In 2012, The River Hill Hawks finished a perfect 19-0, capping off an extraordinary season with a 1-0 win over C. Milton Wright for the school's eighth state title.
Don't count on this season to be any different from the last, as coach Brian Song prepares his squad for a run at a repeat.
"There are no changes from year to year," he said. "The players want to win the county, and state, as it is the tradition at River Hill."
Sheridan Street returns for her senior season with the Hawks. In 2012, she led the county's public schools in goals (22) and points (53).
Street joins an impressive list of returning first-team all-county players for River Hill. Juniors Alex Hamer and Jen Voyton each give Song a lot of options on offense. Hamer was last year's county leader in assists, while Voyton looks to improve on her 11-goal, eight-assist performance from a year ago. Junior Julia Cane returns in the net as one of the county's top goalkeepers after only allowing one goal in 2012.
Many Howard County coaches agree that the Hawks are the frontrunners.
"It's River Hill's race to lose," said Marriotts Ridge coach Robin Grey. "They return a plethora of talent. If they stay healthy, I believe they will maintain their hold of the county."
"Sheridan Street and Alex Hamer are quite difficult to keep in check," said Reservoir coach Josh Sullivan.
Wilde Lake coach Davia Procida agrees, calling Street a "dynamic player" that "demands so much attention from the defense."
Said Centennial coach Steven Baxter: "River Hill has the most varsity talent year after year. They are always a top two or three pick every season."
While many coaches say River Hill will likely continue its stranglehold on the county, don't count out the likes of Atholton, Long Reach or Marriotts Ridge. Some coaches even have teams like Reservoir, Wilde Lake and Centennial as possible candidates to take down the Hawks as well.
The Atholton Raiders lost 23 goals and 18 assists in graduating seniors Katrina Macadoff and Maddie Boccio. However, county coaches still aren't sleeping on a rebuilding Raiders club.
Long Reach returns senior Ana Rebaza, who scored 11 goals for the Lightning. Rachel Kim will be patrolling the defense again this season as well for a Long Reach program that made it to the state semifinals a year ago.
In 2012, Marriotts Ridge fielded the county player of the year in Morgan Crable. Her departure will create some big shoes to fill, but Grey said her team has reloaded.
"(Not having Crable) hurts, but I am fortunate to have a core group of talented, athletic kids coming back," she said.
Those returning players for the Mustangs include all-county selections in senior keeper Jenna Bergquist (first team) and senior defender Morgan Huchuli (second team). Bergquist recorded an impressive 82.8 save percentage in 2012.
An injury-ravaged season may have held the Mustangs back in 2012, but Grey looks at the season as a chance to learn about her players.
"I believe the experience made us stronger as a program because it forced me to develop my younger talent quicker than anticipated."
A strong defense-first philosophy for Reservoir will be expanded upon this season, as coach Sullivan expects his squad to be solid throughout. Each captain has played a significant role on varsity for the past three seasons.
For Wilde Lake, captains Sarah Hulit, Becca Riley and Carliane LaGuerre "lead by example and understand that the success of this team comes from developing trust amongst all the players," according to Procida.
Centennial could be one of the more interesting teams in the county. Senior Carolyn Eichhorn will challenge River Hill's Street and Hamer as a possible Player of the Year candidate. Her defensive skills proved difficult for opposing schools in the county. Last season, she took almost every goal and corner kick for her team. A threat in the box, three of her six goals in 2012 came on penalty shots.
Some important dates early in the season include Sept. 10, when River Hill visits Reservoir and Marriotts Ridge travels to Glenelg. Look for Atholton at Centennial on Sept. 17 to be a compelling match-up as well.
Here's a thumbnail look at the teams across the county heading into the season (For expanded capsules, visit us at explorehoward.com):
*2012 First-team all-county; # 2012 Second-team all-county
Coach: Stephanie Stoutenborough
2012 record: 8-3 county, 10-5 overall.
Top players: Senior Emily Howell (D); sophomores Jaylyn Chandler (F), Emma Johnson (MF) and Jess Braun (MF).
What you need to know: The Raiders don’t return many starters from last year’s lineup, so coach Stephanie Stoutenborough said she will rely on young talent to fill the void.
Stoutenborough expects defense to be the “backbone” of the team this season, especially with experienced players like Howell coming back.
