MAHOPAC – When she was younger, Kim Harker always thought she would play college hockey.
A self-described hockey kid, as well as the first girl to play for Mahopac’s varsity hockey team, she had an opportunity to play prep hockey during her sophomore year. But after finding success playing travel lacrosse the previous summer, she opted to stay at Mahopac and pursue a lacrosse scholarship instead.
Three years and over 267 goals later, the senior midfielder now leaves Mahopac as the girls lacrosse program’s most accomplished player.
After leading her team to an upstart run to the sectional final, where the Indians gave eventual state finalists Suffern a big scare, Harker also ends her career as the Journal News Westchester/Putnam Player of the Year.
“Freshman year, I started every game and you see the seniors and how hard they work, but it would take a lot more to be the great player everyone wants to be, so I started training everyday,” Harker said. “I picked up a stick everyday, snow, rain, sunshine, whatever. I think just working hard and just watching a lot and learning is what got me to be what I am.”
The engine and dominant player of Mahopac the previous three years, Harker led the Indians in goals (100) and ground balls (98), was second in assists (25) and was the team’s primary draw taker, winning 60 percent of her faceoffs.
While she ended with sterling numbers, the season didn’t start off on a bright note for Harker and her teammates. Mahopac struggled to a 2-4 start, which was capped by an upset 7-6 loss to Arlington on April 16.
“I just remember that bus ride, it was completely silent the entire ride back,” Harker said. “I went to everyone’s seat on the way back and asked them ‘how do you feel? Remember this feeling, because it’s not going to happen again.’ ”
The next day, the team had what Harker thought was one of the best practices of the year, and embarked on a 13-game winning-streak. Included towards the end of that streak were upset wins over Mamaroneck and North Rockland in the sectional quarterfinals and semifinals respectively.
After going down 5-0 to Suffern in the sectional final, but led by Harker’s proficiency in the draw control circle, the Indians managed to cut it to a 7-6 deficit in the second half, but were unable to find the equalizer before surrendering three late goals.
“When we made it there, we said there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain, and that was the mentality from the beginning of the game,” Harker said. “No matter the outcome, we accomplished so much. Of course, we wanted the W, but we worked really hard to get there and I’m proud of everybody.”
Aside from her combination of skill and athleticism, Harker has been praised by coaches as a quintessential leader. It is something that she says runs in the family, from her grandfather, her dad, and her brother, Ryan, who was a captain of the hockey team during her freshman season.
“Watching him take the senior-dominant team with new freshman like me and create the team atmosphere and get us going before a game was really inspiring,” she said. “I wanted to be just like him when I was younger.”
While she was a starter for the lacrosse team her freshman season, she did not play a huge role on the team’s offense until her breakout sophomore season, when she increased her goal total from six to 73.
During that season, she committed to Northwestern. While she loved the campus and the school, she was also drawn to the winning tradition of the program, which has won seven national championships since 2005.
“I remember sitting at my kitchen table looking at Lacrosse Magazine with (former Northwestern star) Taylor Thornton on the cover, and I was like ‘wow, she’s amazing, that’s so cool that she’s winning so many national championships,’ ” Harker said. “Now that I’m going to that program, it really makes you think back. That was the little girl you used to be, that wanted to be her. To be a part of that is the greatest thing ever.”
When she gets to Northwestern, Harker said that her goal as a freshman is to absorb as much as she can from her older teammates and from the coaching staff. Like she did at Mahopac, she plans to work as hard as she can to improve her game, a mindset that she hopes that will continue at Mahopac.
“I think that mentality of working hard is the most important thing I could leave behind for my teammates; I just hope that’s what they took out of it,” Harker said. “As a young player, I wasn’t the best; I was a late bloomer, and that working hard can get you to where you want to be.”
The rest of the Westchester/Putnam first team all-stars
Kaitlyn Comerford, Jr., Yorktown
Nicole DeMase, Sr., Somers
Micheline DiNardo, Jr., Rye
Casey Duff, Jr.,Yorktown
Amanda Flayhan, Sr., John Jay
Molly Fitzpatrick, Sr., Lakeland/Panas
Lilly Grass, Jr., Bronxville
Emma Gorman, Sr., John Jay
Sammy Mueller, Jr., Hackley
Gabby Rosenzweig, Jr., Somers
Coach of the Year: Jamie Irving, Somers
Keely Connors, Sr., Fox Lane
Emma Kaishain, Sr., Yorktown
Talia Land, Jr., Mamaroneck
Julia Massaro, Sr., Rye Country Day
Hannah O’Reilly, Sr., John Jay
Abby Squirrell, Sr., Ossining
Ashley Stilo, Jr., Yorktown
Livy Rosenzweig, So., Somers
Charlotte Tucci, Sr., Rye
Ellie Walsh, So., Bronxville
Mason Warble, So., Bronxville
Briana Alberghine, Sr., Bronxville; Diana Bradbury, Sr., Somers; Katie Bradbury, Jr., Lakeland/Panas; Dana Bozek, Jr., Lakeland/Panas; Lauren Craft, Fr., Brewster; Jordyn DiCostanzo, Sr., Eastchester; Amber Feminella, Sr., Hen Hud; Rilea Fusco, So., Yorktown; Olivia Jensen, So., Mamaroneck; Noelle Love, Sr., Byram Hills; Kelly Maxwell, Sr., Mahopac; Sarah Mehlman, Sr., Scarsdale; Taylor Regan, So., Rye Country Day; Briana Steigerwald, Sr., Mamaroneck; Mallory Toolan, Jr., Irvington; Lindsay West, Jr., Fox Lane.