In this year’s Essex Rotary senior all-star game, senior Kathleen Young found herself in an unfamiliar position: On the losing side.
With seconds to go and the goalie pulled, Young, the state’s best field hockey player with a spot on the team at Division I Harvard in her back pocket, dove in front of shots to keep them out of the empty net.
Diving in front of pucks, in an all-star game?
“Ooh, I did not want to lose that game,” Young said. “I’m definitely a competitive person, I like to win for my team, my coaches. I like to win in general, because it’s fun to win.”
The senior’s desire to win came out a few weeks earlier, in the Division I state championship game. She fired in a goal just 30 seconds into the game and, by the time the game was over, Young had a hat trick and an assist — for a D-I title game record four points — and the Hornets had their second straight state crown.
“I was more nervous coming into the championship game than she was,” said Essex coach John Maddalena. “There was no way she was going to lose that game.
“She’s an incredible competitor.”
That competitive fire, combined with game-breaking quickness, helped the senior rack up 34 goals and 11 assists, and the Burlington Free Press’ Miss Hockey award, given to the state’s top player each year.
“She’s got the entire package,” Maddalena said. “She’s incredibly quick, she’s got great hands and she’s got a remarkable shot and that’s unique for a high school player.
“That is what made her the best player in years in girls hockey in Vermont.”
Young, who led the Hornets to four state championship games and three titles, has been the offensive pacesetter in her career. This season, though, the senior took it up a notch.
“There are lots of skilled players, but they may not improve over four years because they don’t work that hard,” Maddalena said. “Kathleen never gives up. On the ice, if we’re doing conditioning, she’s always first. In the weight room, the sweat’s dripping off of her.
“Her work ethic is incredible. No matter what she tackles, she gives it 110 percent.”
A naturally quick player — Young also showcased a lot of speed on the field hockey field — the forward broke free for a number of goals.
“Coaches talked to me at the beginning of year, saying ‘I didn’t realize she was so quick,’ Maddalena said. “I think that’s one of the things that separates her, she goes from zero to 100 in two seconds.
“If you give her any space at all, she is going to take it and blow right past you.”
But the senior added some slick stickhandling skills to her repertoire this season and that helped her lead the team back to final.
“I think ‘Doc’ (Maddalena) would say that it’s taking risks and not worrying about looking like a fool,” Young said of how she has improved her stick work. “That’s something I try and do to push myself, not worry about what it looks like the first few times around.”
Young finished her career with 97 goals and 49 assists,. Maybe more impressive than the numbers are how important the goals were to her team.
“She thrives under that pressure,” Maddalena said. “In those situations where we really need that goal, she figures out a way to get it in the net.”
Young is quick to credit her success on the ice to her four-year linemate Melanie Theriault.
“Melanie and I work particularly well together,” Young said. “Over the past four years, we have grown to work together even better than we did as freshmen.”
Maddalena added, “It’s a combination that was meant to be. I tried some different combinations this year to spread the scoring around but come the end of the season, it was clear that if we were going to be successful those two had to play together.”
The success that Young has had with her teammates will make it even harder to step away from the game, the senior said. With a D-I college sport on the horizon, Young will likely have to say goodbye to hockey.
“It’s been a fast four years, it’s been a great ride. I’m grateful for every moment of it,” Young said. “I am very sad to see it go.”
But she has certainly left her mark on the program.
“Part of our success is these exceptional individuals really buying into the idea that it’s about the team,” Maddalena said. “It’s about the team goal of trying to get back to The Gut and winning that last game. She’s certainly a good example of that.
“Everyone sees how talented she is but still, she works harder than everybody else as well. Nobody wants to be the slacker when you have people like that setting the example.”
MISS HOCKEY WINNERS
2015: Kathleen Young, Essex
2014: Victoria Gibson, Essex
2013: Shanley Howrigan, BFA-St. Albans
2012: Hayley Arnold, Spaulding
2011: Sophia Steinhoff, CVU
2010: Julie Pearl, Essex
2009: Julie Pearl, Essex
2008: Caitlin Manahan, BFA-St. Albans
2007: Maggie DiMasi, Burlington
2006: Chelsea Furlani, Colchester
2005: Sophie Leclerc, Spaulding
2004: Alessandra LaFiandra, Middlebury
2003: Ellen Sargent, BFA-St. Albans
2002: Kristine Dodd, BFA-St. Albans