Freshmen Sofia Harrison (D) and Ashley Ensor (MF) are expected to take advantage of the opportunity to play on varsity and make an impact right away.
Coach: Steve Baxter
2012 record: 6-4-1, 6-7-2.
Top players: Seniors Carolyn Eichhorn* (D), Mary Anderson (D) and Ruthie Lucas (MF/F); junior Anna Mitchell (F).
What you need to know: Eichhorn, a 2012 first-team all-county selection, will anchor the defense for the Eagles this season. Six starters return, yet only three are seniors.
“Our biggest factor will be the physical and mental maturation of our younger players,” said coach Steve Baxter. In 2012, three sophomores and four freshmen saw significant playing time for the Eagles.
“Their progression is critical to our success,” he said.
One weak spot on Centennial’s roster seems to be a lack of consistent goal scoring threats. Junior forward Anna Mitchell scored seven goals, while racking up three assists for the Eagles in 2012. Baxter expects her to lead his offense this season as well.
Coach: Maureen Hammond
2012 record: 1-10, 3-13.
Top players: Senior Hannah Tolson (D); juniors Taylor Zucco (MF), Emily Taylor (D) and Kathleen Mensing (F).
What you need to know: Coach Maureen Hammond enters her second year at the helm of the Gladiators’ girls soccer program, and her attitude on her team’s prospects this season depends on how much work her team is willing to put in.
“We have a talented group of girls, and our success will be determined by how hard they work at practice everyday to make eachother better,” she said.
Still, Hammond said the competition will be stiff for every county school this season.
“I think this is going to be a great year for Howard County soccer,” she said. “I think any team could be county champs.”
Coach: Mike Koplow
2012 record: 0-11, 1-13.
Top players: Seniors Renae Tucker (F) and Laura Khoury (D); junior Brigid Mangan (GK); sophomore Zoe Perkins (MF).
What you need to know: “We will ‘win’ every game,” said coach Mike Koplow of his squad this year. While statistics are important to Hammond, Koplow said his focus will be on his group’s teamwork and consistent play in games. “We will win, regardless of what the scoreboard says,” he said.
Koplow believes his team has all the “ingredients” to thrive in the county, and this season’s success depends solely on how his team operates as a unit. When that happens, he said his team is a pleasure to watch.
“Hopefully those things will come together from game one,” he said.
Coach: Nick Zaron
2012 record: 6-5, 8-7 overall.
Top players: Seniors Christine Robinson (CM), Katie Cocozza (CM) and Maddie Barrow (RM); junior Nia Elbeck (F).
What you need to know: A slew of injuries proved costly last season for Howard. Though the Lions failed to make it far in the postseason, coach Nick Zaron said the amount of experience that the underclassmen were able to get during that time was valuable.
It’s the consistent play, according to the third-year head coach, that will be the ultimate deciding factor when it comes to Howard’s success this season. “At times last year we were a very dangerous and tough team,” he said. “In many of our games we lost, we started off with the lead, but took mental breaks and let teams back in the game.”
Junior forward Nia Elbeck led the team with 12 goals in 2012, while senior goalkeeper Cassidy Burns is entering her fourth year on varsity. Zaron expects both to play a significant role this season.
Coach: Erik Sandersen
2012 record: 7-4, 11-5
Top players: Seniors Heather Glasser (F) and Gillian Engelbrecht (D); juniors Lauren Murphy (MF) and Ann Bonner (MF); sophomore Rachel Kim (MF/D).
What you need to know: In order to make up for a lack of returning talent for the Lightning, coach Erik Sanderson said his team needs to work harder than everyone else in the county.
“We can have success if we are in great physical condition and continuously play with more heart than our opposition,” he said.
According to Sanderson, organized play, along with a stout defense, should be key to every win for Long Reach.
Coach: Robin Grey
2012 record: 6-4-1, 9-6-1
Top players: Seniors Taylor Hensh (MF), Alexis Zadjura (MF), Jenna Bergquist* (GK) and Morgan Hochuli# (D).
What you need to know: The Mustangs return to the field without 2012 Player of the Year Morgan Crable, who graduated and will suit up for the Loyola Greyhounds this fall.
Still, Marriotts Ridge returns eight starters and 16 players total from last year’s squad.
“Is experience a factor?” said coach Robin Grey. “Sure, experience gives teams an edge especially early on in the regular season.”
