On The At­tack

Shift from mid­field leads to top player award for QA’s As­cione; San­tos Bates named top coach

Record Observer - - Sports - By AY­MAN ALAM aalam@star­dem.com

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

PHOTO BY CHRIS KNAUSS

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.

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