On The Attack
Shift from midfield leads to top player award for QA’s Ascione; Santos Bates named top coach
Players often switch positions in the offseason, affording ample time to adjust to new responsibilities and expectations.
For Madison Ascione in 2016, time was of the greatest essence.
The Queen Anne’s County High junior was approached by the coaching staff midseason and was asked to shift from a free-wheeling midfielder, where she had already cemented herself as one of the area’s best, to attack.
The Lions were hurting for scoring, Ascione was the best scorer on the team, and the move was necessary.
“Her level of play this year really stepped up in the middle of the season,” Lions head coach Penelope Santos Bates said of Ascione; Santos Bates is the All-Mid-Shore coach of the year for the third time in eight seasons. “She was constantly getting three, or four goals each game, and then middle of the season, I looked at her, and I looked at McKenna Blick and said, ‘You need to drop seven or eight goals. That’s your job, put the ball in the net’. Now that we have popped the top off the can, she is totally going to dominate.
“I have to give my other coaches credit, because I am kind of in a mindset of attack, middie, defense,” Santos Bates added. “Beginning of the season, we had issues putting the ball in the cage, and the coaching staff, we put our heads together and started drawing things up, and it was suggested we put her on attack. We talked about the pros and cons, and realizing how excellent our defense was, we realized we weren’t losing anything. By putting her on attack, we were actually gaining her being able to rise offensively.”
Ascione turned that move into a flourish over the final weeks of the season, and though she missed the first two games of the Class 2A/1A East Region playoffs due to a hand injury, she sustained her excellence at a new position and helped guide the Lions into the state playoffs, while earning The Star Democrat 2016 All-Mid-Shore girls’ lacrosse player of the year.
“The experience was definitely weird, because I’m not used to playing attack,
where your main goal is to just score,” Ascione said. “It was definitely something I haven’t done before, and Santos, she told me, ‘You got to get at least five goals’, so I tried my best to put some goals on the board for us.
“Growing up, I remember coming to the lacrosse games ... I remember Mollie Stevens playing, I remember Kallie German playing, and they were so aggressive on the offensive end; they knew what they needed to do,” Ascione added. “When I got to high school, playing with Kallie German and also Anna O’Donnell, she was a senior when I was a freshman, seeing them take over on the offensive end, I knew what had to be done to be the best player I can be.”
The numbers belied Ascione’s true impact.
She finished with 56 goals (a Mid-Shore high), 11 assists and 35 ground balls, fairly modest when compared to recent top players, but it stacked up well against the other three finalists: Kent County’s Kate Bartholomew, Kent Island’s Payton Beach and Saints Peter and Paul’s Megan Hickey.
“Madison is a very special lacrosse player; she is extremely humble,” Santos Bates said. “But, she shows her eliteness with her level of play but also with her hard work and dedication. I actually coached Madison when she was in the fourth grade, I was helping out with Centreville Youth Lacrosse, and she was playing with a sixthgrade team. I went up to her parents and said, ‘One day, this kid is going to be a superstar’. She’s got this softness with her stick that I’ve really not seen with a lot of players. Her speed and quickness is unlike anyone I’ve ever seen, but she’s indiscreet.”
Added Ascione: “I’m very humble for it, winning the award. I’ve never seen myself as one of the top players, so it’s definitely a confidencebooster.”
Ascione injured her right hand — her dominant hand — May 4 against Kent Island; she played in the Bayside Conference Championship against Stephen Decatur six days later, and scored a goal in the 7-6 loss with the hand still bothering her.
The coaching staff decided to shut her down thereafter, and she sat the first two playoff games — a 19-6 win over North Caroline in the Section II semifinal and a 13-6 defeat of Kent County in the section final — before re-emerging in the East Region championship.
Re-energized and mostly healed, Ascione lit up Southern-Anne Arundel for seven goals in a 15-8 runaway, clinching the Lions’ eighth consecutive berth in the state playoffs.
“Since I got to rest two games prior, my hand was definitely feeling better,” Ascione said. “I knew this was a big game, and even though my hand still hurt, it was something I couldn’t think about. When it comes to big games like that, you really have to be ready.”
Manchester Valley stood in the way for a third straight year, and the Mavericks sported arguably the finest collection of talent faced by any team during Santos Bates’ tenure.
The Lions actually managed to hold a slim lead in the semifinal — a 2-1 edge after Ascione’s second goal of the game — but it was all Manchester Valley from there, as the two-time defending champions cruised to an 18-2 victory. The Mavericks completed the three-peat five days later at Stevenson University, a 22-3 pasting of Fallston.
