Field hockey season in review: Kayla Cooke rises to collegiate ranks

Contact Reporterkholtzman@vagazette.com

When Kayla Cooke arrived at Warhill as a sophomore transfer from Williamsburg Christian Academy, she wondered if she'd even make the varsity field hockey team.

Turns out she didn't have much to worry about. Following the conclusion of a successful three-year Lions career, the senior closed the fall by signing to play at Newberry College in South Carolina.

Cooke, the 2015 Virginia Gazette field hockey Player of the Year, tallied 21 goals and 15 assists on the way to being named the top player in Conference 25/26 along with all-region and all-state honors.

Warhill coach Kristen Castano called the forward a "cerebral" player.

Think of her as the "student of the game" type. Cooke wants to know as much as possible about her opponents before they meet on the field and as a Beach Premier player, she often already knows some of the top players in the area from the club trail.

"You get to know what team has what skill," Cooke said. "I like to know who we're playing ahead of time so I know how to mentally prepare, know who to watch in the circle."

If she wasn't scouting, Cooke was sitting beside Castano during junior varsity matches, mentally prepping for the upcoming varsity games.

"I tell her all the time throughout the season she would make a phenomenal coach," Castano said.

Not so fast, maybe. Cooke wants to focus on studying nursing at Newberry first, but said she won't rule out patrolling the sidelines one day.

Cooke credits her twin sister Jessica, who will also play for Newberry next season along with Warhill teammate Haley Smith, for convincing her to play field hockey as sixth-graders.

If there's a regret in her time at Warhill, it's not being able to knock off Poquoson in the postseason. The Islanders got the best of the Lions three consecutive conference tournaments including the last two finals.

The 2015 season ended with a 1-0 loss to Western Albemarle in regional play for Warhill. Both that one and the Poquoson defeats clearly still gnaw at her, but still, it was an enjoyable season for Kayla Cooke, who led a large group of Lions seniors.

"The seniors really stepped up this year," Kayla Cooke said. "This was a really fun season, I think … Hopefully next year, they can beat Poquoson."

Best game

Lafayette-Grafton: The Rams lost 3-1 in a penalty shootout, but only after rallying from a 2-0 second-half deficit to send the match to overtime. Junior Emaline Carr scored both regulation goals for Lafayette while senior goalkeeper Gabby Boesler recorded 13 saves.

Best individual performance

Boesler's memorable night against Tabb: Lafayette coach Chris Jones called her "lights out." Tabb coach Wendy Wilson said it seemed like she had Saran Wrap spread across the goal.

Boesler finished with 15 saves and kept the state-champion Tigers off the board until well into the second half.

Looking ahead

Lafayette and Bruton should make strides next season.

Jones is already talking about winter conditioning and indoor games for the Rams, who will lose six seniors, but have a host of talent waiting in the wings.

Bruton, which lost in the conference semifinals, will return a strong group of rising juniors, led by team MVP and goalie Maysen Elliott.

Postseason distinction

Lafayette: All-conference first team Lauren Walker, MaKayla Guerrero, Caroline Schweitzer; all-conference second team Kelsey Huckins, Devin Lucas, Brie Gillen, Olivia Sears, Erin Zrakovi, Gabby Boesler; all-conference honorable mention Meredith Pons.

Jamestown: All-conference first team: Maddie Clevinger; all-conference second team Abby Smith, Emily Robitaille; all-conference honorable mention Johanna Power Perkins.

Warhill: All-state second team: Kayla Cooke; all-region first team Kayla Cooke; all-conference first team: Kayla Cooke, Jessica Cooke, Haley Smith, Hayley Schulz, Braelyn Lassiter, Erin Mullen; all-conference second team: Kaitlyn Lassiter, Casey Broady, Chrisanthi Prassas, Ashton Otey; all-conference honorable mention Victoria Hall.

Bruton: All-conference: Jessica Robinson, Tori McCurdy, Kaitlyn Shafer, Maysen Elliott, Annmarie Fallon.

Walsingham Academy: All-state Rachael Clancy; all-conference Clancy.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

BY THE NUMBERS

5 goals for Bruton senior Jessica Robinson in a regular-season game against Northumberland.

19 upperclassmen on Jamestown's roster.

79 - percentage of shots Lafayette goalie Gabby Boesler stopped.

3 Warhill players will suit up for Newberry College next year.

11 Lions earned all-conference honors.

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