South River's Sarah King isn't exactly taking it easy during her senior year.
While a lot of seniors are taking just a few classes to wind down their high school careers, King is taking five Advanced Placement classes as she prepares for the next phase of her educational career at Yale next year.
Somehow, King found the time to be a key contributor on the state championship field hockey team. She was such a vital part of the championship run, she has earned Capital Gazette Communications Player of the Year honors.
King's numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, but for a team that went 7-0 in one-goal games, so much of what she did that didn't show up in the box score was needed for the Seahawks to win their first state title since 2012.
"I can't imagine the success that we had this year happening without her," Seahawks' coach Megan Atkinson said. "Not because she scored a goal every once in a while. She might not have had the highest stats, but in the field you noticed her. She had incredible skill. She could carry the ball down the field, she had power and she was a key part of what we were trying to do."
King finished the season with 15 goals and four assists. She had four goals in her first three games, which included matchups with powerful out-of-conference teams Westminster and Archbishop Spalding. She had three goals in a victory over defending county champion and eventual 3A state champion Chesapeake, then had five goals and two assists in the playoffs. She had the perfect cap to her season and career when she scored three goals in a 6-0 victory over Winston Churchill in the Class 4A state final at Washington College.
"On the field, her speed and ball-handling are dangerous, but couple that with her unrelenting effort and she was a major weapon for the Seahawks," Atkinson said. "Sarah created an abundance of scoring opportunities and was a major threat inside the circle. She has the ability to re-defend and tackle, making her an unexpected two-way player."
While the goals are great — and she scored a lot of hers when the team needed them most — King was happy to put her teammates in position to score. Whether it's commanding the attention of the other teams' top defenders or taking the first shot off the insert of a penalty corner, so much of what she did led to better chances for others. Maia Cheeks led the Seahawks with 17 goals, while five other players had at least four.
"What I do when I'm on the field is set my teammates up for success," King said. "I think this year I was more of a threat on the field and teams payed more attention to me. It helps that I have a well-rounded team that we can adjust to things. I really have to give a lot of credit to my teammates."
A part of her game that ended up being a huge asset this year was King's ability to score on penalty strokes. She converted a key stroke in an early-season victory over Archbishop Spalding that was decided on strokes after the teams were tied after overtime. She scored on a stroke early in the game in the victory over Chesapeake, then scored the go-ahead goal on a stroke early in the second half of a 2-1 victory over Broadneck two weeks later. With the Seahawks trailing Broadneck in the second half of the Class 4A East Region Section II final, Cheeks tied the game and King put the Seahawks ahead on a stroke two minutes later.
It got to the point that when the Seahawks were awarded a stroke, Atkinson didn't have to say anything and King knew it was hers to take.
"I know my team is counting on me and my coaches are counting on me. I definitely felt the pressure each time, but I got more confident the farther we got into the season," King said. "I just have to calm myself down and focus because I know a lot is riding on that one shot."
King, who said she always gets straight A's and has never even had a B, is interested in studying environmental science at Yale. The Davidsonville resident has lived on a farm all her life and has taken an interest in nature. She'll find time outside of her studies to play for the field hockey team in hopes of making the same impact on the Bulldogs she had on the Seahawks.
For now, though, she'll continue to focus on her studies through the end of the school year while also playing for her club team, the Atlantic Storm Chasers. She also helps coach some of the rec programs at the Davidsonville Athletic Association.
"We worked so hard and every single person put so much effort into it. It's cool to get the recognition, but I never really wanted it to be about me," King said. "So many people on the team are deserving of recognition. I also want to thank my coaches. We have an incredible coaching staff that is so proud of us. I would not be where I am today without them."