Defender joins team late and makes big impact as starter
Kristen Schmidt is enjoying a successful junior season as a starting defender on the Keene State lacrosse team, but she took an unconventional route to get there.
In her freshman year, Schmidt decided not to play a sport.
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“I guess I thought it would be too overwhelming and I decided to take some time off,” Schmidt said. “I never had gone a season without playing a sport so I just wanted to know what it would be like to have that flexibility.”
Schmidt sounded like any other incoming freshman when she said she wanted to make sure she had time for things like her social and academic life.
The college transition is hard enough without having to adjust to being a college athlete.
A lot of students decide to take a year off and never go back to playing the sport they loved.
But Kristen has always had a passion for lacrosse since she started playing in sixth grade.
A New York native, Schmidt’s high school, Pleasantville High School, didn’t even have a varsity lacrosse team until she was a sophomore there, but Schmidt wasn’t discouraged. That passion motivated her to pick up a stick again last year.
“Last year I tried out with the rest of the girls and made the team,” Schmidt recalls.
But it’s clear her ability wasn’t simply handed to her.
“I’ve been working my butt off since then. I push myself everyday, working really hard in the offseason, getting in shape and staying in shape,” Schmidt said.
Count sophomore mid-fielder Eliza Witherbee as one of many that have been impressed with Schmidt’s professional approach to the game.
“She hustles really hard and doesn’t give up in times when other people might,” said Witherbee.
Witherbee, who has been playing with Schmidt since she came to Keene State College, can see her teammate’s passion.
“She probably got it from when she first started playing, just getting encouragement throughout the years that she’s played,” Schmidt said.
Being driven goes a long way, but lacrosse is a team sport. Witherbee was quick to note that Schmidt’s play has helped the entire team.
“She’s really good at communicating and she encourages us all the time, through every play, even if you make a mistake,” Witherbee said.
Witherbee also explained that Schmidt’s confidence was contagious, adding to her role as a great team player.
Schmidt impresses off the field as well.
“She’s a nice person so she is fun to be around and she’s just a great kid,” Witherbee added.
The girls seem to be responding to Schmidt’s leadership.
Now in the heart of the season, the team is currently 7-2 and is a perfect 4-0 at home.
They haven’t allowed more than eight points since March 24 thanks to the recent strong play of defenders like Schmidt.
After starting its season just 2-2, including an overtime thriller in its first game over St. Michael’s, it appears the team is getting hot at the right time.
“We have a chance to go far. The team has a lot more potential than it’s had in the past few seasons,” Schmidt said.
But the season started amid uncertainty.
“We have girls who were on the bench all last year getting a lot of playing time,” Schmidt said. “In some cases their now our leading scorers.”
It’s clear Schmidt never doubted her untested players.
That unwavering support from an upper class leader like Schmidt helped just as much as practice did.
Looking back, Schmidt has come a long way after her unorthodox detour.
She is quick to pass the credit to those around her.
“I’ve definitely grown as a person. Being around all these players and with all the different coaches, it’s definitely helped my game. I’ve definitely improved my lacrosse skills,” Schmidt said.
It seems Schmidt doesn’t look at her freshman year as a year lost but an opportunity taken, a chance to establish a comfort zone in a new environment.
Now that the environment isn’t so new anymore, it’s clear Schmidt has done more than just adapted, she has excelled.
Zachary Winn can be contacted at email@example.com