Zoe Stukenberg made sure that every Marriotts Ridge girls lacrosse practice ended the same way.
"Zoe always wanted to end on a made shot or a good play, and it always had to be pretty," said Marriotts Ridge coach Natalie Gaieski.
"I'm big on ending on a good note," Stukenberg admitted. "I hate when the offense takes a crappy shot. ... I'm not really satisfied until the offense or what we are working on gets a good one in."
Stukenberg, named the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times girls lacrosse Player of the Year for the third time, finishes her high school career in that same good-note mode.
She is the only three-time award winner, which puts her one-up on the likes of standouts Erinn Quinn, Lauren Kickham, Kristen Waagbo and Megan Bosica and two-up on her future college coach Cathy (Nelson) Reese.
"What an honor to be ranked with those girls. There are some serious players there," Stukenberg said.
To be named Player of the Year takes a combination of factors. Luck, innate talent, hard work and drive are essential, of course, but Stukenberg acknowledges other things.
"I've been on an unbelievable team, I've had unbelievable coaching and a great support system all around," she said.
Marriotts Ridge won this year's Class 3A/2A state title, humbling Century, the defending champion, 15-5.
The pre-game was inauspicious — the Mustangs forgot to bring practice balls and then they dinged their own goalkeeper during warm-ups — but once the game started it was one to remember. Everything came together perfectly for Marriotts Ridge, which also won the 2011 title.
When asked how to defend against Stukenberg, Century coach Becky Groves half-kiddingly said that she hoped Stukenberg wouldn't play.
There was no chance of that.
"Zoe does it all," Groves said. "Not only can she score but she makes everyone around her better. …To be honest, I don't think there is a way to stop her. You can kind of deter her a little bit from having a huge game, but you are not going to stop her."
Century tried face-guarding and double-teaming her. Stukenberg replied with three goals and six assists. The six assists would have been a championship game record in any classification other than Marriotts Ridge's Class 2A where the record is 11.
"There's no better feeling than winning your last game," Stukenberg said. "Only six sets of seniors in the whole state got to win their last game. How lucky to be one of those (seniors)."
Over her high school career, she scored 220 goals and had 121 assists. She also had 239 draw controls.
On top of the career numbers, her legacy as a leader will last at Marriotts Ridge. She was the player who set the tone.
"Zoe always made everyone feel welcomed," Gaieski said.
She took freshman Lexi Souder under her wing as a practice partner.
Although welcoming, Stukenberg expected a lot of her teammates.
"She rode people. She wanted them to put in their best effort, but she expected a lot of herself and her coaches. …She helps teach, she thinks, sometimes she questions me and it makes me think. She's like another assistant coach," Gaieski said.
Yet, Stukenberg, who has a vivacious personality, always treated lacrosse as something that was fun and not a job.
She collected a boatload of accolades this spring. She was Marriotts Ridge's senior female athlete of the year, the Baltimore Sun's Metro Player of the Year, first team All-Met in the Washington Post, US Lacrosse All-American (for the third time) and Under Armour All-American (for the third time).
Later this summer, she's off to the University of Maryland where she will join a team that came up just shy of winning the 2013 NCAA title.
She admits to being "a little scared, but very excited" about going to Maryland.
"I'm planning on showing up and doing my best and hope for the best," she said.
Stukenberg knows that nothing will be given to her at Maryland, where she'll be one of the rookies on a team with All-Americans.
"Everyone there is super talented. It's a whole other level of lacrosse. I can't wait to see how much my game will improve when I'm surrounded by that level of talent and dedication. …If I'm on the bench or on the field, either way I'm excited."
With three county and regional titles and two state championships, the last four years have been historic for Marriotts Ridge and Stukenberg has been a major part of it all.
"I don't think I'll ever meet a kid like her again," Gaieski said. "I really enjoyed this group of seniors."
Also named to the all-county first team:
Jenna Brewer, Atholton senior. In her three years on varsity, Brewer has played from one end of the field to the other. As a sophomore, she spent a good amount of time in goal.
