This might have not been the best year for three-time defending Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference champion Bryn Mawr to move up to the A Conference.
The Mawrtians graduated 10 players from last year's title-winning team.
Four of those were four-year varsity performers, including Riley Barger, who has started 10 of 15 games for the University of Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference this fall.
That leaves only three seniors (Ellie DeGarmo, Abby Del Guercio, Kate Snouffer) in the starting lineup.
"When you lose 10 players from a team, there's a lot of new faces," Bryn Mawr coach Tina Steck said. "There's a lot of learning that has to take place pretty rapidly."
It's certainly been a learning and growing season for the Mawrtians.
They've won only two of 10 league games and suffered losses by as many as eight and nine goals to powerhouse McDonogh, the top-ranked team in the area.
Steck knows tough defeats have made Bryn Mawr stronger on the field and mentally tougher away from the pitch.
For that reason alone, she said the challenge of moving up to the A Conference has been well worth the effort.
"It's been a difficult challenge all season, but at times it actually has been a lot of fun," Steck said. "The object is to win, but can we take another step forward? I have been really happy with the way they responded game after game and how much we have improved throughout the season."
Now, the Mawrtians are ready for the playoffs. They will be on the road for a quarterfinal Oct. 29, most likely against John Carroll (9-6 overall, 5-4 league).
Bryn Mawr lost to John Carroll, 3-1, Oct. 12.
"When we get to the conference tournament, it's a new season," said Steck, whose team is 5-9 overall. "If we play as well as we can for 80 minutes, then we will be able to compete with anyone."
That said, the Mawrtians will have to rebound from a late-season slump in order to advance further into postseason play.
Consecutive losses to McDonogh, John Carroll, Mercy and Mount de Sales have put the Mawrtians in a tailspin.
A 1-0 loss to host Mount de Sales finished league play in a match in which the Sailors applied plenty of pressure to defenders Del Guercio, Snouffer, junior Maddelena Blondell and junior goalie Zoey Derrickson in the first half while recording 10 shots.
Derrickson made two point-blank saves during that stretch, including a stop on Jacqueline Clauser's breakaway.
"Zoey has played really well all season," Steck said. "With some of the results, it may not have looked like it, but she's been excellent this season. I think she's one of the top keepers in the conference."
Mount de Sales broke the scoreless deadlock in the 53rd minute and went unchallenged until Snouffer searched for the equalizer on a 25-yard shot that was rebuffed in the 71st minute.
"Under pressure, they had a controlled way of putting the ball forward to their strong players," Mount de Sales coach James Dubysoki said. "They put a lot of pressure on us. It wasn't an easy win by any stretch, even though we outshot them, (by a) 2-1 (margin)."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun