Girls’ lax team begins its bid to defend title
They’re young. They’re talented. And they’re hungry for another state title, according to the Jamestowners on the North Kingstown High School girls’ varsity lacrosse team.
In all, six islanders – two seniors, one junior and three sophomores – made the 2012 varsity squad. The islanders who will help the Skippers defend their title is seniors Danielle Jennings, who is also one of the team captains, and Samantha Leonard, junior Shannah Crowell, and sophomores Margot Janson, Nina Diepenbrock and Tara Maey Petrie.
“The team is loaded with new faces this year,” said coach Keith Higgins, “but they are a determined bunch of girls. They have set high standards for themselves and come to the field with a very good work ethic. We are going to take this season game by game and look to improve every day.”
At a recent practice, the varsity worked on eluding double-team traps and on taking the ball out behind the net.
“What was that?” Higgins shouted when one of the players made a weak pass to a teammate.
“We have some work to do on the basic stuff,” Jennings, 18, said after practice, “but overall, we’ve played well.”
The Skippers finished the second week of action with a 2-1 record. After beating South Kingstown 10-9 in their season opener on April 3, the squad dropped a close match on the road against East Greenwich on April 5, 14- 12. They bounced back with a 9-8 win against Cranston West a week later.
East Greenwich and Barrington are the Skippers’ two main rivals, Margot, 16, said.
According to Maey, this season is going to be a rebuilding year for the Skippers, after 12 players graduated from last year’s championship team.
“We lost a lot of good players last year,” said Maey, 15.
For sure, both 2011 teams will be a hard act to follow. While the varsity team finished atop the Division I standings and won the state title, the junior varsity team finished the season undefeated. According to Shannah, 16, the team couldn’t claim a title because the junior varsity doesn’t play for a state championship.
Shannah was on the JV squad that went unbeaten last year, and this year she made the varsity team. She started playing lacrosse in eighth grade in a North Kingstown rec league. She said she tried it out because she wanted to play a different sport, “other than soccer or basketball.”
The Skippers are playing well as a team, the players said, even though it’s early in the season. And despite the challenges with a young, inexperienced team, the 2012 players also have high hopes they will be contenders for another state title.
“It’s a rebuilding year, but we’ll be pretty strong,” Jennings said.
The Skippers have already caught one bad break, so far. In a preseason scrimmage against La Salle, which North Kingstown won but doesn’t count in its record, Sam Leonard hurt her knee in a collision with one of the Rams. At practice last week, Sam said the knee was “hyperextended” but remained too swollen to undergo an MRI, so she could not say how long the injury would sideline her.
She heard it pop, though, when she was injured. Her teammates picked up a tree branch lying on the practice field and snapped it in two to indicate the sound.
“I was playing defense and the girl just ran through,” said Sam, who as a midfielder plays both offense and defense.
Shannah is primarily a defensive player, a role that she said encompasses a lot of things. “You want to the stop ball from advancing, but also steal it, if you can,” she said.
As for Margot, she plays center, which means she starts off the game fighting for possession. “I also draw off the ball when somebody gets a goal,” she said.
Along with the six varsity players, there are five more islanders – all freshmen – following right behind on the junior varsity team. The up-and-comers are Brie Bryer, Grace Lynn, Rachel O’Neill, Jamie Leonard and Allie Baldwin, who will ensure Jamestown will be a factor on the lacrosse field for at least the next three years.
Brie, 14, came away with a victory in her very first JV match. The Skippers won its first game, 8-6, against South Kingstown. Brie played defensive wing, and this is her first time playing lacrosse.
“I don’t know why,” she said. “I just wanted to try something different.”
Grace, 14, is a newcomer, too. She decided to take up lacrosse because “it looked like fun.” Grace said Lawn Avenue School had a team, but she didn’t know about it when she was in middle school.
“It wasn’t really publicized,” she said. According to Grace, she played defensive wing in her first game just like Brie, which calls for a lot of running.
Jaime Leonard, 14, played the low defensive position by the net. “My sister played and I wanted a spring sport,” she said when asked why she wanted to play lacrosse.
Rachel O’Neill, 14, played lacrosse before when she was a Pennfi eld student. She plays attack wing. “I do a lot of running,” she said. “It’s attack midfield. I bring it up the field to try to score.”