Hentz finishes job for Panthers

Girls lacrosse: North Carroll senior attack Kellyn Hentz knows her duty is to score, seeing it as the culmination of the whole team's effort and the natural outlet for her intensity.

April 18, 1999|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Despite her gaudy offensive numbers, North Carroll's Kellyn Hentz is the first to admit she can't do it alone. To the 17-year-old, scoring is simply the natural culmination of a team effort that begins on defense.

Still, there's also no other feeling quite like it.

"When the ball goes through 11 players before it gets to you, you know you need to finish it off," said Hentz, the Panthers' senior attacker. "Finally, when you make the shot, it makes the whole team effort seem like it paid off."

This season, those efforts have been paying off in a big way.

Through six games, Hentz has 37 goals and 10 assists, leading the No. 14-ranked Panthers to a 5-1 mark, 2-1 in Carroll County. After earning All-County honors with 53 goals and eight assists last year, she's added a new dimension to her game, her coach said.

"She's worked so hard during the off-season to improve her game," said North Carroll coach Denean Koontz. "She's a better shooter now. She worked on placing her shots and came up with a variety of shots this season, rather than just a hard, strong side shot. She's also gotten stronger and learned to make better cuts."

Her quickness with her stick, ability to use both hands and ease at reading opposing defenses are what Koontz said makes her so hard to stop.

A soccer player most of her life, Hentz picked up lacrosse in seventh grade, drawn to the sport's speed and constant action. She quickly found she could use her quickness to blow past defenders on offense and was called up to North Carroll's varsity near the end of her freshman season.

"Speed helps," said Hentz. "When you're fast, you can beat your defender. But it's something that's also built into you. You just want to be a finisher. You've got to move the goalie. You've got to fake her out, just like you fake out a defender to get open."

She learned about that, as well as some of the finer points of the game, from her father, Lawrence, who played lacrosse and football at Hampden-Sydney (Va.) College. She also has benefited from two sisters who excel in lacrosse, as well.

Older sister Ahna is one of the top scorers for Bridgewater (Va.) College as a sophomore, and younger sister Lacey is a standout sophomore at North Carroll.

What really separates Hentz from the pack, however, is her ultra-competitive nature. It's something that carries through to just about all aspects of her life and what pushes her to continually improve her game.

"Kellyn is a competitor in everything she does, and that's why she's successful," said Koontz. "She hates to lose, and she's her toughest critic."

Her attitude insures she'll never get a bloated ego, no matter what her statistics may seem to imply.

"I'm always getting down on myself about things I could do better," Hentz said. "Even if I had a good game, I still critique things I need to improve on."

Improvement is something Hentz has done quite a bit of in recent months.

Last summer, she played for the Chesapeake region team at the U.S. Women's Lacrosse Association National Schoolgirl Tournament. She said playing with and against the nation's best players was invaluable.

"You go from high school, where you play teams that sometimes don't know how to catch, to where everybody has to try out and get picked," she said. "The level of competition makes you want to do better. You want to step up to their level."

Playing at nationals also made her a household name to coaches from dozens of the country's top colleges. After months of narrowing her choices, she recently picked Virginia Tech, where her father attended graduate school. She said spending an afternoon at the West Virginia-Virginia Tech football game and watching tens of thousands of fans was the clincher.

There, she plans on studying biology with hopes of one day becoming a marine biologist.

For now, however, her objective is to win games, with an eye on knocking off powerful Liberty, which has handed the Panthers all four of their losses in the past two seasons. The teams meet again April 27.

Following Thursday's 18-4 win over Westminster, in which she scored seven goals, Hentz both refuted her critics and perfectly laid out her job description.

"Sometimes people say that I score too much," she said. "But that's my job. I play on the attack. It's what I have to do."

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