With a freeze warning in the forecast, the Kingston Lady Tigers lacrosse team girded for its most important game of the season against the visiting Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders. With both teams entering the contest with only a single loss each, the victor would effectively claim an Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association division title and, with it, home-field advantage in sectional play.
About 90 minutes later, as the hardy Kingston faithful filed out of Dietz, there was no doubt as to the outcome. Within a minute of the opening face-off, Kingston had taken the lead as Taylor Thompson received a nifty fast-break assist from center Ariana Parker, depositing the ball on one hop into the Crusader net and setting the tone for a 15-3 Kingston romp.
In the aftermath of the victory, the Lady Tigers improved to a dominating 12-1, while dropping the second place Crusaders to 10-2. Kingston, with three more regular season contests left to play, has beaten Monroe-Woodbury twice this season, by a combined score of 29-8.
Attacker Cassie Bouton, who had a career-best game that included five goals and four assists, led Kingston. Senior co-captain Britney Themistocles chipped in four scores in the blowout victory.
“Our kids played really well. They pressured us but we responded and played a good, strong game,” said Kingston coach Debbie Eaton.
Shooting for a regional win
The Lady Tigers have high expectations this season. Despite a team with only four seniors in the starting lineup, Kingston is dominating area competition. But to a degree, Kingston has suffered for its manhandling of the opposition.
Earlier in the season, a poll by the New York State Sportswriters Association ranked the Lady Tigers as high as 15th in the state for Class A schools. According to Eaton, the relatively lackluster OCIAA competition reflected poorly on Kingston and caused the team to drop out of the rankings for a time, although the Lady Tigers currently occupy the 20th spot in the writers’ poll.
As the season creeps towards its denouement, Kingston is taking its play to an entirely different level. Prior to the game against Monroe-Woodbury, the Lady Tigers had completely dismantled its two previous opponents, Middletown and Red Hook by a combined score of 23-0.
Of course, the flip side to dominating the competition is the possibility of falling into complacency and taking opponents for granted. Even in pre-game warm-ups, Eaton noted that her team seemed perhaps a tad too relaxed before such a big game.
It’s the responsibility of coaches to keep their charges properly motivated. However nonchalant Kingston may have appeared, once the game began the home team certainly brought the requisite intensity to the task at hand.
“We have the biggest bull’s-eye on our backs and we can never forget it,” said Eaton.
After the opening salvo by Thompson, Kingston scored two more goals within the first five minutes and the score stood at a lopsided 10-1 just a few minutes into the second half. The game was characterized by a calm, patient Kingston offense that time and again made the extra pass around the net for the best possible look at the goal. The passing was crisp and the motion was precise. The Lady Tigers moved with fluidity and discipline.
An aspect of Kingston success might not be immediately apparent in the final statistical analysis. Defensive penalties or yellow cards can spell doom in lacrosse. A slash to an opponent will admit a player to a three-minute stay on the sidelines, leaving her team shorthanded and putting a damper on an aggressive offense. Penalties like this have been conspicuously absent from Kingston’s play.
“We have the least amount of yellow cards in the league. We’ve cleaned up our game and figured it out. We’re playing the game the way it should be played,” said Eaton.
At the eye of the Kingston storm is the senior co-captain Parker. A multi-sport star, Parker is set to play Division I lacrosse next year on scholarship to SUNY Albany. Parker brings immense leadership skills, as well as superior physical skills.
“She’s a leader on the field. She may look laid back but she is always on the ball. She never gets tired. With her speed she can run endline to endline and she sees the field really well,” said Eaton.
In the victory over Monroe-Woodbury, Parker, who is the team’s leading scorer was content to yield center stage to her teammates and direct the offense like an orchestral conductor.
“We have so many girls who can score. It’s just a good for me if we get the win. We were really pumped up coming into the game. I knew we had to slow it down and keep an eye out for assists. We did a good job of looking for open girls,” said Parker.
Another major offensive weapon is Themistocles who has a knack for positioning herself in the right place at exactly the right time. Despite a young team, Themistocles said the squad has been playing together at various levels for the better part of four years.
“We started playing together in the eighth grade playing modified. We play really well together. The key is seeing each other well on the field. We have great chemistry,” she said.
The catalyst for Kingston’s strong offensive game is an aggressive defense that is led by co-captain Kiley Markes. Time and again when a Monroe-Woodbury attacker was in the Kingston zone, she was invariably met by multiple Tiger defenders.
“You have to watch the positioning of your feet. It takes agility and being patient with how you check. You have to allow them to get tired before you make your move,” said Markes.
Beyond winning a sectional title, the goal for Kingston is to win a game in the regional round of play. This is something that has never been done by a Section 9 team. That could change this year. The only blemish on Kingston’s record is a tough 8-7 loss to eighth-ranked Guilderland in April.
How far the Lady Tigers go will be decided in the coming weeks, but whatever happens, the 2010 season has been an unqualified success story.