Atholton's Valentino plays many positions all well


Allison Valentino is easy to please. Just assign her a position and watch her produce.

That's what Valentino has done for four years at Atholton, much of the time in relative obscurity.

In basketball, after making the team at starting point guard as a freshman, Valentino and senior star Sherri Orlosky led Atholton to the playoffs and one of its more successful seasons in years.

For the past three seasons, the Raiders have struggled. Inexperience and a lack of skill and size have contributed to three straight losing years, but Valentino has never stopped producing. Last winter, she played all five positions for the 7-15 Raiders and led the team in scoring (11.3 points), steals (3.1) and free-throw shooting (66 percent).

"I'm kind of an anywhere type of person," said Valentino, a 5-foot-7 senior. "I think you should be able to play different positions and be willing to try new things."

Valentino's four-year lacrosse career is another testament to that philosophy. Coach Carol Stevens recalls being struck first by Valentino's athletic ability, then by how quickly she absorbed knowledge of the game. In her first year of lacrosse, Valentino scored 19 goals as a defense wing on the junior varsity.

Under Stevens, the Raiders have slowly pulled themselves out of the cellar of the county standings, but Valentino will graduate next month without having played on a winning lacrosse team at Atholton. That hasn't stopped her from producing.

For the past three seasons, Valentino has played center, which requires several skills. The center must be as attentive to controlling the middle of the field -- by scooping ground balls and intercepting passes, for example -- as she is to scoring and playing one-on-one defense.

Valentino has all of the assignments covered. She leads the 3-8 Raiders with 49 goals, 25 assists, 160 ground balls and 60 interceptions. She has a hard shot and is an excellent stick checker and will graduate as the school's career scoring leader. Her goal count stands at 174.

"Allison is very astute and intelligent about the way she plays. She's always thinking on her feet," Stevens said. "She has always aspired to play at a higher level."

Valentino will get her wish. She will attend Loyola College on a lacrosse scholarship.

Not bad for someone who first picked up a stick four years ago. Back then, Valentino had had some success at basketball. She envisioned herself as a college basketball player. But when she tried lacrosse at a Hero's summer league camp before entering high school, she was hooked.

"Basketball is the sport I really wanted to play [in college], but it's so much more competitive than lacrosse," Valentino said. "I think I'm better at lacrosse, even though it's the only sport that I didn't make varsity as a freshman."

Mount Hebron girls lacrosse coach P. J. Kesmodel, who has known Valentino since coaching her in swimming 10 years ago, remembers watching her play at the Hero's camp and recognizing her potential.

"I've been a booster of Allison's all along," Kesmodel said. "She's a tremendous competitor and a good athlete who is real versatile. I started telling her back in the 10th grade that she was a Division I player."

By that time, Valentino had begun to turn lacrosse into a year-round pursuit. She has attended at least two lacrosse camps every summer. Between soccer and basketball commitments at Atholton, she has played in fall and indoor lacrosse leagues. She has picked up pointers by watching many college lacrosse games. Valentino can usually be found hanging around after practice to work on her shot.

"You have to be dedicated in order to be competitive," Valentino said. "If you put the lacrosse stick down at the end of the [high school] season, then don't pick it up until the beginning of the next season, you're not going to improve."

Her goal, assist and ground ball totals have risen each season, despite the double- and triple-teaming. Two weeks ago she set a school record by scoring 10 goals in a victory over Hammond.

"I knew she was going to have a good season this year, but she blew my expectations out of the water," Stevens said. "Her hard work has really made her stand out. She will be dearly missed."

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