Goaltender is a very stressful position to play.
Serving as the last line of defense, the performance of a goalie is often put under the microscope. No position controls the scales of a game more.
A net minder can steal momentum, and sometimes victory, with huge saves, while masking flaws that would normally result in a loss. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a bad day in net is often quickly magnified and analyzed in tortuous fashion.
Kennard-Dale girls' lacrosse goalie Clare Boone knows the feeling well.
"Probably the biggest challenge is that it's just you," Boone said. "So if you're doing good, people will see it. But also, if you let a shot in they'll be like 'oh, why didn't you save that.'"
Boone's situation lends itself to even more pressure when you factor in that she is only a 15-year-old freshman who starts for a program that has been at the top of the York-Adams League since it adopted the sport in 2009.
Standing only 5-feet, 2-inches, Boone looks every bit the part of a freshman. So it would be understandable if all those factors conspired against her.
But they haven't. In fact, she's excelled, helping the Rams to a perfect 8-0 record (7-0 in York-Adams League play) so far this season, and playing a large part in some signature victories along the way.
Dealing with stress: Boone admits she felt all those things tugging at her when the season began, but she pointed out some key elements in being able to combat the stress and perform.
The first is a confidence in her game that's more often found in upperclassmen. A vast amount of that confidence comes from her previous experiences at the club level.
Her coach, Kelly Wetzel, pointed out that in club play she is teamed with, and faces, some of the nation's top talents.
Boone also gains more confidence with experiences provided with every passing game.
Perhaps one that gave her the biggest bump was a 17-16 victory on March 27 against District 1 foe Kennett Square. She made 20 saves on the day, including a number a crucial stops down the stretch in regulation and three big saves in OT to get the win.
Sure, in a game when the opposition scores 16 goals, it might be hard to credit a goalie. But, think of it this way, if Boone fails to make just one of those saves, the Rams likely lose.
Boone's abilities are of little surprise to her teammates, the group she relies on heavily to help alleviate the tension. Many of them have played with her during club and recreational action.
That familiarity played a key part in Boone making the move to varsity.
"My team is so supportive. My defense takes a lot of the pressure off. They've saved (me) plenty of times," Boone said.
Commanding the defense: Brooke Davis, a four-year defensive starter for the Rams, was quick to sing the praises of the freshman.
Davis noted that Boone's wealth of lacrosse knowledge is key to her performance.
"She's a great goalie, she's pretty athletic," Davis said. "She's always talking, letting us know where girls are. Letting us know where everyone is, what's going on. That's a huge asset."
Wetzel echoed Davis' sentiments and pointed out that Boone's knowledge eased her transition to the varsity. Other freshmen might struggle initially with their leadership, too timid to command upperclassmen.
"She commands the defense," Wetzel said. "She knows the game, she knows how to play the position and she does it well."
It also helps Boone relax knowing there's a high-powered offense operating at the other end of the field.
The stress will no doubt continue to ramp up as the calendar creeps toward May.
There is a looming test against Exeter on Friday, a game that could play a big part in district seeding. That's soon followed by a rematch of the York-Adams title game from a year ago against York Catholic on April 21.
This year's league tournament will provide a solid tune-up for district play and give Boone her first taste of the weight of postseason play.
But similar to a mighty ant, the diminutive Boone has already shown an ability to shoulder more weight than most would consider possible.
— Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.
UPDATE: I received word Thursday that Clare Boon ewas recently named as a 2015 Brine National High School All-America selection and has been picked to represent the state of Pennsylvania at the 2015 Brine National Lacrosse Classic. That event will be held at the River City Sportsplex in Virginia from June 29 through July 2.
Boone will represent K-D and PA on the Class of 2018 girls' team.
The Brine National Lacrosse Classic brings the top high school lacrosse players in the nation to one venue, where regional teams will compete for national recognition in front of NCAA lacrosse coaches.
Congratulaions, Clare, and best of luck at this event.