When Kate Kaiser made Notre Dame Prep's varsity lacrosse team as a sophomore, coach Mary Bartel considered her "wonderfully wild."
Kaiser brought a natural aggressiveness to her game that Bartel did not want to stifle. But she also brought a wild stick that had to be tamed before she could start in the Pirates' defensive midfield.
"I used to just swing," said Kaiser, "but I had to learn when you can check and when you can't. It's just a matter of knowing when to be aggressive."
The lesson wasn't easy for Kaiser, but it didn't take long to learn. By her junior year, Kaiser had developed into one of the area's top players -- an All-Metro and All-America defense wing.
Now a senior, Kaiser is still the most aggressive player on the field, but she can contain most opponents in the open field without checking. When she does make the check, it's well-timed and usually results in a turnover.
"Kate has worked hard on controlling that aggression," said Bartel. "Everybody can make a big check but it's only a big check if it's legal and Kate came to understand that."
Behind Kaiser's example, the unbeaten Pirates continue to have one of the area's top transition games.
Her speed and her ability to anticipate ball movement result in a lot of interceptions and knockdowns in the open field. She can outduel anyone for a ground ball.
"It's reassuring to have a teammate like her," said fellow midfielder Molly Cangemi. "You know she's going to get that ball and you can start your cut upfield."
Kaiser's quickness and quick check also make her a strong defender in tight situations in front of the opposition's goal. She has a knack for catching a shooter from behind, checking the ball loose just as that opponent cranks up for her shot.
Kaiser, who also has five goals and five assists, demonstrated her versatility in the No. 2 Pirates' 15-8 victory over top-ranked St. Mary's on Tuesday. In a crucial second-half stretch, she scored a goal and then had an interception to set up another goal, sparking a six-goal NDP run that finished off the game.
"She's got a pretty complete game for this level and she doesn't let up," said St. Paul's coach Traci Magness. "She can be a big playmaker, which definitely motivates her team."
Kaiser's aggressive style flourished when she was younger in pick-up games that often included her brother Kevin, now tTC senior and a long-stick middie at Johns Hopkins.
"I remember going over to her house and playing against the boys," said Cangemi, who has played with Kaiser since they were sixth-graders on a Cockeysville rec team. "She was such a tomboy. She would run you over to get that ball."
"I've always been aggressive," said Kaiser. "I hate losing so I guess that makes me even more aggressive."
Even with her all-out efforts, Kaiser remains a steady influence on her teammates.
"She's unruffled by the ups and downs," said Bartel. "She just maintains. When she fell [in the St. Mary's game], I said to her, 'Kate, are you OK?' and she said, 'Yup, just dirty.' She is singularly focused."
Also an All-Metro field hockey player and a 3.8 student, Kaiser signed early to play lacrosse at Duke, which is currently ranked third in the nation in Division I.
Bartel has no doubt Kaiser will excel on the college level as well.
"We haven't seen the last of her improvement, because she won't stop working on it," said Bartel. "She's going to be incredible."
Pub Date: 4/05/98