Garrison Forest senior field hockey goalie Kendall Kuntz, 17, played just three games last year.
They were three important games, however, as she helped the Grizzlies win in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference quarterfinals and semifinals before leaving after the first half of the championship game.
A starter on Garrison Forest's 2010 IAAM championship team, she didn't play during the 2011 regular season due to a broken right foot. But when she returned for the playoffs, Kuntz picked up where she left off at the end of her sophomore season.
Just before the first half ended in last year's title game, though, she was kicked in the head and trainer Barbara Doy kept her on the sideline for the remainder of the contest as a safety precaution.
Garrison Forest won the championship, 3-0 over McDonogh, and Kuntz ended the season with three wins and 19 saves in 2 1/2 games. This season, the Grizzlies are 11-0, including 10-0 in the conference, and she again has been all but perfect. So far, she has 35 saves and nine shutouts, allowing only two goals all year.
"Having Kendall in the game is reassuring for our defense," Grizzlies co-head coach Leigh McDonald Hall said. "She sounds the alarms. You can hear her talking to her defense, telling them where opposing players are and where to move. Kendall works very hard and plays a lot of hockey in and outside of school."
Kuntz plays for the WC Eagles in Pottstown, Pa., which USA Field Hockey ranks as the top Under-19 club in the country. The extra experience is showing up every day during the Grizzlies' games.
"She's strong and quick to go down [to make a save] and she knows how to layout to block the ball and get back up quickly for the next play," Bryn Mawr coach Jeanette Budzik said after Garrison Forest's 2-0 win over the No. 2 Mawrtians last Thursday.
She also carries a 4.0 GPA and will play field hockey for Columbia University next year.
Why did you start playing field hockey?
I was new here at Garrison in sixth grade, and my mom knew about the program, and she thought it would be a great way to make friends. Now, all my friends play.
Did your mother play the game?
No, I'm the first one in my family to play. I do have an older sister, Taylor, who is 19 and at the University of Pennsylvania. I started playing, and I'd drag her out to play with me in the grass. She became a forward and played for McDonogh.
Why did you decide to be a goalie?
I'm a very black-and-white kind of person. You save it or it goes in. I like that. And I love the feeling when the ball hits your pads in the right place. I love helping my teammates out. I started doing it in sixth grade, and I just liked the feeling of saving it. It was exhilarating. So, I stayed in goal.
What are some important qualities for a goalie?
You have to be quick, agile and you have to get up and down very quickly. You have to have good hand skills and see the ball. And it's important to me to always be moving fast.
What do you think you're best asset is?
My communication skills. I'm talking to [my teammates] and being vocal. It keeps them in the game, knowing what to do. If a girl gets behind them, they can't see her and they rely on me to tell them where she is and where to go.
When did you break your foot? What was it like trying to get back?
I broke it during the summer of 2011. It was a bad break and took awhile to get better. It wasn't ready to play that fall. I had to do a lot of exercises, and I worked hard at strengthening my foot and rebuilding my leg strength. And I walked and ran until I felt ready.
After being the starting goalie your sophomore year, how did it feel to be on the sideline last season?
I felt as if I was part of everything. Just being there with your teammates, you can feel it. And one of the nicest things about this Garrison team is that it includes everyone, no matter what your situation or your job. It's the best thing.
What do you like besides field hockey? Do you participate in any other school activities?
I like being with my friends, reading and doing puzzles. At school, I share leadership of the Latin Club with two other girls and I work with KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program. I'm on KIPP's junior board with my teammate Claire Schuler.
This team has won two straight championships. You're off to an amazing start this season. What do you think the future holds?
I think we've come back faster this season, with better stick skills. … We've been a core group for so long. We know how each other plays, and we're ready [for another title].
What's one thing your best friends know about you that others don't?
Out of my really hard shell, I really am a soft and caring person. I'm very funny and I'd do anything for them. But I do thrive on my sarcasm. It's who I am, and what I do.
Do you have a goal for the season?
I'm a senior. I can feel it. My time here is coming to an end. I want to make the best of it.