The Howard County public school field hockey season begins Sept. 6. Most of the county teams are playing in tournaments Sept. 7; the regular county schedule begins Sept. 10.
The hot topic isn't about rules changes, but changes in regional play. Each region in the state has been divided into two sections. The sectional winners play for the regional title and the right to advance to the state semifinals.
The Howard County teams are now in three classifications.
Howard moves up to Class 4A North (section II) and has Glen Burnie, North County and Old Mill in its section. Atholton, Mt. Hebron and Reservoir are in Class 3A East (section II), as is Westminster.
Centennial, Glenelg, Marriotts Ridge and River Hill are in 2A South (section I), while Hammond, Long Reach, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake are in 2A South (section II). The four teams in section I combined for 44 victories last fall; the teams in section II had 13.
The idea, is "absolutely horrible, it does not give the opportunity for the regional final game to be between the top two teams in the region," said Centennial coach Tara Carr.
Hammond coach Terry Smith has the opposite reaction. "Love it. Gives us a fighting chance," she said.
In the past, when officials issued a green card, it was a general warning to clean up the play. This year, the green card has some teeth. The offender is removed from the game for two minutes and her team plays short.
During penalty corners, any player entering the circle before the ball is struck will be sent to the centerline.
If the person entering the circle too soon is a defender, she must go beyond the centerline and is not replaced. If the person entering the circle too soon is on the offensive team, she can be replaced on the circle by a teammate.
Here's a quick look at how the county's field hockey teams look as the season begins (for expanded capsules, visit us online at explorehoward.com):
Coach: Martie Dyer (second year with team)
2012 record: 10-1 county, 15-2 overall, 3A region and state champ
Top players: Seniors Rachel Day (F), Jaimie Cardea (MF) and Nikki Martin (D); junior Jen Bleakney (F).
The scoop: Six starters are back from the team that won last year’s 3A state title, and they have improved tremendously. “We have strength in every line,” said coach Martie Dyer.
Bleakney, who Dyer calls “phenomenal,” and Day give the Raiders two formidable front-line players. Between them they scored 35 goals, nearly half of last year’s offensive output. They will need to keep that effort up until the Raiders get back to full strength. Mollie Benson (MF) is recovering from a broken arm and Emily Clinch (GK) has had major abdominal surgery.