Glenelg High School senior Kate Brinker was not the focal point of the Gladiators' field hockey team in terms of scoring, but Glenelg probably would not have won county and regional championships without her.
That's because Brinker, Glenelg's right link and The Howard County Sun's Player of the Year, specialized in doing less-heralded things. Like beating a double-team before making a perfect pass to an open teammate, or calmly controlling the ball while teammates got into the right positions, or ruining opponents' fast-break opportunities in the middle of the field.
Brinker's dependable play -- which featured the slickest stickwork in the county -- figured heavily in Glenelg's 10-4 season. The Gladiators beat Centennial to gain a share of the county title, then won the regional crown before falling to J.M. Bennett in the Class 2A state semifinals.
"She could just dominate the middle, despite being regularly double- and triple-teamed. She was our backbone," said Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid.
"With her stick work and her fast feet, she could control the ball so efficiently," Kincaid added. "She gave us time to do what we had to do.
She's one of the best athletes in the school, and she put the ball right where she wanted, which is a very difficult thing to do."
And don't get the idea Brinker couldn't score. If she had played on the front line, she might have led the league in offense.
Brinker still managed four goals and three assists.
"Each of her goals was scored on a corner, and each goal put us over the top," Kincaid said.
Indeed, Brinker scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Howard. She also scored goals to clinch a pair of 2-0 victories over Hammond. The second victory came in the regional playoffs.
Brinker, who was promoted from the junior varsity during her sophomore season, had a strong junior year. She honed her game last summer by attending several field hockey camps.
"She's such a competitor, and she used stickwork as a challenge," Kincaid said. "She set the tone for us every game. You could see the smile on her face every time she dodged someone."