Kickham makes time count Late start in lacrosse: Mount Hebron senior excels at sport after taking it up in high school.

April 19, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Soccer was Julie Kickham's life.

"It was everything to me," said the Mount Hebron senior.

Kickham started playing soccer in fourth grade. She loved the game and played it well.

Lacrosse?

Never gave it a thought.

Until, that is, when neighbor and friend Amy Fine told her about the summer lacrosse camp at Mount Hebron.

"I had never played before," said Kickham. "She told me to give it a shot and I did and it worked out pretty well."

You could say that.

Kickham attended the camp two months before her freshman year. Almost four years later, she is the best lacrosse player in the county.

"She's worked hard to develop skills that have made her one of the top four or five all-around players in the area," said Chris Robinson, Mount Hebron's girls lacrosse coach.

When she began at Mount Hebron, Kickham had no idea that lacrosse -- and not soccer -- would lead to a scholarship.

"I didn't realize where I could go with this, the opportunities I would have," Kickham said. "There are a lot more options with lacrosse and a lot more money."

Kickham, ranked ninth in her class with a 3.86 GPA and a 1,360 SAT score, visited North Carolina, Dartmouth, Duke and William & Mary. She selected North Carolina, where she will join three former Mount Hebron players -- Fine, Lori Pasquantonio and Erin McGinnis, a freshman who is leading the Tar Heels in scoring with 41 goals and 19 assists.

"I see her coming in here as a defensive midfielder, although I know she does everything in high school," said North Carolina coach Jenny Slingluff, a Roland Park graduate who began the Tar Heels' program this year. "Julie is a player that will dominate the high school level this year and has the potential to grow as a college player."

Kickham made the varsity soccer and basketball teams as a freshman and was moved up to the varsity lacrosse team midway through the season.

She continued playing soccer and lacrosse, but quit basketball after her sophomore year because of time constraints.

Her interest in lacrosse grew in her sophomore year and became even stronger in her junior. More colleges became interested in her as a lacrosse player. The advice and guidance from P.J. Kesmodel, who retired as the Vikings' lacrosse coach at the end of last season, would be invaluable.

"He told me there were so many more opportunities [in lacrosse]," Kickham said. "He told me to stay with it and he was right. He really quided me through this."

It was last summer that Kickham really began to focus on lacrosse, playing for the Chesapeake team and playing in two leagues. She also worked extremely hard on her offensive skills, something that became necessary because Robinson needed her to play center this season.

"Her natural position is defense. She's phenomenal at it," Robinson said. "She was the best defensive player in the state last year."

But the four-time state champion Vikings lost their top four scorers from last year's team, and Robinson wanted Kickham to direct the attack.

"I'll do whatever it takes to help the team," said Kickham, who leads the fifth-ranked Vikings (6-1, 1-0) with 17 goals. "I was glad. It forced me to improve my offensive skills."

She has incorporated things learned in soccer and basketball to better herself in lacrosse. Perhaps the most important facet has been the footwork she developed through coach Dave Greenberg's basketball program.

"She's always in the proper position defensively," said Robinson.

Kickham has what all good players must: strength and speed. What makes her special is her ability to anticipate and her natural field sense.

Kickham made first team all-county and second-team all-state in soccer last fall, and still plays for the Columbia Spirit, one of the area's most successful travel teams.

She loves soccer, but it is lacrosse that opened doors.

"I never imagined it," Kickham said. "I've grown up playing soccer more or less. But P.J. always said there would be a good future [in lacrosse] for me."

She has her North Carolina t-shirts, bumper sticker and even a decal on her car window. She is set to go, and ready to relax and enjoy her last month of high school.

"Finding success in a sport is rewarding," Kickham said. "To know that all your hard work has paid off is satisfying."

Pub Date: 4/19/96

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