Allison Hoke can't seem to kick her defensive mind set.
After a year as a midfielder, the Glenelg Country School senior still is adjusting to the center forward spot on the Dragons field hockey team.
"It's hard for me because I'm used to backing up people," said Hoke. "Last year was a whole year of training myself to back people up and to stay back on defense. It's hard to stay up there and trust them, but I'm getting better at it."
Once she gets close to the goal, though Hoke has no trouble gunning for the cage. Thursday, she nearly scored the tying goal in a 2-1 loss to No. 14 Park.
"I was rushing. The wing passed the ball to the center and I thought, 'This is it, this is it.' I slid and tried to get it in, but the goalie kicked it right out," said Hoke, after the Dragons' first setback.
No other team has shut down Hoke this season. She leads the Dragons with 10 goals. A week ago, she scored a career-high four goals in a 7-0 victory over West Nottingham.
"Last year, Allison really was not a scorer," said Dragons coach Patti Ordonez. "The difference this year is incredible. She played in a summer league and she got the idea of getting the ball before the defense does. Now, she just gets it and goes. She's far more aggressive this year."
Hoke's aggressive play has helped the Dragons to perhaps the biggest turnaround so far in the Association of Independent
Schools. After finishing 3-6-2 last season, the Dragons are 4-1-1 overall and 1-0 in the AIS B Division.
Even Hoke sounds a little amazed at the progress the Dragons have made in a year. "It was like something happened over the summer. All of a sudden everyone was passing well. We have this incredible teamwork. We can get the ball up the field and into the goal."
Although four league games remain, the Dragons could be among the top contenders for the B Division title when the tournament rolls around in early November.
Coming so close to Park, which tied Oldfields for the championship last season before moving to the A Division, has ** given Hoke and her teammates plenty of hope.
"We knew Park was going to be a challenge," said Hoke. "We were a little discouraged, but we usually lose to them real bad, and we almost tied. That shows that we have come a long way."
Hoke, too, has come a long way since she started playing field hockey in the sixth grade. Although she dabbled in lots of interests including art, drama, triathlons and road racing, Hoke remains devoted to just two of those interests -- field hockey and basketball.
Over the summer, she went to basketball camp at Stanford and played hockey in the Roland Park Country School league.
Hoke can't decide which sport she would play in college. She might try both because she is looking at small colleges after six years at Glenelg Country, which has just 20 students in the senior class.