Nothing gets past her

South River senior Kelly Patterson takes great pride in impeding progress - of forwards on opposing field hockey teams, that is.


A Southern of Anne Arundel forward made a dash toward South River's goal. With clever stickwork, the field hockey player wove the ball past the Seahawks' midfield and began eyeing a shot at the net.

But defender Kelly Patterson would have none of that. With three quick steps to her right, Patterson cut off the forward's angle to the goal, wrested the ball from her control and passed it upfield.

With that one defensive stop - a mere two seconds during an hour-long game on Oct. 3 - Patterson had effectively ended any hope of a Southern comeback. Five minutes later, time expired on South River's 2-0 win, the sixth shutout for the team this year.

For Patterson, a co-captain for South River who is bound for Towson University on a lacrosse scholarship, the important stop was routine, even commonplace. The senior hasn't let a single forward get past her this year, her coach said.

"She's a fantastic defender," said Katie Corcoran, South River's first-year coach who was an assistant for the past five years. "She's in the right place at the right time 99 percent of the time."

At South River, strong defense is the cornerstone of the field hockey program, Corcoran said. The No. 8 Seahawks (9-2) gained a reputation as a strong defensive team last year when they shut out Walt Whitman, 1-0, in the Class 4A state championship game despite a barrage of Whitman attacks.

This year, the defense - which is composed of junior Heather Bresnehan, sophomore Hope Battista and Patterson - has kept that reputation intact, shutting out Chesapeake of Anne Arundel, Old Mill, Glen Burnie, Meade and Southern.

It all starts with Patterson, according to her teammates.

"It's good to know she's back there," said senior co-captain Toni Lee, a midfielder who has known Patterson since elementary school. "Because if I screw up or any other midfielder screws up and lets someone by us, we know Kelly is there to stop them."

Patterson said she doesn't mind that offensive players receive more accolades - team victories are more important to her.

"In field hockey, we don't really have any statistics to show what you did individually on defense, but that doesn't bother me," Patterson said. "All I care about is if the team wins. The stat I care about is shutouts."

There are many qualities that make Patterson an excellent defender, Corcoran said. She is patient, poised and confident. She reads the field well. She notices when players are making cuts toward the goal and positions herself to stop them. In short, she understands the game in a way that many younger players can't.

And she's also incredibly fast.

A three-sport athlete, Patterson excels in indoor track and lacrosse, which she calls her best sport.

As part of her school's 1,600-meter relay team, she runs a lap in one minute, five seconds.

Her 500-meter time is 1:25 and her 800-meter time is 2:40.

As the captain of the lacrosse team, Patterson is also a skilled defender in that sport, which requires a good deal of running and sprinting. She travels all over the East Coast with her offseason lacrosse club team, CC LAX, an elite travel team.

Corcoran thinks all that time playing lacrosse and running track has paid its dividends in field hockey.

"The skills a player needs to be a good defender in lacrosse are very similar to the skills a player needs in field hockey," she said.

Patterson also has demonstrated that she has leadership skills. One of her major jobs is motivating the team's new goalie, Virginia Jorden, a sophomore.

Jorden is the younger sister of the team's former goalie, Irene Jorden, who was the hero of last year's state title victory with her 16 saves, 14 of which came in the second half.

How the younger Jorden progresses in goal, and how well Patterson, Bresnehan and Battista can protect her, will be pivotal to the team's success, Corcoran said.

"Irene was an excellent goalie. Virginia has a lot of the same raw skill that her sister had," Patterson said. "She just needs to be pumped up every once in a while and reminded to stay focused. She has improved a lot since the beginning of the year. If we, as a defense, play well, that gives her confidence."

Patterson also sets a good example for her teammates in the classroom, Corcoran said. She maintains a 4.0 grade point average and part of her scholarship to Towson is based on academics.

"She's a great leader on and off the field," Corcoran said.

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