River Hill left a lot unaccomplished a year ago. That history is not likely to be repeated. The Hawks took a bruising defeat at the hands of Atholton last year, and were bumped from the Class 3A playoffs in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005. Never mind that River Hill won a county title and the District 5 championship. A chance to compete for the big prize — a state title — got away.
Coach Brian Song, who notched his 100th win at River Hill last year, said, "As with any coach or players, we want to win. Ultimately, the team wants to win the state championship." Already, the Hawks have won two games, outscoring their opponents, 9-2, in the Tournament of Champions at Tuscarora.
But, Song added, the county race will be as tough as ever. "There are multiple teams" that can claim the crown.
"My expectation of my team does not change and we want be a winner. The seniors have set the tone and everyone is following their leadership and guidance," he said.
Marriotts Ridge, the only team to beat the Hawks in county play last year, rebuilt in 2011 and will challenge the Hawks.
"River Hill is the team to beat," coach Robin Grey said. "In addition to being extremely well coached, they return Hamer and Street up top — I call them the destructive duo," she said, referring to sophomore Alex Hamer and junior Sheridan Street. "And (Katie ) Arensmeier is in the midfield. All are tremendous talents and huge playmakers.
Still, she added, "Given the number of kids we have returning — seven are starters — along with our newcomers, we have the potential to cause some trouble in the county this fall. The key will be staying grounded and healthy. We have a tremendous amount of speed and athleticism in every position."
Marriotts Ridge would like to do better in the Class B playoffs but has never gotten past Glenelg. "Glenelg has always been our kryptonite. If we can get over that mental hurdle, we should be able to make that goal a reality," Grey said.
Count Centennial to be in the top three. The Eagles have gotten off to a slow start (0-1-1) after losing player of the year Jordan Coburn, who anchored the Eagles' defense, and keeper Katie Donegan to graduation, and three players are sidelined with injuries. But, said coach Steve Baxter, "We set the bar high last season and we could very well be that good again. With our county being so competitive, it is simply too hard to predict.
"Howard is my dark horse pick to make noise in the county this season," Baxter added.
Glenelg, always looking toward the playoffs, is going through some growing pains, with a new coach and a team full of talented freshmen. Reservoir, a state semifinalist in 2011, has lost Amanda Jackson, a pre-season player of the year candidate who has torn her ACL and is out for the season. But, not too surprisingly, Reservoir may have the talent to work around the loss.
"Amanda has been an all-state, all-met player for three years, so she is obviously a huge loss, but we have a lot of girls who can fill step up and hopefully fill her void," said Josh Sullivan.
In the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, the nice rivalry that was building between Glenelg County School and Chapelgate has been broken up. Chapelgate moves up to a more competitive division this fall after winning two straight conference titles. "This will be a rebuilding year for us," said Christen Gjeldum.
New eras for fathers, daughters
Two role reversals have happened at two schools. Maureen Hammond takes over at Glenelg. She served six seasons as assistant to her father, Dean Sheridan. He won six regional titles and three state titles since 2003, and will now be his daughter's assistant.
"I have always loved working with my father," she said. "This is a great year for us to switch roles because the team is so young and most of them have younger siblings who will come through Glenelg. I will get to coach these girls and get to know their families for many years."
Rick Rollyson, the long-time JV coach at Glenelg, has a new assistant: his daughter, Janice. "We have a real father-daughter thing going on," said Hammond. "Family and community are so important at Glenelg. It is nice to be able incorporate that into our soccer program."
At Wilde Lake, there's another father-daughter team. Davia Procida, a Wilde Lake graduate, takes over the reins. She played for her father, David, who coached Wilde Lake from 2003 to 2007. His last team lost a heartbreaker in the state championship game.
"My dad is the person who inspired me to become a teacher and a coach," said Davia Procida. "I was lucky enough to play for him for three years at Wilde Lake. The night that we lost to River Hill in the second round of playoffs (2005) my senior year, I knew a couple things: One, I was going to sincerely miss spending every afternoon with my dad, and two, I wanted to come back to Wilde Lake and coach -- and I knew I wanted him right beside me.
"His ability to inspire others and motivate young athletes to be the best they can be is exactly the kind of teacher and coach I have been striving to be since I began my career. To work alongside him is a blessing; we are a great team," she said.