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Raising field hockey to a winning level Spalding star: With Stephanie Paxson leading the way, the Cavaliers won a school-record 11 games.


They're celebrating the field hockey career of Stephanie Paxson around Archbishop Spalding High these days, and why not?

Thanks to Paxson, no one is laughing at the Cavaliers anymore, and the program has risen to the highest level in its 17-year history with 11 wins this season.

"It was a great feeling when we walked on the field against Chesapeake this season and they looked at us like we were really a strong team," said Paxson. "No team had ever given us that kind of respect before and we beat them, 1-0."

Paxson scored off a penalty corner in the first five minutes for the only goal against Chesapeake.

In nearly three years on the varsity, Paxson established a career scoring record at the school with 26 goals and 18 assists and she played a major role in two straight victories over heated rival St. Mary's the past two years.

The second win over St. Mary's, 2-1, last Monday in Paxson's final game in a Spalding uniform put an exclamation point on her Spalding career.

"The St. Mary's players came driving into our school parking lot, honking their horns and being a little obnoxious," said Paxson. "They were cocky and acting like they were going to beat us."

That only served to fire Paxson up more, and she went out and played the kind of team field hockey that has endeared her to Spalding coach Mary Pat Bozel.

Paxson sent a cross to Jennifer Thomas for what proved to be the winning goal with seven minutes left in the first half after passing the ball to Amy Sledgeski for the team's first goal.

"Stephanie is an unselfish player," said Bozel. "She doesn't cherry pick. She passes the ball around and is a catalyst for our team. When she plays well, our team seems to do better. She is not the best player out there but a natural athlete who has worked so hard on her own to improve."

When the whistle blew, ending the 2-1 victory over St. Mary's, Paxson had a special feeling as she walked off the field for the final time in a Spalding uniform.

"It was nice," she said. "They [St. Mary's players] had a few words for us. We beat them, 1-0, last year."

The Cavaliers finished 11-4 to surpass last year's 8-4-1 record. Spalding was No. 13th last week when it defeated sixth-ranked St. Mary's.

The two assists gave Paxson 13 goals and eight assists this season and intensified her desire to play field hockey in college at Towson State or Delaware.

It all has come after she nearly quit field hockey in the ninth grade after giving the sport a try for only a few days.

"I just went out for field hockey to stay in shape for basketball," said Paxson, who also plays lacrosse. "I told my mother [Joanne] I'm not going to play this sport, but she told me I should play it. Now it's No. 1 in preference among the sports I play."

Her love for the game has been developed with a lot of backyard practice sessions with her mother and friends, using the cage in her yard.

"My mom just chases the ball for me, but my guy friends who also play sports at Spalding come over and run around like they're playing golf. They miss the ball a lot and hit me, giving me a lot of welts," Paxson said.

Paxson has developed a strong drive and the stamina to get up and down the field, helping out on defense as well as scoring and setting up teammates.

"I'm not in it [field hockey] for myself," she said. "I feel good that I can play center forward and still go back down the field to help the team."

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