By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/29/11
Garnet Valley’s Kate Henwood has been named the Phillylacrosse.com Girls’ Team Coach of the Year.
Henwood, in only her second season, guided a young Jaguars team to a share of its first Central League title, its first berth in the District 1 finals and its first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) championship.
A Garnet Valley alum and former assistant coach at Villanova University, Henwood’s Jaguars went 24-3 and were ranked among the Top 20 teams in the nation by LaxPower, ESPN RISE and MaxPreps.
Garnet Valley did all this despite fielding one senior starter.
“I think it was a matter of everything coming together for us,” said Henwood, a 2001 Garnet Valley alum who starred at La Salle University. “There were a lot of great teams. I think we peaked at the right time, we were healthy and our team played as one for the entire season.
“We didn’t get sick of each other. That was a key. For high school kids, it’s hard to keep them focused for 20-plus games. Instead of getting tired of it, they got hungrier.”
Garnet Valley was 4-14 in its first year as a Central League team in 2008, and 9-10 the year before Henwood arrived. In her first year the Jaguars played a number of sophomores and finished 11-8, going 8-4 in its final 12 games.
Junior midfielder Halley Barnes, the Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year and a co-captain, said Henwood’s high expectations raised the level of commitment and motivation for the players.
“I think last year (2010) I was more skeptical,” she said. “The upperclassmen were skeptical because it was such a big change to where we were before. This year we started off where we left off.
“As a coach, she expected more out of us. She was constantly challenging you. And before you knew it, we were winning.”
In 2011, the Jags lost two Central League games early in the year to Strath Haven (14-13 in OT) and two-time defending state champion Radnor (17-10). But Garnet Valley responded by winning 17 straight games and advancing to the District 1 finals where they fell to Downingtown East in a rout, 22-12.
The key games in the streak were consecutive victories over two of the teams that tied for the Central League title, Harriton (17-12) and Springfield-Delco (13-12).
“I think the most important thing is that she drilled it into our heads that in order to be state champions we needed to play as one all the time,” Barnes said. “We knew we’d come up against a lot of teams with better athletes.
“But her ability to challenge us to play as one unit all the time really helped us. She treated us like a college team. She’d bring in guest speakers and she knew things; fresh ideas. She really is open to everyone else’s suggestions.
“She is not close-minded. She allowed the captains to talk to her and make any suggestions. She would try anything out. She is unique and she is willing to do anything to get to the next level.”
Henwood credited the players – most notably their resilience and desire to overcome obstacles. She aslo made a point to thank her assistants, ChristyAnn Morello, Amanda Kammes and Patrice Hughes, for their major contributions.
“The girls are very mature about their goals and they communicated well off the field,” said Henwood, an assistant at Villanova for three years. “I think 90 percent of it all was psychological and changing the culture of the program with high expectations.
“We held them accountable and taught them to hold themselves accountable. It took two years for them to really grasp that. We also designed the offense and defense that met the strengths of the players.
The team’s only senior starter, midfielder Natalie Lang, said Henwood pushed the team to higher limits.
“She has so much knowledge of game and she helped us all step up work hard and have fun,” she said. “I knew we were going to go far this year, but (a state championship) was beyond expectations.”
Phillylacrosse.com Coach of the Year choices
2011 – Boys’ Team Coach of the Year: John Nostrant. Haverford School
2011 – Girls’ Team Coach of the Year: Kate Henwood, Garnet Valley
2010 – Boys’ Team Coach of the Year: Brady McCormick, Upper Merion
2010 – Girls’ Team Coach of the Year: Phyllis Kilgour, Radnor
Tags: Garnet Valley