catonsville, the oldest McPherson put the pedal to the floor and booked it down the field. “I decided I was going to control the one thing I could, and that was my speed,” she said.


Sisters Trinity (left) and Madison McPherson played together at Johns Hopkins before Trinity graduated and eventually made her way to Denver.

Trinity McPherson started all 19 games as a freshman at Johns Hopkins, posting 33 ground balls and causing 20 turnovers. She was thriving.

But a traumatic event changed McPherson’s trajectory. During her sophomore year, she said, she was sexually assaulted. Initially, she thought she’d power through the emotional toll it took on her. But after playing in one game in 2019, Trinity called time. She needed to go home.

“I was watching myself dwindle,” she said. “I was a kid who really needed her mom, dad and sisters.”

Tucker let her rising star defender go.

“To her credit, she recognized that she needed to do work on who she was, what she valued and what was important to her,” Tucker said. “I was blown away by her maturity in that moment.”

By then, the McPherson family had moved to Zambia, waking up at 4 a.m. to stream Trinity’s games.

“That was an unexpected twist,” Rebecca said.

“We always have an unexpected twist,” James interjected.

“That was one of the hardest times as a family we’ve ever had to go to, but it was eye-opening,” Rebecca said.

Eye-opening — and healing. For once in her life, the speedster slowed down. Trinity McPherson spent her days painting, sitting in her room and going to therapy.

“I did nothing,” she said. “I got to heal. I just got to be for so long that eventually, a lot of the pain slowly started to go away, and I started to feel more and more like myself.”

In the fall of 2019, McPherson returned to campus, this time with her sister in tow. With Trinity by her side, Madison didn’t feel as intimidated as her sister did when she stepped foot on Homewood Field for the first time.

“Trinity would remind me of the things about me that were different,” Madison McPherson said. “She’d say, ‘You don’t have to be the best with stick skills. You have to out-hustle, out-compete and out-grit.”

Both made an impression, seeing time in the first several games of the 2020 season before it ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That fall, the sisters drove back to campus. Johns Hopkins’ 2021 season wasn’t going to be completely normal — conference opponents only — but their parents would be in the stands, having moved back to Maryland. And they would finally be on the field together for an entire season. Even in a not-quite-post-pandemic world, things felt right.

“It felt normal and natural in a lot of ways,” James McPherson said. “It was like, ‘Yes, this is how it’s supposed to be.’ They’re supposed to be on the same team.’”

Those days scouting out patches of grass in Manila paid off. “When they were next to each other in a defensive set, they didn’t even need to talk to each other,” Tucker said. “They just knew what to do. There was that sister, telepathic connection.”

The Blue Jays’ season ended in a loss to James Madison. Madison McPherson returned in 2022, and her name was all over the stat sheet. She tallied 33 goals, 39 points, 31 ground balls and 33 draws in Tucker’s final year.

Trinity McPherson, however, took another year off. An All-American who earned a tryout with the U.S. national team, she worked in public relations with a cybersecurity firm, volunteered with AmeriCorps and coached Harlem Lacrosse. “That year was very life-changing,” she said. “Getting to work with Harlem Lacrosse made me realize social work was something I was really passionate about.”

She’d need a master’s degree and knew she wanted to give lacrosse one more go. But there was a major requirement: sunshine.

“I opened a map of the U.S. and did research on the state with the most sunny days,” she said. “Colorado came up.”

The rumor that Colorado gets 300 sunny days per year is a myth. But McPherson was sold. It came down to Colorado State and Denver. The Pioneers, whose scoring defense consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally, seemed like a natural fit. Coach Liza Kelly agreed.

“She has a contagious energy and smile that really does light up the room,” Kelly said. “She makes you want to work harder because of how much effort she puts into her game.”

Trinity McPherson officially transferred to Denver last June. Back in Baltimore, new Johns Hopkins coach Tim McCormack was getting a similar vibe from Madison McPherson as Kelly got from her sister.

“She’s able to make good judgments and move forward,” McCormack said. “Looking at her upbringing and experiences, it definitely set her up for future success as an athlete and professionally.”

What’s next for the McPhersons?

First things first, 2023 is Madison’s year — Trinity insisted. If there’s a conflict between Denver and Hopkins games, you’ll find Rebecca and James with the Blue Jays. But everyone is keeping tabs on Trinity, especially Madison.

“I hope they have an incredible season. I really want her to get a ring,” Madison McPherson said before pausing. “A conference ring. I’ll take the natty.”

Though she’s away from her family, Trinity McPherson finds herself calling Denver home now, too.

“I got to come to Denver as a 22-year-old going on 23 who had survived a lot and made it out the other side,” she said. “I was more sure and confident in who I am and what I believe in. It made it so easy to come and make a home for myself so quickly. This team has felt like home. The coaches feel like home. I’m smiling every day, watching the sunset over the mountains.”