It takes an awful lot to surprise Glenelg's Nick Wynne.
Known as one of the county's most confident and talented players, the Gladiator junior isn't afraid to set the bar high.
Yet even for him, admitting that this season exceeded his lofty expectations is something he can do without much hesitation.
It's not that Wynne didn't believe Glenelg could win county, region and state titles, or that he questioned his ability to blossom into one of the area's top scorers. He simply didn't necessarily foresee achieving those things in the emphatic fashion that he and his teammates did this spring.
After losing their season opener against Fallston, the Gladiators closed the season with 19 straight wins. Included along the way was a perfect 11-0 county record, wins over each of the 2010 state champions and the third state title in program history.
And as for Wynne, he finished his junior campaign with a county-leading 110 points (63 goals, 47 assists). It was the second-highest point total by a county player in the past decade and the most points by a non-senior since Mt. Hebron's Kyle Campbell notched 111 points as a junior in 1997.
"Honestly, I didn't think I would come anywhere close to that kind of year," said Wynne, who has been named this spring's Columbia Flier/Howard County Times boys lacrosse Player of the Year.
"I owe a lot to guys like Mikey (Wynne), John Milani, Mark Darden … teams found out pretty quickly that those guys are studs too. A lot of things opened up for me because of what they were doing," he added.
After serving as the wingman on attack last year to his older brother Zach and registering 58 points, Nick entered this season as the focal point for opposing defenses. It wasn't long before teams were locking him off, even in extra-man situations.
Slides were coming early and double teams created some frustrating moments, but, as his coach Josh Hatmaker points out, Wynne took it all in stride.
"What made him so hard to defend was the fact that he had no problem scoring five goals one game and then stepping back and getting five or six assists the next," Hatmaker said. "We had a lot of young kids out there and he trusted all of them to get the job done."
Nick displayed a particularly strong chemistry with his freshman brother Mikey, who finished with 82 points of his own and connected with his sibling for countless Wynne-to-Wynne goals.
"They literally seemed to always know where the other one was," Hatmaker said. "When you play with someone that you've shot around with in the backyard a thousand times before, you naturally develop a sixth sense."
As the season wore on, Nick had his share of big games. He had five goals and two assists in a win over Marriotts Ridge, four goals and four assists against Long Reach and five goals and six assists against Wilde Lake.
But for all the standout performances, Wynne saved his best game for one of the season's biggest stages. Squaring off in the Class 2A/1A state semifinals against Queen Anne's, the team that knocked Glenelg out of last year's playoffs, Wynne delivered a seven-goal and six-assist effort in a 15-4 Gladiator victory.
"I was so pumped to play them, that's the game I wanted all season," Wynne said. "It's funny because I was real nervous before the game, but after the first possession it all went away."
Queen Anne's ended up trying four different defenders on him, but nothing slowed him down.
"He saw that green and gold and it was game on," Hatmaker said. "It was about the most complete and perfect game he could have played."
On the season, Wynne registered two or more points in every game and developed into a match-up nightmare that opposing teams will have their hands full with again next spring.
"He's special and a lot of it is because he's put in the work to get himself to where he is," Hatmaker said. "The kinds of things he can do at full speed are downright scary. There's no half way with him. His ability to shoot with feet planted or on the run really sets him apart."
Named to the all-county first team are:
Brendan Castleman, Reservoir. A four-year varsity player and returning second-team all-county member, Castleman was the Gators' "bread and butter," according to coach Bryan Cole. "He was our quarterback out there, everything ran through him."
As good as he was as a scorer his junior year, registering 51 goals to go with 36 assists, Castleman proved to be just as dominant of a distributor this spring. His 44 assists ranked him second in the county and of the top-10 point producers, he was the only one with more assists than goals. Among the highlights were six-assist games against Wilde Lake and Howard, along with a five-goal, three-assist effort against Marriotts Ridge.
Pat Serio, Marriotts Ridge. In the history of Howard County boys lacrosse, few players have displayed the kind of offensive improvement from one season to the next that Serio did this spring. After registering just 12 goals as a junior, Serio exploded for a county-leading 76 goals as a senior to go along with eight assists.
Adept at finding holes in the middle of the defense and finishing in traffic, Serio had his share of big games. None, however, was bigger than the 10-goal effort he had in the Mustangs' victory over Reservoir.
Jake Stevens, Mt. Hebron. After a freshman season where he registered 64 points, Stevens wasn't sneaking up on anyone this spring. Yet, even as teams focused in on him, the Vikings' sophomore consistently found ways to get the job done.
Highlighted by a pair of eight-goal games, Stevens finished the year with 55 goals to go along with 32 assists. The 87 points were second most in the county, behind only Glenelg's Nick Wynne. What made him even more valuable, though, according to his coach Mike McCarthy was that "he always wanted the ball in his stick in crunch time." That was on full display when Stevens scored the game-tying goal late in the fourth quarter of an early-season win over Reservoir.
Mikey Wynne, Glenelg. Creating a lethal one-two combination with his brother Nick, Mikey torched opposing defenses for 82 points (42 goals, 40 assists). Although smaller than most players, he made up for it by outthinking them.
"At his age, he's the smartest kid I've ever had. He was already running point for us at times this season," Hatmaker said. "The kid is a sponge. He takes everything in and puts his own spin on it."
