WRIGHT TWP. — There wasn’t much of a hint was what was to come for Crestwood.
The Comets needed two new starters of defense after last season’s state championship. But that was all of the available spots in the lineup. And a look at the 2012 roster said nothing about defense on the line for Kailee Krupski.
“It was probably over the summer,” Krupski said of the switch from offense to defense. “I was playing defense in indoor and Coach (Elvetta Gemski) found out. She was shocked.”
Back in the day — ok, a year ago — Krupski was a blur racing toward the opposing goal, looking to add to Crestwood’s goal total. Listed on the roster as a forward/midfielder then, few would have thought she’d be where she is today — starting on defense for the 2013 Comets.
Even though she’s a senior, a starting role as a forward or a midfielder wasn’t open. But Krupski showed her versatility by moving to the back, where only classmate Megan McCole returned to the starting lineup.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Krupski said. “But we have (center back) Megan and (goalie) Dallas (Kendra) helping us out.
“It’s a lot different being a starter than coming into the game as a sub. You are out there at the beginning and you can set your own path instead of having the game dictate it to you.”
The backfield trio was completed by a sophomore, as Nicole Paranich also joined the lineup. Even though a number of her classmates were already in the starting lineup or had key roles off the bench, the newcomer still felt some of the weight of a prior state gold on her shoulder.
“I was happy to have earned the chance,” Paranich said of becoming a starter. “But I was scared at first. If not for Megan and …”
“Aw, shucks,” McCole quickly offered with a laugh, showing how tight knit the trio had become. They are a big reason why Crestwood remains unbeaten and is in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals tonight against Southern Lehigh.
On a team that is a true blend of players from different grades and with different talents coming together, it only made sense that the defensive backs did the same. McCole’s been in the lineup for years, which runs in her family.
Her sister was a state champion with Crestwood. Her sister’s sweatshirt remains the perfect gear for a chilly practice.
“I was a starter my sophomore year with a bunch of experienced players,” McCole said. “I know the feeling of being the new player on the field.
“For me, last year was so exciting. This year, I’m just trying to take it all in stride. Each practice, I’m happy to be here. We’re focused on doing what it takes to get better each day.”
While their teammates are getting headlines for their scoring exploits, this group hates the thud of a field hockey ball striking wood. While each of them has a goal or two in their varsity careers — the youngster Paranich scored against Lackawanna Trail this year — they are all about stopping goals, in games or even in practice.
“In practice, we get so excited every time one of us makes a stop,” Krupski said. “Nicole is the master of them.
“She is going after my record,” McCole said of Paranich’s propensity to make defensive saves.
The group is close, as most teammates would be, but McCole serves more as a leader than a boss on defense, despite her starting experience. That meshes well with Krupski, her cousin, and Paranich.
“We don’t yell at each other,” Krupski said. “We take care of our own.”
That means getting in tune with the midfielders and turning defense into offense. It makes the relationship among the three defenders key, as it impacts those players sometimes 80 yards away.
“I take care of Casey (Cole at center mid),” McCole said. “Kailee works with Morgan (Kile) and Nicole is there for Hannah (Ackers).”
The recipe has worked, as this year’s Comets defense has allowed 12 goals through 21 games, about the same pace as a season ago (15 in 25 games). The results are a testament to Kendra, her returning defensive starter McCole and the newcomers, Krupski and Paranich.