MEGEN POLLINI kicks during football action earlier this fall. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 28, 2011WOLFEBORO — It would be a challenge to find another athlete who had as busy a fall sports season as Kingswood senior Megen Pollini.
A four-year star on the girls' soccer team, Pollini also spent the last two years serving as the kicker on the Kingswood football team, doubling her workload each and every week.
Pollini had played soccer from a very young age and admits that it is her first love, but found football to be an interesting endeavor and something she wasn't bad at either.
She points out that while she had to learn a lot of the intricacies of the game of soccer when she started playing, kicking the ball was something she was always good at.
"Kicking has always come naturally," she said. "Even when I first started soccer, I had to learn the other stuff but I could always kick."
She admits that kicking a football is different than kicking a soccer ball, but she approaches the two the same way.
"I kick it like it's a soccer ball, but they tilted the ball back toward me so it went up when I kicked it," she said of the football experience.
She noted that kicking in football and kicking in soccer are different and learning the differences took a little getting used to.
First and foremost was the counting steps that she has to do in football in order to time her kick perfectly to get over the oncoming blockers.
"I had to get used to counting my steps instead of just kicking," she said. "Everyone is coming at me."
Pollini points out that it is a bit different having someone hold the ball, but she said she'd be more scared to hold the ball than she is kicking it.
For Pollini, the kicking game for the first eight games of the season consisted completely of field goals and extra points, both situations where players are not allowed to hit the kicker.
However, in the final game of the season, she also did kickoffs for the Knights, as soccer season was over and she was a little more free to be physical.
In that Kennett game, Pollini found herself in a situation that she hadn't been in before.
After a kickoff, a Kennett returner moved the ball up the sidelines and got past most of the Kingswood special team players looking to make a tackle.
Pollini found herself along the sidelines with a runner coming at her and she knew she had to make the hit.
The senior lowered her shoulder and was preparing to at least knock the Eagle runner out of bounds when a teammate came flying in and did the honors for her, just seconds before the two collided.
"I was ready, but someone came over just as I was getting there," she said. "I had never hit anyone, except my brother just messing around at home."
Throughout the season, football was the extra sport. Pollini practiced with the soccer team and usually got to the end of football practice. If there was ever a conflict, she went with soccer, an agreement reached with former coach Matt Jozokos last year and coach Chip Skelley this season.
She notes that when Jozokos approached her about kicking last season, she was a bit surprised.
"It had never really crossed my mind," she said. "It's different, but I don't know how to explain it. But I had a lot of fun."
Recruiting football kickers from the soccer team is not unusual. Aaron Kolb did it for Kingswood just a few years ago. However, Pollini was the first girls' soccer player recruited for duties on the football team.
"I can't kick it as far as he (Kolb) can," Pollini joked.
She also noted that she preferred kicking from the hash marks because she has a natural ability to curl the ball, which is often on display on the soccer field when she takes corner kicks and direct kicks. In fact, it was just a few short years ago she learned how to kick the ball straight.
"It's easier for me to curve the ball than to kick it straight," she said. "I went to camp four years ago and they taught me how to kick straight."
While soccer has always been her favorite sport, Pollini also plays basketball and softball at Kingswood and when she graduates, she'll be taking with her 14 varsity letters. She played soccer, softball and basketball for four years and football for two.
She is hoping to play both soccer and softball in college and has kept her options open about where she hopes to be next year, but she knows athletics will be part of her life.
"I've always done sports," she said.
Pollini admitted that the football team's winless season was tough, but she said that it was probably harder on her teammates that played more, but she still had a great time and wouldn't trade her time on the gridiron.
"It's something I'll never forget," she said. "I'll always remember the fun."
And when next year rolls around, there will be a lot of shoes to fill at Kingswood Regional High School.