Watch North Rockland’s Kaitlyn Rau play for five minutes and it’s easy to see what makes the senior attacker one of the best scorers in Section 1.
Rau, who is The Journal News/Lohud.com Rockland girls lacrosse player of the year for the second straight season, fluidly moves with the stick in her right or left hand, scoring with ease with either one. It’s one of the main reasons she’s been able to tally 402 points in five varsity seasons.
And while ambidexterity is looked at as a valuable skill in girls lacrosse, it was what brought a young Rau to tears nearly a decade ago.
While running a youth clinic, Red Raiders’ varsity coach Greg Borchers told the group of third-graders to try catching and throwing with their non-dominant hands.
A young Rau approached Borchers with tears in her eyes.
Rau felt comfortable using both hands and didn’t know which one was her weaker one.
“I was just freaking out,” said Rau, who earned all-American honors for the second straight season.
Amused, Borchers explained that wouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, Rau could play in the older division.
Relieved to hear from her coach that her problem was actually a good thing, Rau spent the next nine years honing both hands, terrorizing goalies along the way.
“You kind of saw right away that she had the ability to score,” Borchers said. “Her game got better every year. It got better with more experience.”
To this day, Rau still doesn’t consider herself a lefty or righty on the lacrosse field.
But to say Rau’s success has come solely from her ambidexterity is an oversight. She simply has a knack for finding the goal, no matter what the situation.
In her final season, she posted 78 goals and 29 assists, making her the all-time leader in goals (312) and assists (90) at North Rockland.
The points came despite being face-guarded the majority of the time the past two seasons.
“(Getting face-guarded) was frustrating and annoying at first, but then I realized it’s a privilege,” Rau said. “It’s a good thing they are doing that. It made me feel good about myself, and it makes me work harder.”
That she continued to score, despite facing many teams that designed their defenses around stopping her, was what was so impressive for Borchers.
“I think there were some situations where she was face-guarded by some really, really good players who had tremendous accolades and she still had the ability to not only get the ball but score,” Borchers said. “I thought that that separated her from the rest of the pack.”
It’s Rau’s knack for creating that will make her a successful player at Villanova, where she’ll play in the fall, according to Borchers.
“Her game translates real well to college,” Borchers said. “Once you have the ability to score on pretty much anybody at anytime, it’s hard to take that away.”
And while Rau is excited for the new challenges that will come with playing for the Wildcats, she said she’ll miss playing at North Rockland.
She’s not the only one.
“It made my job a lot easier knowing that you always had that consistency there,” Borchers said. “You always had a girl that you knew was going to find the net at some point. … You just always knew that consistency was going to be there.”
The rest of the Journal News/Lohud.com first-team includes:
NOTE: The Rockland coaches selected the 24 girls named to the first and second team. I split the girls into first and second team, picked the POTY, COTY and honorable mention.
Mikaila Cheeseman, Suffern: Cheeseman, who is committed to the University of Pennsylvania, had a breakout sophomore season in goal. Despite playing a schedule that included some of the best teams in the country, Cheeseman allowed opponents to reach double-digits just twice in 20 games.
Maggie Davin, Pearl River: The junior attacker was the Pirates’ top scoring threat, tallying 58 goals and 22 assists. Davin also managed to secure 59 draw controls and 48 ground balls as she helped Pearl River to the Class C sectional title game.
Kate Fischer, Nyack: The senior midfielder led the Indians in assists (32) and was second in goals (60). Fischer, who will play at the University of Denver in the fall, also posted 54 ground balls and 74 draw controls.
Dana Gisonno, Suffern: The junior attacker, who is committed to Rutgers, led the Mounties in goals (60) and was second in points (77). Gisonno particularly shined in Suffern’s 15-9 regional final win over Shaker, tallying seven goals.
Angela Kelly, North Rockland: In addition to being one of the Red Raiders’ top defenders, the senior managed to post 29 goals and 13 assists, helping North Rockland to the sectional semifinals.
Erin Kelly Clarkstown South: The junior midfielder, who is committed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was a key component at both ends of the field. In addition to being one of South’s best defenders, Kelly finished with 54 goals and 10 assists.
Caitlin Leary, Suffern: On a team full of talent, Leary still managed to stand out, leading the Mounties in points (80). The junior attacker, who is committed to the University of Connecticut, was named an all-American for the second straight season.
Tonianne Magnelli, Suffern: Magnelli, who is committed to Boston University, was a leader on a defense that allowed an average of just seven goals a game. The junior defender helped the Mounties to their second straight sectional and regional titles.
Andie O’Sullivan, Nyack: One of the fastest players in the section, the senior midfielder led the Indians in goals (72), ground balls (64) and draw controls (78). O’Sullivan will play at the Naval Academy in the fall.
Baley Parrott, Suffern: Voted an all-American for the second straight season, Parrott, who is committed to Ohio State, was a consummate midfielder. The junior posted a balanced 38 goals and 32 assists, led Suffern in draw controls (72) and caused turnovers (11).
Regina Sharp, Suffern: The junior midfielder did a little bit of everything. Sharp, who is committed to Rutgers, finished with 23 goals, seven assists and 21 draws.
Coach of the year
Kathryn Perrella, Nyack: Despite having an extremely short bench, Perrella managed to coach the Indians to the Class B semifinals and a 15-3-1 record. Nyack’s only losses came against the Class A sectional finalists, Suffern and Lakeland/Panas, and Class B section champion Somers.
Alyssa Conklin, Suffern, So.
Mikaela Connell, Albertus Magnus, Sr.
Jordan Drab, Suffern, So.
Kaitlyn Gutenberger, North Rockland, So.
Madison Kandoth, Albertus Magnus, Sr.
Janie Lachman, Clarkstown North, Sr.
Carlee Lopez, Suffern, Jr.
Lauren Mazza, North Rockland, Sr.
Amy McNally, Suffern, Jr.
Kayla Moreau, Pearl River, So.
Jaime Morris, Clarkstown South, Sr.
Alissa Silvestri, Clarkstown North, Sr.
Caroline Dolan, Pearl River, Jr.; Jenna Fox, North Rockland, So.; Jackie Fitzgerald, Nanuet, Sr.; Ali Iodice, Suffern, Fr.; Carmella Liscio, Tappan Zee, Fr.; Briana McCleary, Tappan Zee, Jr.; Cara Moran, North Rockland, Sr.; Kerri O’Rourke, Tappan Zee, Jr.; Taylor O’Sullivan, Nyack, Sr.; Lindsey Stephen, Pearl River, So.