"She was awesome playing goalie," said coach Crystal Shelley.
Brewer moved out of the goal circle and has made an impact for the Raiders' offense. At attack, she has been a productive scorer. She had 22 goals as a junior and a team-high 58 this year.
Brewer's innate speed enables her to beat defenders.
"Jenna's willingness to work hard and get better at what she needed helped her improve a lot from last year," Shelley said."
Brewer plans to walk on at Salisbury.
Marissa Davey, Marriotts Ridge junior. Dominating the draw is an important component of lacrosse and when teams could figure out her teammates Zoe Stukenberg and Taylor Hensh, Davey jumped in to the center to take the draw. She had 42 draw controls this season.
"Marissa wins draw control and causes turnovers. She's scrappy," said coach Natalie Gaieski.
Davey can also make a good cut, catch a good feed and place her shots. She had 48 goals and 17 assists this spring.
"She has a killer shot. It's like a guys' shot; it's hard," Gaieski said. "I think next year she will really shine."
Davey has made a verbal commitment to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Abbey Groft, Howard junior. For Groft, it's goal fulfilled. "At the beginning of the season, Abbey set a goal for herself that she wanted to make all-county," said coach Alleesha Davidson. "To set a goal like that and really do it, I'm really proud of her."
Groft had 69 goals — 51 more than last year — and was a major reason why Howard (12-6) enjoyed its best season ever.
"Abbey has come so far so quickly. She is working so hard and it is really paying off," Davidson said. "I'm excited for her."
Kristen Woolschlager, Howard senior. Woolschlager was the driving force behind Howard's offense. As a proven scorer, she often drew the other team's best defender, but she also had the skills to pass the ball to Abbey Groft or other teammates to keep the attack going.
She chipped in to the offense with 59 goals and 15 assists.
A three-year player at Howard, Woolschlager was the person who rallied her teammates. In effect, she'd say, "Settle down. Let's play as a team. Let's win together."
Woolschlager was a big part of why Howard reached the state semifinals for the first time in school history. She scored 150 goals in her Howard career.
"I'm really going to miss Kristen. She's such a great kid," coach Allesha Davidson said.
Stephanie Asher, Glenelg junior. A low attack player last year, Asher moved to the midfield this season and was very effective, especially on the draw. She had 50 draw controls.
Asher was fast and had a very good dodge.
"She became our biggest driver from the top," said coach Ginger Kincaid. "She started our motion offense and scored a lot in our big games. We could count on her to come up with isolation goals."
Asher was Glenelg's second-leading scorer (38 goals).
"Steph is a very complete player and the thing is that she is a very good defender, too," Kincaid said.
Samantha Brookhart, Mt. Hebron senior. The past several years, no one has been more dominant on the draw than Brookhart, who had 82 draw controls this spring.
"She is truly a specialist and has the ability to direct the ball to teammates with ease," said coach Trish Derwart. "She allowed her team to capture 65 percent of the overall draws in games."
Derwart was reluctant to take Brookhart out of games not only because of her individual production (51 goals and 28 assists) but also because she pulled the best out of her teammates.
"Sam is calm and collected all the time. She has a natural motivation that you rarely see in players her age," Derwart said.
The four-year varsity starter has superior field vision as well as the ability to read the defense and capitalize on the opportunity at hand.
Brookhart has been named an Under Armour All-American and will play at Towson University next year.
Jenna Collins, River Hill junior. Collins' statistics alone speak for themselves — 58 goals, 42 draw controls.
"Watch her one time and you can see she's a dominant player — no matter where I play her. That's pretty impressive," said coach Kelly Berger.
Collins never came out of a game and she played both ends of the field with equal ease. She can score goals and mark the top attacker on the other team as well.
"She's an all-around phenomenal athlete," Berger said.
Collins and her equally athletic twin, Julia, have verbally committed to play for the Naval Academy.
Grayson Corbett, Wilde Lake junior. Wilde Lake coach Davia Procida doesn't hold back on her praise for Corbett.
