After capturing three consecutive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference soccer championships, Bryn Mawr stepped up to the A Conference last year.
The Mawrtians came crashing back down to earth with the move, finishing seventh among eight teams with a 2-9 mark.
"The speed of the game and physical play was kind of shocking to some of the players," said Bryn Mawr coach Tina Steck, beginning her seventh year at the helm.
Now, she thinks the Mawrtians are ready for the rigors and crisp pace of the A Conference.
Bryn Mawr returns seven starters, including senior goalie Zoe Derrickson, senior defender Maddalena Blondell, sophomore forward Maddie Stuzin, sophomore defender Amalia Bilis, senior midfielder Isabel Labonte-Clark, senior forward Danielle Hogarth and junior Megan Sola, and is playing with more confidence after the rough year.
The Mawrtians started the season with a 4-3 victory over St. Mary's on Aug. 30 in Annapolis, then dropped a 5-2 decision to Mount de Sales five days later in Catonsville.
"This year, our returnees understand how fast we need to play and how physical the game is going to be," Steck said. "I don't think that first 15 minutes of the game are still going to be a shellshock for us."
Bryn Mawr's biggest adjustment has been playing without Derrickson, a Loyola University Maryland recruit, who suffered a concussion playing for the Bowie-based Freestate club team earlier this year and had surgery as a result, Steck said.
Derrickson is expected to be out of the lineup four to six weeks.
"Zoe kept us competitive in a lot of games last year," the coach said. "She was a three-year starter. You can't really replace her experience. So going from her to someone who hadn't had significant playing time will be the biggest challenge."
Junior Teresa Norman, a varsity back last year, is the new starter in goal.
"She has gone into the season with confidence. Her strength is her attitude and willingness to learn," Steck said. "I anticipate mistakes to be made and that's OK."
The University of Michigan-bound Hogarth is the team's offensive standout after leading Bryn Mawr with 13 goals last year — and has scored all of the Mawrtians' goals so far this season.
"She is a four-year starter and plays with a high pedigree on her (Freestate) club team," Steck said. "She's had a lot of very good coaching through club and ODP (Olympic Development Program). She really understands the game and is composed with the ball at her feet."
Feeding the flashy forward will be a midfield of Labonte-Clark, juniors Meghan Sola and Emily Maranto, sophomore Sydney Nemphos and freshman Abby Fisher.
The defense, featuring freshmen Kate Coiro and Jordan Askew, Bilis and Blondell, also has a blend of youth and experience.
"This year I feel we are younger," Steck said. "Our strides are going to be greater throughout the year. We are a little bit more athletic and have more speed than we had last year, from top to bottom."