Versatile Bonacquist has elevated Patriots’ play

Sara Bonacquist drew her share of attention as a junior scoring threat for Schen­ectady High School’

Sara Bonacquist drew her share of attention as a junior scoring threat for Schen­ectady High School’s varsity girls’ lacrosse team, but after an 11-goal outburst against Emma Willard in early May, everything changed.

From that point on, she became the primary target of every defense.

“I remember the first time it happened to me. It was against Albany Academy, and their girl stuck to me like glue,” said Bonacquist of the increased attention. “The more they do it, I figure out ways to get around it.”

The ability to do so sets Bonacquist apart from others. She glides forward and back, cuts sharply and shifts quickly from side to side during scoring assaults. She fuses her skills as a figure skater and tennis player into a lacrosse dynamo, complementing those moves with an array of shots.

“I attribute a lot of it, the foot skills, to figure skating,” said Bon­acquist, who works as a skate guard at the Schenectady County Rec­reation Facility. “I come from a skating family. We’re a big hockey family. I started when I was 2 or 3.”

Bonacquist skated competitively until high school, and played varsity tennis for six years at Schenectady, serving as its No. 1 singles player during the last three.

Watch the senior sift through a defense, and you’ll recognize the connection.

“It helps when you have someone with so much agility,” Schenectady girls’ lacrosse coach Brian Melanson said of the team co-captain and four-year varsity starter. “She’s an athlete, a three-sport athlete. A player like that creates opportun­ities for others.”

Bonacquist has no qualms with that, knowing her time to deliver will come.

“Sometimes, I’ll take myself out of a play for the good of the team,” she said. “I’ll draw one of their good defenders and create space. I know someone else can do it.”

That trust, the 17-year-old said, has been a major factor in what has turned into Schenectady’s finest season. The Lady Patriots are 10-2 and stand among the Capital District Women’s Lacrosse League leaders for the first time, and are headed to the Section II tourn­ament with hopes of a first-ever win there.

“This group meshes really well. Everyone will slide on defense. We’ll pass it off if someone has a better shot. We’re there for each other,” Bonacquist said. “We’re not one player this year. A lot of girls have improved to make us what we are.”

Schenectady had never won more than seven games before this breakthrough year. Its ledger includes first-ever wins against Scotia-Glenville and Emma Willard, and 12 goals or more in every victory.

“Emma Willard, they always shut us down, and to come back and beat them showed how far we’ve come along,” Bonacquist said of that signature 12-10 win, in which she delivered three goals and an assist. “It was a hard game and we played through it. That was really phenomenal.”

The victory avenged a wild 18-17 loss to Emma Willard in 2008. That was the game in which Bonacquist set a school record with her 11 goals and another school mark with 12 points. The fabulous performance included 10 second-half goals off the midfielder’s stick as Schenec­tady rallied from a 12-2 deficit.

“That was due to a large adren­aline rush. I kept getting the draw and getting it in the goal,” said Bonacquist. “I have so many great memories with lacrosse, but that was probably my best.”

Bonacquist set school records with 64 goals and 82 points last year, and shows 56 goals and 15 assists this spring, putting her among the Section II leaders in both categories.

She intends to put up more numbers with a Syracuse University club team next season, an opportunity afforded to students who attend nearby SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

“The school I’m going to does not have lacrosse, but from what I’ve heard, club is pretty competitive,” said Bonacquist, who will study landscape architecture and urban planning at SUNY CESF. “It should be pretty good. It will be a good mix of seriousness and fun.”

Bonacquist has had a lot of that this spring, registering seven-goal games against Holy Names and Scotia-Glenville, to go along with four six-goal efforts. As a junior, Bon­acquist had a pair of seven-goal performances, and another outing with six goals.

“If my team needs me, I’m going to try to score. When I was younger, I was kind of timid, and they were older girls,” said Bonacquist, who played modified ball as a seventh and eighth-grader before her jump to the varsity. “In my sophomore year, I started to score a lot more goals. I remember coach pulled me aside one time and said, ‘You have the ability to do it.’ and I went out and did it. I scored in that game.”

Melanson sensed there was something special about Bonacquist long before that sideline conversation.

“When she was in eighth grade, we had a play day with the varsity, JV and modified teams. We mixed all the girls together, and she was scoring and moving down the field against the older girls,” Melanson said. “I had an eye on her. I immed­iately knew she would be a starter as a freshman on the varsity.”

Bonacquist has come far fast in the world of lacrosse, from a seventh-grader who had never picked up a stick, to a two-time CDWLL first-team all-star and multiple school record holder.

“In seventh grade, we were doing it in gym class. I remember playing with these really old sticks, but I was doing well. That’s when I decided to try out for modified,” said Bonacquist, an honors student and member of Schenectady’s prest­igious International Baccalaureatte program. “I had heard of lacrosse before that, but I never thought of playing before that.”

Bonacquist’s presense has been a gift to the Schenectady program.

“She’s a great attribute to the team. She’s definitely a key. A great player and a team player,” soph­omore Sabrina Kristel said of her schoolmate. “I know I’m going to miss her.”

“She brings a lot. There’s the great field sense and the scoring and passing and defense, but there’s more. She’s a great person. She’s the ultimate team player and a team leader. Always very pos­itive,” Melanson said. “She’s only the second girl here to be picked as a team captain as a junior, and there’s a reason for that.”

“Taylor and I are probably the most vocal out there,” Bonacquist said of senior goalkeeper and co-captain Taylor DeThorne. “We’ve talked about it a lot, how we want to approach the team, and it’s about motivation, getting the team up, and then settling them down when things get too crazy. At the same time, we try not to be too overbearing. Nobody wants that.”

What Bonacquist and the rest of the Patriots want are a few more wins, maybe one in the sectionals, to cap this breakthrough season.

“Our theme this year is dream big,” Bonacquist said. “That’s what we’re doing.

Categories: High School Sports

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