2007-07-12 / News

Jamestown girls take lacrosse to the next level

By Adrienne Downing

Ashley Smith, #14, sets up a screen for Sydney Ferguson to run through with the ball. Photo by Kim Ferguson Ashley Smith, #14, sets up a screen for Sydney Ferguson to run through with the ball. Photo by Kim Ferguson Islanders Ashley Smith and Sydney Ferguson have replaced the words rival and opponent with friend and teammate in their vocabulary this summer.

The girls, both players on the North Kingstown High School girls' lacrosse team, spent the entire spring season with their sights set on beating lacrosse powerhouse Barrington High School. Now, those Barrington players and their coach, Peter Brock, are on their side, playing as part of the Riptides, the Rhode Island elite lacrosse club.

Smith is in her first season with the team and Ferguson is in her second.

"At first I wasn't sure how he would respond to us, but he knew our strengths and our weaknesses," Smith said. "He was very inviting and respectful of our talent as lacrosse players."

Although Ferguson had played for Brock on the Riptides last year and really liked the team, her loyalties were with the Skippers and she wanted a win against the Eagles just as much as her NK teammates.

"Playing Barrington is such a challenge and they are a great team, so of course I look forward to beating them. I don't think Coach Brock felt bad when they beat us, just like it would be a lot of fun for us to beat them," Ferguson said. "That is one team and the Riptides are another situation."

Smith said Brock actually uses examples from the state championship game as teaching tools with the girls.

"He doesn't present it in a way where he is saying you did this wrong, but rather this happened and this is what would have made the outcome better," Smith said.

The goal of the Riptides is to help prepare the varsity players to play at a college level, so they are learning and playing by college rules.

Justine Reeber, a former Division I lacrosse player, Rhode Island native and lacrosse coach at King's college in Pennsylvania, is working with the girls on improving their all-around game.

"The great thing about this team is that it is making me more comfortable with the game. We are working on individual skills and becoming an all-around better player, not just working on our individual positions," Smith said.

Ferguson agreed with her and pointed out that working on the individual skills has helped her to improve other aspects of her game.

"I am now confident enough with my catching and throwing that I am a better attacker and scorer," she said. "I used to spend so much time and effort throwing and catching the ball that I was slow making plays. Now I know I will catch the ball, so I am always thinking ahead to what I am going to do with it."

Both girls did not start playing lacrosse until their sophomore year, but now thanks in part to the Riptides, both are hoping to play at the college level.

Smith, who also plays on the varsity soccer and indoor track teams, was on the softball her freshman year.

"My advisory teacher was also the JV softball coach as well as the powder-puff football coach. He saw my speed and talked me into playing softball," Smith said. "The lacrosse team always practiced next to the softball field and I would find that I paid more attention to what was going on over there than on the softball field. I found out that I did not like softball, but I really liked lacrosse."

Ferguson's story is not all that different. She started out on the sailing team her freshman year, but her drive pushed her to look for a new challenge.

"I used to be a big sailor, but I really like to run and push myself. I had some friends who were trying out for the lacrosse team and they thought it would suit me so they talked me into trying out," she said. "It worked out very well because it has become a huge priority in my life."

Her enthusiasm about the game is contagious. After just one season playing with the Riptides, she encouraged other players from NK to join her on the team for the summer.

"We really made great strides this year as a team and I did not want to loose that over the summer," Ferguson said.

She will play tennis in the fall for the Skippers and then play in a winter indoor lacrosse league with Smith to keep her game in top shape.

"I really feel like what we are doing now is going to make a big difference for our team next year," Smith concluded.

Ferguson is also looking forward to seeing what growth playing with the Riptides brings to the Skippers next season.

"I am really excited to go into my senior year and I really think this is going to be our best year yet as a team," she concluded.

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