“Normally, for us, a lot of our players that we get in as freshmen that are playing on varsity, they’ve played since they were in fourth or fifth grade,” Cadets coach Brandon Brewbaker said Wednesday at Frederick High.
Players such as sophomore goalkeeper Sam Lenfesty, who started playing lacrosse in eighth grade, are the rare exception.
Lenfesty, who received some time on the varsity team as a freshman, has split time with senior goalkeeper Sydney Kaiser during her sophomore year, generally entering games after the first half.
When the Cadets opened the Class 3A/2A West region playoffs with an 18-4 win over South Hagerstown on Wednesday, Lenfesty received an introduction to the role she’ll likely inherit next season — that of a goalie projected to log most of the minutes in front of the cage.
Kaiser sustained an injury in the Cadets’ loss to Boonsboro on Monday to end the regular season, and Brewbaker kept her out of Wednesday’s contest as a precaution. Lenfesty was more than up to the task of playing an entire match, making seven saves.
As a middle school student, Lenfesty expressed a desire to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, and her father, Devin, encouraged her to take up a sport that would serve as a means of developing leadership skills. A friend’s stepmother encouraged Lenfesty to watch her daughter’s lacrosse game, and Lenfesty eventually started playing Spires recreational lacrosse. The sport immediately became “a natural fit” for her.
“I love the focus, the precision you need to have,” Lenfesty said. “If you move a millimeter [in the wrong direction], it could be the goal of the game. So I like the exact precision and accuracy you need to have to be a goalie.”
From that point on, Brewbaker said, Lenfesty put in high-volume work in becoming the best goalie she could be, saying “she always has a stick in her hand.” That isn’t far from the truth.
“I sat in my bedroom on my bed just flicking the ball up and down, just to get the feel,” Lenfesty said.
Lenfesty admitted becoming a little too confident in her skills after her first year in the sport but then “soon realized I don’t know anything.” In the fall entering her freshman year, she worked tirelessly with the man who first coached her — current Cadets JV coach Dave Lauterbach — spending five days a week in front of a cage after school “until the sun went down.” For Lenfesty, the athletic movements required to become a good goalie became part of her muscle memory.
“I think it was my biggest turning point, getting all of those hours in,” Lenfesty said. “It’s more about the repetition, the muscle reaction that you just get instinctually after a while.”
Brewbaker noted the time Lenfesty spends with Cadets goalkeeper coach Kristen Lawrence and the hours she’s spent in front of a television watching game film.
“Her and Syd work hard, and it’s good energy between the two of them,” Brewbaker said of his goalies.
Lenfesty had plenty of offensive support on Wednesday. Kennedy Chamblee led the way for the Cadets (7-6) with five goals and two assists, while Isabella Pellet and Abby Lauterbach each scored three goals. Delany Irwin and Amanda Effland added two goals each while Abby Spessard, Kyla Popielaski and Isabella Shadio each scored one goal.
The Cadets will next play at Tuscarora at 5 p.m. Friday in a section semifinal. Brewbaker said Kaiser will miss that game because of a family commitment, which means Lenfesty will take on the role of No. 1 goalkeeper again. The assignment won’t change her approach to the game.
“It felt regular,” Lenfesty said of starting against South Hagerstown (0-13). “I can’t be different for games that I’m not [the only goalie], I have to be steady the entire time.”
She’ll face a Titans team that beat the Cadets 11-10 earlier in the season. Lenfesty said “vengeance” won’t enter her mind.
“I have to be level and reliable and keep my head clear,” Lenfesty said. “Especially being a goalie, your team relies on you a lot.”