Ascione’s early spurt on the scoring column in the state semis led to Manchester Valley shadowing her tightly the rest of the way.
“We were able to work with her on that this year, but next year, everyone is going to know her name, and we’re going to have to change up the way she plays based on how people cover her,” Santos Bates said. “That will open up other players, as well.”
Added Ascione: “One thing that really killed us during that game were draws. It’s something that I really need to personally work on. We have to find ways to get everyone involved more.”
Despite integrating seven freshmen into the fold, a high-water mark for Santos Bates during her eight-year run with the program, the Lions still ripped through the Eastern Shore and 2A/1A East. But their coach again witnessed firsthand where her team needs to be in order to hang tough with the state’s best.
“As far as beginning of the season with the underclassmen, we knew we had a very, very young team,” Santos Bates said. “With the juniors and sophomores, they knew from the year before how hard we had to play and they knew what it looked like, so they had an expectation going into the season.
“The freshmen fit in very well with the sophomores, juniors and seniors,” Santos Bates added. “The high level of play, the games that we do play over the season, the Severns, the St. Mary’s, the Cape Henlopens, also Stephen Decatur and Kent Island, they always challenge us. We know what high level competition looks like. These kids that get to experience that their freshman year, it shows them the expectation has been set, and we carry it on.”
That roadblock, however, cleared up in the offseason, as Manchester Valley stepped up to the 3A/2A ranks. The work, and im-
“I’m very humble for it, winning the award. I’ve never seen myself as one of the top players, so it’s definitely a confidence-booster.” Madison Ascione Junior attack, Queen Anne’s 2016 All-Mid-Shore player of the year
provement, however, doesn’t stop for Santos Bates’ squad, one that is now chasing its own ghosts year to year as the accolades and awards pile up.
“We knew from this past year, when we played Manchester Valley, what excellence looks like,” Santos Bates said. “They know what it looks like, they know how they have to play.
“Every single player on Manchester Valley, they were able to be elite,” Santos Bates added. “We need 12 elite players on the field. I think this year coming up is going to be special, because we have what it takes to be elite.”
The position change could ultimately prove a boon for Ascione, as she has already committed to playing at Georgetown University. Many top-flight prep athletes face an arduous transition once reaching the college level, transitions that include, but are not limited to, switching to the other side of the ball, scrapping for minutes, and going from a mentor to protege role.
“You never think you’re going to be in a select group of people who get this chance,” Ascione said. “I talked to all the kids in my grade, and they remind me of how awesome an experience this is, to be able to continue playing lacrosse after high school.”
The cavalcade of veterans running the show when Ascione first broke into the Queen Anne’s varsity assured there would be plenty of players to emulate. She is now setting the standard, and hopes to continue to do so for another year as the Lions pursue that elusive state title.
Change, however, beckons thereafter, but Queen Anne’s County High’s production of standout Mid-Shore players remains a constant. Ascione is the latest, and she now, like so many before her, has a chance to pass the torch to a new generation of Lions.
“Since every year is different, we have to adjust, and each player, individually, has to adjust,” Ascione said. “We have some people playing different positions, and it’s about whatever works.
“I think with such a strong senior class coming up, we’re going to be able to lead the younger kids,” Ascione added. “Last year, the now-juniors and now-sophomores, they saw what we had to go through, so they’ll know what’s ahead, which is good.”
* * * Here is a look at the 2016 All-Mid-Shore girls’ lacrosse teams:
Attack Kelly Shields, Sr.
Kent Island The Indiana University of Pennsylvania-bound Shields posted a strong, all-around season with 33 goals, 29 assists and 12 ground balls. She is also a member of Maryland United Lacrosse Club. Taylor Quade, Sr. Sts. Peter & Paul The steadying hand for the Sabres offense, Quade, off to Queens (N.C.) University this fall, was an Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference first-teamer who tallied 27 goals and a MidShore high 48 assists. Caroline Murphy, So.
Sts. Peter & Paul
Murphy erupted during her second season on varsity, scoring 55 goals (second in the Mid-Shore) and dishing 12 helpers while being named ESIAC first-team. Audrey Helfenbein, Jr.
Kent County Top player finalist Kate Bartholomew’s running mate who also excelled at multiple positions, Helfenbein scored 32 goals and pitched in 20 assists, 20 draws and 30 ground balls. Brennan Paddy, So.