The season highlights included three goals and seven assists against Marriotts Ridge and two goals apiece in low-scoring victories against Hereford and Patterson Mill (state championship game).
Cody Gould, Mt. Hebron. A team captain with an extremely dangerous shot, Gould managed to improve his scoring numbers for the third straight season. His 61 points, which included 38 goals and 23 assists, ranked among the top 10 scorers in the county and he also combined with teammate Jake Stevens to create one of the area's top two offensive duos.
The list of memorable moments this spring was a lengthy one, but at the top of the list was undoubtedly a nine-goal effort against Long Reach that set a new Viking program single-game scoring record. Gould also excelled in other areas as a two-way player, picking up 77 ground balls and helping out in the face-off department.
Gavin Harrison, Marriotts Ridge. Already an established offensive force, Harrison developed the other parts of his game to be a key part of the Mustang defense as well this season. His 102 ground balls put him among the top five public school players in the county and were almost double the amount he scooped up as a junior. His ability to corral the ball and get it up field was a major aspect of Marriotts Ridge's strong transition game.
Harrison, who will play for St. Joseph's University next season, got the job done in the scoring department as well, notching 36 goals and 23 assists to finish as the team's second-leading scorer. He also played a big role in Marriotts Ridge clinching the region title, producing three goals and two assists in a 12-8 victory over Howard.
Dan Kaplan, Howard. The junior midfielder did literally a little bit of everything for the Lions during their run to one of the program's best seasons in the past 20 years. He collected 91 ground balls to lead the team and he also showcased incredible balance offensively. His 29 goals and 29 assists put him among the county's top 10 in points.
Opposing teams would often stick a long pole on him, something Kaplan learned to take advantage of. "His vision is great," coach Jimmy Creighton said. "He consistently dodges with his head up and will find the open man, which is why he ended up leading our team in assists."
Ethan Tompkins, Marriotts Ridge. One of the primary spark plugs for the Mustang offense, Tompkins didn't need much room to create things for himself and others. "In my opinion he was one of the best shooters in the county," coach Dan Sageman said. And what made the shot even more dangerous was the accuracy with which Tompkins had from all over the field.
He ended up with 37 goals and 16 assists, including a season-defining game against River Hill in the regional semifinal round of the playoffs. Tompkins scored seven goals in that contest to go along with one assist and helped the Mustangs to a 17-10 victory. He also added 60 ground balls to those offensive numbers.
Austin Kemp, Centennial. An invaluable piece for the Eagles on both sides of the field, Kemp was literally the engine that made Centennial go. He led the team's defense and, when it was crunch time, he sometimes led the team's attack as well. His 31 points led the way for county defenders by a large margin and he also scooped up a team-high 76 ground balls.
Although he excelled as a physical player that wasn't afraid to hit you, Kemp's greatest strength was his stick skills. "He's absolutely magical with his stick, just dynamic to watch," Centennial coach Warren Michael said. "He can handle with both hands and he was almost better than our attack men in that respect. I can't remember a player in my 27 years that could handle a stick like that."
Brendan McMahon, Glenelg. Continuing a long line of first-team Gladiator defenders, McMahon was the unquestioned leader of a defense that allowed only two opposing teams to reach double-digit goals this season. "He took ownership of our group back there and said 'look, this is what we need to do,' and he made sure they did it," coach Josh Hatmaker said. "Those kids didn't want to disappoint Brendan."
McMahon excelled as a shut-down defender, taking advantage of his great eye-hand coordination and soft hands. But he was just as valuable in collecting loose balls on face-offs and in sparking the transition game. He finished with 78 ground balls, many of which came in the middle of the field, and also chipped in on offense with eight goals and seven assists.
Zach Price, Howard. A born leader according to his coach Jimmy Creighton, Price was a physical presence that was the heart and soul of the Lions defense this spring.
"We wanted to pressure the ball this year and he did that for us," Creighton said. "He constantly got in on the opponents hands and frustrated them. Pound for pound he was one of the strongest kids on our team."
His tenacious play allowed him to often match-up with the opposing teams top attack or midfielder. He ended up with 34 takeaways to go along with 78 ground balls.
Corey Schwab, River Hill. The Hawks were working in a new defensive coordinator this spring and Schwab made sure the transition was a smooth one. A four-year starter and returning first-team all-county player, he was literally a coach on the field according to his coach Keith Gonsouland.
"He's naturally a very quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he really came out of his shell this year," Gonsouland said. "He learned how to assert himself in a leadership role and when you combine that with his other strengths, it's hard to put into words how much he meant for us."
Terrific at scooping up ground balls (92), Schwab was the one who often keyed the Hawks' transition game and could also match-up with opposing team's top attack.
Eric Sweetman, Glenelg. As he finished up the ice hockey season, it took a few games for Sweetman to take over the full-time starting goalie duties for the Gladiators. Once he did, though, he quickly established himself as one of the county's elite.
Glenelg allowed just 4.35 goals against with him in net and his 67.3 save percentage led all county goalies. Not always the most aggressive in terms of attacking the ball, Sweetman more than made up for it with his vision and quick hands.
"He naturally sees the ball so well," coach Josh Hatmaker said. "I can't tell you how often he makes things that are hard look very, very easy."