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West Babylon's Esposito a natural in lacrosse

West Babylon's Christina Esposito at practice. (April 11,

West Babylon's Christina Esposito at practice. (April 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Christina Esposito weaves around the defenders and, in what already seems like the hundredth time in a young season, stands toe-to-toe with the goalie. Her game face drops, she does a little jig, and ends by flicking the ball harmlessly at the keeper's feet.

It's the waning minutes of West Babylon lacrosse practice. It's cold and rainy and Esposito was being merciful to the goalie, Alexis Maldonado, who is also on her basketball and soccer teams. Actual opponents should be so lucky.

"It's scary," Maldonado says after. She expresses sincere, if fleeting, sympathy for her padded brethren throughout the county. "She has that powerful shot and there's really nothing you can do to stop her. She knows how to place the ball well, she knows how to move the ball."

And, lest there be any confusion: the girl knows how to score goals.

The Northwestern University-bound midfielder is the leading scorer in Suffolk with 58 points -- 37 goals and 21 assists, including a career-high 11-point game against Whitman on Thursday. The recruiters descended on Esposito as a junior and "it was crazy," she said.

"It was so stressful and it was so early," Esposito said. She hasn't bothered taking off her mouth guard, even though practice has been over for 10 minutes. It gives the distinct impression that practice is never quite over for her.

"Everyone always told me, Oh, you'll feel it. You'll get that feeling, and I was like, 'yeah, OK,' " she said. "But [when I went to Northwestern], I knew."

Northwestern, currently the No. 1 women's lacrosse team in the nation, wooed her with likable coaches and team camaraderie, she said. Overall, it's not a bad end game for Esposito, who grew up playing two sports, neither of them lacrosse.

"I always hated lacrosse," Esposito said. "I said, 'no, I don't even like it. I'm a soccer player.' " Eventually, in sixth grade, her best friend, Melissa Guglielmo (currently playing at Dowling), convinced her to give it a shot. "From the minute I started playing, I loved the speed of the game," Esposito said.

It reflects in her play to this day. West Babylon coach Colleen Kilgus said that Esposito's trademark is her hustle. "She's all over the field," Kilgus said. "She's one of the fastest girls that I've seen in high school and she plays like that all game."

It's not uncommon to see Esposito run the length of the field or score on a sprint from the circle. That, coupled with strong stickwork and a powerful shot, has been a winning combination for West Babylon, which is now 4-1 in Division I.

"I think I use my speed to my advantage a lot, especially coming down off the draw or from the midfield," Esposito said. "The defenders won't be on their toes, so I use that to my advantage, dodge and go."

Esposito's "energy trickles down to every single one of the rest of the players," Kilgus said. Something that was readily agreed on by Maldonado ("sometimes, she aims at me on purpose to get me riled up") and midfielder Samantha Apuzzo, the team's second leading scorer.

"She pushes me and I push her and it works out well," Apuzzo said.

It was Esposito who sparked West Babylon's March 30 win against defending state champion Northport, a team it hadn't defeated in five years, Esposito said. To hear her tell it, West Babylon pulled out the 11-8 win on will alone.

"That was the most amazing experience of my life," said Esposito, who had five goals. It felt like "they weren't worried about the game," she said. By the end, Esposito, who had run the field ragged, was spent: "I couldn't even breathe," she said.

"I think [Northport] was surprised at how determined she was," Kilgus said. "She told every one of the girls, 'we're not losing today.' Losing was not an option. It teaches them the mentality that they need to have." Esposito, Kilgus said, has always been a leader. Lately, though, her words are seemingly as powerful as that booming overhand shot.

"I've heard from other teams and coaches and they know they can't stop her, so now they're trying to figure out how to slow her down," Kilgus said. "She's that good of a player."

Esposito has noticed the shift as well. "I started getting face guarded hard last year and I think that got into my head a little bit," she said. "This year, reverse it. I feel like I get into their head."

She proves her own point, though perhaps unwittingly. Esposito is taking a few playful shots at the empty goal after practice and Maldonado, who had just spent hours on the receiving end, casts a weary, though affectionate eye at her teammate.

"We might want to move," she says, despite being a good 20 feet behind the net. "With her, you never know."

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