Turnover is just part of the high school athletic routine. Athletes grow up, graduate and move on. Coaches change too. But officials? This is new for the county.
Following a sudden end of contract, the county elected to hire a new board of officials. Some of the officials from the Howard Carroll Officials Association have joined the new board, the Central Maryland Officials Association, but for the most part there will be a lot of new officials on the field. The teams met some at the play day and are hopeful for a smooth transition.
Also looking for a smooth transition are the new coaches. There are seven new JV coaches looking to provide a strong foundation of skill for their respective programs.
Two programs will be welcoming veteran coaches into their varsity positions, Martie Dyer at Atholton and Lindsay Beil at Reservoir. Maintaining consistency in head coach positions can ensure that the perennial front-runners will continue to be tough to beat. As always there are teams that are prepared and eager to upset the favorites.
Powerhouse Glenelg will be the team to beat. The Gladiators have been county champions for four consecutive years. The reigning Class 2A state champs are looking to "three-peat", which may be extremely plausible as they "really only have four positions to fill from last year's team" according to coach Ginger Kincaid. Missing from the line-up will be three-time Player of the Year Alyssa Parker and her talented teammate Mary Kate Olson. Both have moved on to play collegiately. Although notable players have graduated, the rising upperclassmen will maintain the level of competitive play those before them have established.
With great skill comes a great target and there will be a long line of teams seeking to take the county crown off of Glenelg's head.
Mt. Hebron will field a strong team with 10 returning varsity players. The 2011 3A state semifinalists will seek to draw strength from returning all-county first-team players Tianna Wallpher, Lindsey Dewey and keeper Maddy Fisher.
Also vying to make a mark in the county will be River Hill, led by Kat Varga, also a first team all-county pick and second team all-state. She tallied 20 goals last season, second only to Alyssa Parker.
It would be amiss to not mention Atholton, Howard and Marriotts Ridge. Howard has a strong core of club players who play year-round as does Atholton, which only graduated two seniors. Marriotts Ridge, a school with a history of strong athletes is also returning a strong keeper in Sophie Hamilton.
Simply put it is anybody's year. Only time will tell the story of who is willing to do the work to earn it.
There are not many rule changes this year. One change is that opponents need to be five yards away from the ball as opposed to the seven yards used previously.
Also new this year will be artificial turf fields at Atholton, Hammond and Howard. It is in the plans to provide turf to the remaining nine schools by 2015.
2011 record: 6-5 county; 7-6 overall
Top players: Seniors Kelly McQuilkin (M), Ellie Matthews (M) and Briana Stine (F); juniors Rachel Day (F) and Nikki Martin (D); sophomores Jen Bleakney (F) and Emily Clinch (GK).
The scoop: Atholton graduated only two players and with eight seniors the Raiders are hoping to make a stand in the county. "Our strength is our fast-breaking capabilities with a powerful forward line," coach Martie Dyer said.
First-team all-county player McQuilkin will most likely control the midfield, but look for Bleakney to have a great impact as well. According to Dyer, "[Bleakney] is a dedicated year-round player with tremendous potential to be a powerhouse in the county." Another impact player, Day, will be appearing on the forward line; this is a change in perspective for her as she spent the majority of the 2011 season on defense.
The Raiders pack a lot of skill and committed players. Although not a powerhouse last year, they may just surprise some teams this year.