October 9, 2013

York High senior is center of attention, and that's a big help

Taylor Simpson is so talented that when foes focus on her, her York field hockey team benefits.

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

YORK - Taylor Simpson can hear the comments, the directions.

click image to enlarge

Taylor Simpson of York, right, was pursued by colleges in all three divisions before she decided on Merrimack, a national Division II field hockey power.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

She knows they are a sign of respect for her ability to use her hooked field hockey stick to score from myriad angles in multiple ways.

Still, the constant attention can get a bit annoying for the York High senior.

"A lot of things I hear (are), 'Get number 7. She's wide open,' and 'Someone needs to be on her,' " Simpson said. "It's definitely more challenging for me because there's like four people on me at once."

"She's one of the people we absolutely have to pay attention to," Falmouth Coach Robin Haley said. "She creates a lot for that York team. Whether or not she scores the goal, she's always involved."

As a junior, Simpson was directly involved in a startling 68 percent of York's goals. She scored 11 and had six assists. York scored only 25 goals in a 12-4-1 season that ended with a 1-0 loss to Leavitt in the Western Class B final.

In 2012, if a team could stop Simpson, it could stop York's offense.

That's not the case this season.

"Luckily I have good wings and good midfielders I can pass it out to," Simpson said.

This year York is averaging more than five goals per game with a 56-1 scoring advantage and 11-0 record after its 7-0 victory Monday at Poland.

Simpson is still the top scorer and still involved in nearly 65 percent of York's goals. The difference is all the Wildcats are scoring more, especially Simpson, who has 27 goals and close to 10 assists.

This year the Wildcats have several and varied options. Defensive standout Kathleen Cronin is a tip-in threat as the penalty corner inserter. Center midfielder Lilian Posternak is a true playmaker who can also score, as she showed when she potted both goals in a 2-1 victory against Falmouth.

Cronin and Posternak combined for three goals in a later 4-0 win at Falmouth, which has only lost to York.

"Last year we had a different core of kids and a lot more youth and inexperience, and I think (Simpson) felt like she kind of had to be the initiator of a lot of our attack," York Coach Barb Marois said.

"People know what she can do now so she's going to have a little more attention, so because of that somebody's open. She recognizes that she can still help our attack in a different way now by becoming the passer that finds the girl who is open."

In a 4-0 win against Fryeburg Academy, just such a situation arose.

Simpson dribbled through multiple Fryeburg players along the end line and got close to goal. Instead of forcing a tough angled shot, she threaded a pass through the defense and past the post-hugging goalie to an uncovered Devin Datsis, who easily swept the ball into the open cage.

"I've always played with my team but this year it's definitely easier because I can just pass it and I'll usually have a good idea that I'll be getting it back," Simpson said.

Simpson pointed to the addition of Posternak, a preternaturally skilled freshman, and the offseason effort and improvement of sophomore forward Allie Jones and junior twin sisters Kara and Kayla Kelly in the midfield as prime reasons for York's scoring surge.

"I think since we've had past experiences (on a club team), that's definitely helped," Simpson said. "We've definitely got it down. Almost. We're still working on it but by the end of the season we should be good to go."

Simpson will take her game to Merrimack College, a strong Division II program in the Northeast-10 Conference. Merrimack has reached the NCAA Final Four the past two seasons.

She made her decision this summer after receiving interest from all three collegiate divisions, including a rising Division I program, Bryant University.

"I was happy to have some stress off my shoulders," Simpson said. "D-I just seemed like a lot of commitment to me, which I do want, but I felt I could balance field hockey and school better at the (Division II) level."

First she wants to finish her high school career back at the Class B championship game. She played in one as a sophomore, losing to Belfast in overtime.

York won seven of the eight Western titles from 2004-2011, and the 2008 state championship.

"We're definitely going to go game-by-game, but my goal and my team's goal is to go all the way. We don't want to give up. We want to go to the end," Simpson said.

 

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com

Twitter: SteveCCraig

 

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