"She's a coach's dream," said Procida. "She never gives up."
Corbett carried the bulk of Wilde Lake's offense on her shoulders, tallying 86 of her team's 169 goals. She tied the single-game school record with 12 goals. She also won 83 draw controls.
"Grayson was key in the new-found success Wilde Lake had this year," Procida said. "Her work ethic at practice brings the intensity up for everybody. That's a huge reason why the team that showed up on March 1 and finished (the season) was completely different."
This year's Wildecat team tied the program record for victories (seven).
"Grayson never stops looking to improve," Procida said.
Corbett has verbally committed to Hofstra.
Taylor Hensh, Marriotts Ridge junior. Hensh, one of the Mustangs' centers, directed the team's offense and helped make the big plays happen. A dynamic player, she was capable of quick bursts up the center that made her a scoring threat that could not be ignored.
She had 57 goals and 21 assists to go with 30 draw controls.
"Taylor has a great one-on-one move," said coach Natalie Gaieski. Hensh is strong and doesn't get pushed around, Gaieski added.
Hensh was a workhorse for the Mustangs, making major defensive contributions in addition to her offensive output.
She verbally committed to the University of Maryland as a sophomore.
"It will be interesting next year to watch her lead," Gaieski said.
Alex McKay, Marriotts Ridge senior. For three years, McKay was known purely for her track-star speed. She can fly, but the rest of her lacrosse stick skills were inconsistent.
That changed this year.
"This year Alex put the whole package together. She looked like the Division I player that I always thought she was," said coach Natalie Gaieski.
McKay, an Under Armour All-American who has signed with the University of Maryland, relaxed and played with confidence this year. No one could take her 1v1 and her defensive footwork, stick positioning and body positioning were so outstanding that she drew charges.
Although McKay was the gel that held the Mustangs' defense together, she was capable of scoring (three goals) and she came up with 35 ground balls and 15 draw controls.
"Alex is probably the most improved player I've ever seen," Gaieski said.
Tianna Wallpher, Mt. Hebron junior. "Sometimes I think 'Intensity' is Tianna's middle name. She is always focused and always consistent," said coach Trish Derwart.
A natural athlete with incredible 1v1 positioning, Wallpher often marked the best attacker on the opposing team. No one held her ground defensively better than Wallpher, who took 10 charges.
"She is the best on my team at taking the charge. Nothing pumps the team up more than to see Tianna take one in the game," Derwart said.
Wallpher's speed on clears out of the back were integral to Mt. Hebron's transition.
Although she is also a starter in field hockey and basketball, Wallpher has made a verbal commitment to play lacrosse for UMBC.
Maddy Fisher, Mt. Hebron senior. There is no higher praise for a goalkeeper than to refer to them as a "wall." Fisher has been the "wall" for Mt. Hebron since she first stepped on the Vikings' field. She saved nearly 60 percent of the shots she faced this season.
"Maddy really developed her out-of-cage play and she created a number of turnovers in the form of interceptions (10) and ground balls. Her clearing was huge for us this year as well," said coach Trish Derwart.
Fisher single-handedly kept her team in some very big games this season, making the unexpected saves.
"As a coach, you want your goalkeeper to get the ones that she is supposed to and a few of the tough ones. Maddy got the tough ones and then some," Derwart said.
Fisher, who will play for Georgetown University, leaves some very big shoes to fill.
Megan Taylor, Glenelg sophomore. All-county first team for the second year in a row, Taylor has a skill set that is enviable.
"She's flat-out one of the best goalkeepers I have ever seen. She has the quickest hands," said coach Ginger Kincaid.
Taylor also has quick feet and really quick reflexes.
Her ability to read passes and make interceptions allowed Glenelg to extend its defense away from the goal circle because she could intercept on the back side.
Even without the defense forcing a weak shot, Taylor can often come up with the save. She had 108 saves this season and seven interceptions.
Taylor, who has verbally committed to Maryland, was named to the Under Armour All-American underclassman team.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun