Ally Keith played an invaluable role as a junior in raising Archbishop Spalding girls lacrosse to a prosperous season and field hockey even more so. Hers was the final and pressure-lifting goal in the Cavaliers’ upset shutout victory over Garrison Forrest in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final last November, bringing home the program’s third championship.
Keith, who intends to lead Spalding back to a repeat this fall, recently spoke to The Capital.
Editor’s note: Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.
How does it feel preparing for your senior season?
It’s so crazy. We had field hockey workouts this morning and I remember being a freshman being here. It went so fast.
The state final was now so long ago and you graduated a good portion of your championship team. How do you face the season thinking, ‘OK, we have a title, but we don’t have everyone we had to defend it?’
I think we have some big shoes to fill. Those seniors were super-duper talented and our team dynamic last year was amazing. But this whole summer, every single girl came in ready to work. I think that’s our expectation, making it to the final game.
We want it so badly. We have a lot of talent to do it. The younger girls are now sophomores and juniors, a little older than they were, and I think if we all work really hard, we can make it to the final game.
It’s obviously hard to tell before a season really starts and you start playing real games, but when you graduate people, the dynamic of the offense and defense changes a little bit. How do you think this year’s team might be a little bit different with the pieces you have?
I think we’ve always had a strong offense and we’ll continue to have a strong offense. We lost some players on defense, so we’ll have to make a few adjustments to protect our defense. We have an amazing goalkeeper [Ruby DeFrees]which is super helpful for communication in the backfield.
If I remember right, Ruby had her SATs before the final last year, right?
Yeah, and then she came out and played a great game.
I hope she took a long nap the next day. So for you, you’re obviously going to have to step up in a larger role. How do you think you’re going to approach that challenge this season?
During this summer, I’ve really learned how to communicate with the girls. I feel like it’s easy when you have good communication and leadership skills on a team. I’ve just really been trying to gain girls’ trust, that they trust in me and believe what I’m saying. If I’m saying ‘We can push harder, do more,’ they could just be like, ‘Oh, there’s just a girl telling us what to do. I’m not really going to listen because I don’t really believe in her.’
But I feel like I’ve really tried to step up with communication skills and getting the girls to trust me.
So what are some things you do to build that trust?
At workouts, I try to take the seriousness out a little bit. Obviously, we come to work hard, we come to win. But I really like to jump around, talk to the girls, get to know the freshmen.
I really have tried to learn all their names so that they’re not just freshmen. [To me], you’re not an age on this team. Everyone’s the same age on the playing field. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior when they’re all feeling like wanting to compete.
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So how have you developed your skills and abilities this year? How would you describe the player you are now?
With a lot of help from our coaches. Coach [Leslee] Brady has always told me to keep communicating, keep working, and all our coaches have been really amazing in building who you are. I talked with the seniors — Becca [Lawn]Katie [Fichtner]Bridget [Donovan]. They were all super, really good role models to look after. I’ve tried to fill their shoes, what they’ve done to make us successful last year.
So now that you guys have broken down that door and gotten to a title for the first time since 2015, do you approach the season with a little more confidence or differently than you approached last season?
I think it helps knowing we can get there, but I feel like our team has remained humble in that sense. The conference is still super hard. We played really good competition and it just doesn’t come easily.
Last year, we didn’t go in thinking, ‘We’re the best team. We’re gonna win it all.’ And I think that’s why we won the championship. It’s definitely a weight off our shoulders, knowing we can do it. But we’re really just humbled knowing what we need to do to keep working hard and that it’s not just going to be a dip in the water.
So what will separate Spalding from what you said is an incredibly tough A Conference this upcoming year?
It helps other teams are also losing some key senior players from their team. But I also just think our team chemistry this year is amazing as well, just like last year. I think that’s really going to help that we have a close-knit team willing to work hard.