Look for the Mustangs to be a more “explosive” team than in past seasons, as Grey believes this year’s squad possesses a tremendous amount of speed and athleticism in all aspects of the game.
Coach: Tim Deppen
2012 record: 4-6-1, 6-8-1
Top players: Seniors Amanda Steinmuller (F) and Annalise Humm (MF); juniors Nia Crump (D) and Jen Giles (CM).
What you need to know: Coach Tim Deppen has led the Vikings for 11 seasons, yet has never managed to take down River Hill. “No team is easy to beat in this county, but River Hill is always the one game that we can’t seem to win,” he said.
Deppen said that avoiding injuries to the defense and goalkeeping position would place Mt. Hebron in position to be competitive, especially with “a ton of talent all over the field."
Coach: Christina Hewitt
2012 record: 2-8-1, 6-9-1
Top players: Seniors Virginia Lampron (D), Maya Patton (D) and Kelsey Lamothe (D); junior Courtney Rapp (MF); sophomore Charlotte Bickhart (MF).
What you need to know: With new additions to provide depth at goalie, midfield and attack, coach Christina Hewitt is excited to see what her Scorpions team can do this year.
“I hope this will create a strong team for us this year,” she said.
According to Hewitt, Lampron took her training very serious this summer. Look for Lampron to lead Oakland Mills’ defense this season.
Coach: Josh Sullivan
2012 record: 6-4-1, 7-6-2.
Top players: Seniors Delaney Reiff (D), Keri Rager# (D/S), Blair Bonner* (D) and Paola Rosa (MF).
What you need to know: Reservoir returns 10 starters — 13 total players who have started at some point — so experience figures to be “huge” for coach Josh Sullivan’s squad.
A defensive mindset has been something that Sullivan takes pride in, but his 2013 team looks to have talent on the offensive side of the ball as well.
Senior Amaya Philips is expected to contribute to Reservoir’s success as well. Philips was injured for the 2012 season, and Sullivan has high hopes for her return.
Coach: Brian Song
2012 record: 11-0, 19-0.
Top players: Seniors Sheridan Street* (F) and Callie Allen* (D); juniors Alex Hamer* (F), Jen Voyton* (MF) and Julia Cane# (GK).
What you need to know: With a surplus of offensive power returning for the Hawks in 2013, coach Brian Song is confident that his squad won’t have problems scoring.
While Street and Hamer both pose a serious threat to receive player of the year honors, don’t sleep on sophomores Becca Higgins (D) and Jessie Hopkins (MF/F). Song said these two should be “a major factor to our success.” Senior Maddie Haugh should also make a significant impact.
Coach: Davia Procida
2012 record: 6-4-1, 9-6-1.
Top players: Seniors Sarah Hulit (CM), Becca Riley (D) and Carliane LaGuerre (S); sophomores Rachel Lazris (MF) and Brynn Drury (S).
What you need to know: The Wildecats finished the season with a strong run — something second-year coach Davia Procida hopes will carry her squad into 2013.
“Our biggest challenge is to avoid any feeling of complacency,” she said. “We expect to be good this year, but we can’t forget that we have to earn it every day.”
After a strong showing at tryouts, Procida said she is confident in Wilde Lake’s potential, especially in Howard County’s “second to none” soccer culture.
Coach: Christen Gjeldum
2012 record: 2-10 IAAM B Conference, 3-11.
Top players: Seniors Lydia Frierson (S), Adeeba Tabassum (MF) and Christina VanWingerden (MF); junior Jennifer Lindauere (D).
What you need to know: Chapelgate only graduated one senior, and with IAAM B Conference All-Star Lydia Frierson returning, the Yellowjackets look to capitalize on the return of key senior leadership.
Frierson led the county with 32 goals and 65 points as a junior.
Glenelg Country School
Coach: Christy Cole
2012 record: 11-3 IAAM C Conference, 11-4.
Top players: Senior Ninah Dawson (D); juniors Chloe Lewis (D/MF) and Sabrina DeLeonibus (F).
What you need to know: Coach Christy Cole calls this year’s team the “most skilled and quickest group we’ve had to date.” Dawson returns after being named the 2013 Bel Air Honda Student Athlete of the Year for her performance last season and through the school year. Lewis joined Dawson on the IAAM C Conference All-Star list in 2012.
With goalkeeping an early question mark , Glenelg Country — a 2012 conference semifinalist team — will likely rely on strong offensive and defensive line play this year.