Gunston Herons head coach Jeff Smith said Paddy is the “most dynamic player in recent school history”, high praise considering the scoring talent Gunston has sported over the last decade. Paddy led the Herons’ offense with 37 goals, and added 12 assists while being named first-team ESIAC and Capital Area Lacrosse League. Ellie Roser, So.
Easton Roser paced the Warriors in goals as a freshman, and continued her assault on the school’s record books the following season, tallying 36 goals, 13 assists, 18 ground balls and 17 draw controls. The Maryland and District of Columbia Lacrosse Club member also led an epic rally by the Warriors in the annual Talbot Lacrosse Association Bull Roast against town rival Saints Peter and Paul, where she finished with four goals and two assists and netted the game-winner with 13.4 seconds left to play. Emma Skoglund, Jr.
Easton Skoglund has verbally committed to Salisbury University, and continues her ascent among the Eastern Shore’s best. She scored at least 30 goals for the third straight varsity season, finishing with 32 goals, seven assists, 12 ground balls and 24 draw controls. She is also a member of MD United.
Midfield Kate Bartholomew, Sr.
Kent County Bartholomew, who will attend St. Mary’s College, capped a sensational career with a fourth straight selection to the All-Mid-Shore first team, the only player on this list with the distinction.
She played midfield, attack and defender throughout her senior year, and the finalist for the player of the year award registered 53 goals, 30 assists, 52 draw controls and 40 grounders, all among the top five in the Mid-Shore. Payton Beach, Sr.
Kent Island Another finalist for the top player award, Beach scored 45 goals and chipped in 14 assists, 36 draws and 15 ground balls. She is a member of MD United and will attend Virginia Tech this fall.
A.J. Wilder, Sr.
Kent Island Part of one of the best midfield units on the Eastern Shore, the MD United performer bookended her Kent Island career with 27 goals, 25 draw controls and 15 ground balls and will play for Rollins (Fla.) College next spring. Melissa Judge, Sr.
Kent Island The quarterback of an offense that racked up over 220 goals, Judge netted 16 goals, 10 assists, 31 draw controls and 15 ground balls before departing for Franklin and Marshall (Pa.). Judge is also a Chesapeake Club Lacrosse alum. Megan Hickey, Jr. Sts. Peter & Paul Hickey, who has committed to Boston University, was named the ESIAC co-player of the year and ESIAC first team, finishing the season with 51 goals, 20 assists and 93 draw controls, the latter the Mid-Shore’s highest by a wide margin. Stephanie Miller, Sr.
Easton Miller has been a staple and excellent contributor throughout her career, and finished her senior season with 23 goals, eight assists, 16 ground balls and 11 draw controls while being a primary ball-handler. The Maryland United Lacrosse Club alum will attend Monmouth University this fall. McKenna Blick, Jr.
Queen Anne’s Blick, another Shore talent who plans to head to Queens, scored 48 goals, dished 19 assists and scooped 42 ground balls for the Class 2A-1A state semifinalists.
Defense Emily D’Orsaneo, Sr.
Queen Anne’s The area’s top defender and the captain of the Lions’ backfield, D’Orsaneo routinely checked the oppositions’ best scorers and also picked up 16 loose balls. She will attend Coastal Carolina. Jen Douglas, Jr. Sts. Peter & Paul Douglas shored up the Sabres’ backfield, totaling 23 ground balls, six interceptions, four takeaways and was on the ESIAC first team. Rebbecca Clay, Jr.
Queen Anne’s Clay will likely slide into D’Orsaneo’s role as Queen Anne’s go-to stopper, and showed her nose for the ball with 28 ground balls.
Goalie Emily Karbaum, Jr.
Queen Anne’s Karbaum racked up 108 saves as the Lions’ primary goalie, including 12 in the North Bayside clincher against Kent Island, seven against Kent County in the 2A/1A East Section II final and seven more in the region final win over Southern. She will attend Northern Michigan University beginning Fall 2018.
“The freshmen fit in very well with the sophomores, juniors and seniors. The high level of play, the games that we do play over the season, the Severns, the St. Mary’s, the Cape Henlopens, also Stephen Decatur and Kent Island, they always challenge us. We know what high level competition looks like. Penelope Santos Bates Head coach, Queen Anne’s 2016 All-Mid-Shore coach of the year
Queen Anne’s County’s Madison Ascione looks for an open teammate, pursued by Kent Island’s Melissa Judge, who is alongside Payton Beach, during the Lions’ 10-5 victory last season. Ascione scored 55 goals, dished 11 assists and corralled 35 ground balls while helping the Lions reach the Class state playoffs for an eighth straight year, earning The Star Democrat All-Mid-Shore player of the year award.