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South County defender tackles injuries head-on

After the South County field hockey team’s Northern Region title-clinching win over W.T. Woodson last week, I centered my game story around Caitlyn Kost, the Stallions’ steady senior defender who scored on the final penalty stroke of the night.

While Kost’s shot -- which she fired at the right side of the cage -- was impressive enough, it's perhaps even more amazing that she had the opportunity. As I would learn, Kost nearly missed this field hockey season after a concussion ended her soccer career in the spring.

Late in the second half of an April 22 game against West Springfield, Kost, who was the Stallions’ goalkeeper at the time, challenged a breakaway attempt. Upon sliding, Kost was struck twice in the head. She still doesn’t know whether it was a cleat or a knee, but after the game she was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a mild concussion.

Despite working with South County’s athletic training staff to try and get healthy and back on the field, Kost started to experience migraine headaches, which were often brought on by bright lights or loud noises. Something, Kost knew, was wrong.

“I was not feeling well at all,” she said.

So Kost slept. For the better part of two weeks. Unable to even watch television, the talented defender said she stayed in bed, careful to avoid triggering another headache. Kost eventually saw a neurologist, had several CT scans done and was given word and math puzzles to work through -- a physical therapy-type regimen for the brain.

Things finally started to improve in the summer and Kost passed the ImPACT test -- used for evaluating concussions -- for good in late July. Still, she was still told by at least one doctor that her soccer career was done and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to avoid field hockey either.

“The choice was between me and my parents on whether I wanted to have one final season of field hockey and call it quits for sports,” Kost said.

With a wealth of returning talent and a team favored to compete for a region trophy, Kost had to come back. She could deal with not playing soccer anymore. Field hockey? That was different.

“She knew it was her senior year and field hockey’s her passion, so she wanted to be able to play this year,” said Caitlin’s mother Cathy. “It’s been so rewarding for us to see her have a successful year and reach the level that she has.”

With No. 8 South County needing one last goal to clinch a 4-2 victory in penalty strokes over W.T. Woodson (20-4) -- a team that already has won four region titles this decade -- Kost needed to do something she had never done before: score.

In basketball, Kost was always her team’s top defender until she suffered a torn ACL in eighth grade and had to give up the sport. This fall, Kost has eight defensive saves to anchor a unit that has allowed only five goals in its past eight games.

“She’s a phenomenal leader on the field,” said Stallions Coach Leah Conte. “I have her as my last ‘stroker’ because she’s confident that she can put it in every time.”

Kost’s Stallions (19-5) will travel to Virginia Beach on Thursday morning and play state-powerhouse Frank W. Cox on Friday afternoon in the Virginia AAA state semifinals at 1 p.m. For Kost, this could be the end of an athletic career.

She’s only receiving mild recruiting interest at this point and doesn’t really want to tempt fate by risking another concussion. In fact, she said she’d like to, at one point, be on the other end of the doctor’s office visits.

“All of the injuries I’ve gone through have made me realize that I have an interest in medicine and the medical field,” Kost said. “If something did happen, I wouldn’t want to make it so that I wouldn’t be able to pursue a career.”

By Jason Mackey  |  November 11, 2009; 4:49 PM ET
Categories:  AAA Patriot District , Field Hockey , Northern Region , South County , W.T. Woodson  
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