Ask Emily Kinneston and Kaelyn Kohlasch if they remember the last time they lost a high school game and they both have to pause for thought. It takes a minute before they travel back to a soccer match against Essex -- in 2012.
Since that defeat the two Champlain Valley Union seniors have been unbeatable in soccer and basketball. When Kinneston and Kohlasch lead the Redhawks into the Division I championship game against Rice on Saturday at Patrick Gymnasium, they have a chance to make history.
No Vermont high school has ever produced undefeated state champions in girls’ soccer and basketball in the same school year. That will be the Kinneston-Kohlasch legacy if the Redhawks prevail Saturday.
CVU is 23-0 in basketball this season following last year’s 23-0 championship run. The Redhawks have reached the Division I final the last four years, going 83-11 in that span. Kinneston has been a part of all four of those runs and Kohlasch the last three.
The Redhawks have won the last three D-I soccer titles, going 50-2-2. Last fall CVU went 18-0 and the only goal it allowed all season came on a penalty kick. Kohlasch and Kinneston were central figures in all three championships.
Certainly the Redhawk rosters in both sports have been filled with talented and experienced players. But the common denominators, the iron at the center of the core, have been Kinneston and Kohlasch.
“They complement each other so well,” said CVU basketball coach Ute Otley of her dynamic backcourt. “Emily always knows where Kaelyn is on the floor and brings out the best in her with her unselfishness. Kaelyn is very good at reading Emily and interpreting what she needs and when she needs it. They feed off each other.”
Kinneston is the reigning state player of the year. Next year, she’ll play at American University. A multi-skilled guard, her season averages of 12.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 3.3 steals are deceiving. She could easily double those numbers if she wasn’t more concerned with the players around her.
“As a senior, my main focus was to make sure every player felt she was an important part of the team,” Kinneston said. “And I always pay attention to the little things, because you can always get better.”
Otley said that Kinneston has always been the team leader by example. This season she has expanded that role.
“Emily has been more vocal and used her voice to spread her influence,” said Otley. “She never used to speak up in the huddle, but when we were losing to Rice in the fourth quarter (CVU’s only narrow victory) this season, it was Emily who said, “Hey, we’ve got this. This is our time.’ “
Kinneston has been a force since her freshman season. Kohlasch didn’t reach the varsity until her sophomore year and as a junior Otley asked her to play a reserve role, even though she was the team’s second-best player behind Kinneston.
“We had two freshmen (Laurel Jaunich and Sadie Otley) who we knew were going to be important players for us in the future and we needed Kaelyn’s experience with them coming off the bench,” Coach Otley said. “She was willing to sacrifice any sort of personal glory for the good of the team. And of course she was always on the floor at the end of the game.”
Kohlasch averaged just 8.2 points this winter, numbers that again are misleading in CVU’s spread-the-wealth offense. Fueled by Kinneston’s deft passes in the semifinals Tuesday, Kohlasch poured in 23 points in the Redhawks’ win against Colchester.
“Emily could dominate any game if she wanted to,” said Kohlasch, who will play at St. Lawrence next year. “But she always makes the extra pass, she always shares.”
Because the team was integrating two freshmen into the rotation last winter, Otley thought this would be the season CVU really hit stride.
“Last year’s success was surprising – we thought that was going to be our throwaway year,” she said. “This season it was all about how to avoid becoming complacent, how to create healthy competition without back-biting.”
That was never an issue with Kinneston and Kohlasch in charge. Now CVU is one step away from history that Otley will be happy to embrace with her superlative twosome.
“I don’t need to lose to have teachable moments,” Otley said. “I’m okay if they’ve forgotten how to lose.”