Self-belief goes long way

Lacrosse: Roland Park's Kelsey Twist has all the physical tools, but it's her confidence that sets the Stanford-bound player apart.

April 29, 2001|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

At 5 feet 10, Roland Park's Kelsey Twist can be an overwhelming presence on the lacrosse field.

The senior midfielder knows how to use her height and physical strength to her team's advantage. Combine that with a background that few high school players can match - including a world championship with the U.S. under-19 team in September 1999 - and Twist's game demands attention.

Still, her field presence stems from more than just her strength and skill. Twist, 18, has an aura about her that runs much deeper.

"Kelsey is truly a confident athlete," said Bryn Mawr coach Wendy Kridel, who served as head coach of the 1999 under-19 team. "There are kids who think they feel good, but Kelsey really believes in her ability into her soul, and that is something that is very rare in a girl, let alone a female athlete."

That confidence comes through in everything Twist does, from serving as vice president of the senior class to playing three sports. All-Metro and All-America in lacrosse and twice All-Metro in field hockey, she was second-team All-Metro in basketball this winter.

"When you talk to her about critical situations, when other 17- or 18-year-old kids might falter, she has a calmness about her that carries over to the other kids," said Reds basketball coach Scott Buckley.

Her calm, all-for-one leadership style makes it easy for her confidence to rub off on her teammates.

"That's a lot of the reason why we're so successful," said Reds senior teammate Allison Higgins. "She's always had that confidence in herself to perform, and she's helped us all have that confidence in ourselves together."

Twist is playing her 12th varsity sport at Roland Park. In 11 seasons, her teams have been to league tournament finals seven times with two titles - one each in field hockey and lacrosse.

After her under-19 team experience, Twist began to focus more on lacrosse, returning home with better attack skills to go with already superb defensive ability.

She now leads the No. 4-ranked Reds (14-1) in ground balls and draw controls while contributing 22 goals and 17 assists.

However, until she began to explore academic opportunities, Twist, who carries a grade-point average of over 90 percent, wasn't sure she would play lacrosse in college. Basketball was still in the mix for a while.

"When recruiting started, the schools I was more interested in were much more competitive lacrosse schools than basketball," Twist said, "so I decided to focus on lacrosse, knowing I could be more of an impact player."

Every top-level Division I lacrosse program courted Twist, but she turned heads by choosing Stanford over tried-and-true East Coast powers Princeton, Duke and Dartmouth.

"She was the shot heard around the world," said Stanford rookie coach Michele Uhlfelder after Twist became the first East Coast blue-chip player to sign with the Cardinal.

"In terms of where Stanford lacrosse has been and where Stanford lacrosse is going, she's going to be the prototypical team member. She's going to be able to set the tone to a large degree because of her experience, her goals and her competitiveness," said Uhlfelder, whose team cracked the national Top 20 for the first time this season.

The challenge of trying to build a team to national prominence appealed to Twist, who visited Stanford last and nearly skipped the trip until her father convinced her she should at least take a look.

On the Palo Alto, Calif., campus, Twist discovered an atmosphere different from that of her East Coast private school world - a world that she felt would be similar at Princeton. Already a world traveler, having been to Australia with the under-19 team and to Russia last month on a student exchange trip, and considering a major in international relations, Twist was ready to broaden her horizons.

"The thing I was most hesitant about was the lacrosse program," said Twist, adding that she was convinced of the university's commitment to her sport during her visit.

"They've done this with sport after sport, making them nationally competitive. I really believe in what they're doing and that they're going to be successful. I think I can be a real catalyst in helping this happen," said Twist, who will be featured on ESPN's "Scholastic Sports America" on May 7.

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