Although Ward Melville’s Kerri Thornton is one of the top field hockey players on Long Island, she’ll never allow those kind of thoughts to enter her mind.
“I don’t think of sports as an individual thing,” Thornton said. “Sports are about being part of a team. There’s no ‘I’ in team.”
But there is an ‘I’ in the following words: first, scoring, island.
Thornton is first in scoring (and goals) in Long Island field hockey this season. The junior forward enters Thursday’s Suffolk I game at Sachem East with 14 goals and one assist (15 points) for the defending Long Island Class A champ Patriots (6-0). For her efforts, Thornton has been named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
“I’m not really focused on being the top scorer [on Long Island],” said Thornton, who has as many goals as the rest of her teammates combined. “We’re a well-balanced team with a great defense and a great offense. It’s not just about one player. We all work together.”
The returning Newsday All-Island second-team pick has scored in five of the Patriots’ six games, and in the only game she didn’t score — a 2-1 win at Northport — older sister and senior center back Kaitlin did.
“I don’t think about scoring goals,” said Kerri, who had a 93 average in school last year. “I think about the defenders and the goalie and how they’re going to move. When you get opportunities, you have to finish them.”
Thornton certainly has finished many chances this season. In fact, with 10 games remaining, she has a great shot to surpass her 2015 numbers of 18 goals and six assists.
“She’s been on fire,” Ward Melville coach Shannon Watson said. “She’s a rock for us.”
Watson has a theory about Thornton’s success. “She has great speed, great game sense, and great skills,” Watson said. “That makes her a triple threat. Plus, she’s so tenacious.”
That tenacity goes for the entire Ward Melville team, which just missed winning the state Class A title last season when it lost, 1-0, in double overtime to Mamaroneck.
“That game still gets brought up every once in a while,” Thornton said. “Right now, I’m focused on us having a successful season.”
If Thornton and the Patriots continue playing the way they have, they’ll be very successful. One player who has a unique view of Ward Melville’s success is Thornton’s sister, who plays defense.
“It’s pretty cool to watch after we move the ball up the field to see how beautiful the passes move around,” said Kaitlin, who will attend Towson next fall for lacrosse. (Both Thornton sisters have verbally committed to Towson to play lacrosse; Kerri will play there in 2018). “When the ball gets to [Kerri], my heart is pounding. It’s an awesome feeling when she scores. She deserves it, because no one works harder.”