Kat Varga

Kat Varga, who led the county with 68 points this fall, is this year's field hockey player of the year. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing / December 12, 2012)

Field hockey was not Kat Varga's first choice of sport.

"I actually started playing field hockey as a substitute for soccer," this year's Columbia Flier/Howard County Times field hockey Player of the Year said.

With her soccer team evolving into a year-round travel program, the multitalented Varga was not prepared to give up basketball and softball. Her mother suggested field hockey for the fall.

She began playing for Howard County Stampede as she entered the sixth grade.

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"When I first picked up a stick at tryouts I knocked down every single cone I was supposed to weave through," the River Hill senior said.

Varga is now renowned for her excellent stick skills.

As a three-year varsity player, she has improved with each season and garnered accolades along the way. In 2010, with Varga starting at forward as only a sophomore, River Hill won the 3A state championship. Each of the past two years she has been selected to the National Futures Elite Championship. Last year she was named second team All-Met by the Washington Post.

Varga has been a forward for the majority of her seven-year career.

"The best part about being a forward is the challenge to beat the defender, and, of course, scoring goals," she said.

With 28 goals and 12 assists, she helped lead her team to 12 wins against only four losses this season.

Varga not only contributed to the Hawks as a prolific scorer this season, but she was also a leader and a captain.

Coach Shelly Chamness said that Varga's work ethic influenced everyone on the team.

"Her skill level is so high," she said. "Playing with someone who plays at an elite level helps to teach her teammates skills that most high school players don't have. She helped everyone around her to get better."

Varga's skill did not come overnight, and she attributes the National Futures program and her current club team, the Severna Park SPark, for helping her to refine fundamental skills and develop the mental side of the game.

She also took a 21st-century approach to her improvement as a player.

"When I wanted to learn something new I looked up videos on YouTube and got friends to go up to the fields and practice," said Varga, who is also an excellent student and will continue her field hockey career at Cornell University next year.

The drive to improve was especially noticeable to her coach. Chamness said that Varga inspired others because she was so humble and always wanted to learn more.

"She leads by example, by working hard. She's proof that you can always learn new things no matter how good you are," Chamness said.

Named to the all-county first team: