The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Three schools — Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills and Long Reach — got Sports Turf fields over the summer which adds artificial turf to Bermuda grass as playing surface options for those teams.
There are now six schools with Sports Turf, but ironically four of what are expected to be among the county's top teams — Glenelg, Mt. Hebron, Marriotts Ridge and River Hill — still do not have it.
Two other county title contenders — Atholton and Howard — received turf fields last year.
Every field hockey team in the county is benefiting from an influx of talent from the Stampede and Warhawks youth programs. It wasn't too many years ago that field hockey players picked up a stick for the first time as a freshman; now freshmen are making varsity and pushing upperclassmen for starting positions.
"All of the schools are getting in much more talented players in their freshmen class. I expect the level of play at all schools to be better and better," said Atholton coach Martie Dyer, who has two freshmen on her squad this fall.
While the overall quality of play is increasing, the six teams listed above still tend to have an edge over the rest of the competition.
Glenelg has won the county title six of the last seven years and has put together three straight state titles as well. All indications are that the Gladiators have the pieces in place to make a run at another county championship as the first step toward a four-peat at states.
Senior midfielder Morgan Philie, who raked in all-county first team honors last fall, leads the way for Glenelg. She was also named first team in both the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas, while NFHCA-Harrow Sports named her first team Mid-Atlantic and third team all-American.
Strong, powerful, technically savvy and with a phenomenal aerial, Philie is the total package. She has committed to play field hockey at Dartmouth College.
Philie isn't the whole show for Glenelg, however.
Stephanie Asher (25 goals, 11 assists in 2012) and Megan Taylor (21 and 20) are the county's top returning scorers. Glenelg also has two outstanding goalkeepers in Amanda Hoyt and Noelle Frost
Although the Gladiators haven't lost a county game in five years, another undefeated season won't be a given.
Atholton won the Class 3A state title last fall. It was the school's first hockey title and, led by Rachel Day (21-5), a strong core of players return.
Coach Martie Dyer expects Day and Jen Bleakney to combine for 30-40 goals this season. Dyer also adds that Bleakney "is probably the best player in the county," and compares her to Glenelg graduate Alyssa Parker, a three-time Player of the Year.
Marriotts Ridge, Mt. Hebron and River Hill all tied for third in the county last year with 8-3 records. Each team returns strengths. For Marriotts Ridge, it's goalkeeper Sophia Hamilton, who directs the defense like a coach and protects the goal like a brick wall. She had 149 saves and an 87.1 save percentage a year ago. Jenna Kerr (12-5) is the Mustangs' top returning scorer.
Quick, determined and tough-as-nails, Tianna Wallpher (17-10) will head up Mt. Hebron's offense. The Vikings have some rebuilding to do after graduating Sam Brookhart (F) and Maddy Fisher (GK). As always, expect Mt. Hebron to get stronger and more cohesive as the season progresses.
River Hill has just four seniors and only four returning starters, so the Hawks may have an uphill feeling in the early going as different people take over in new positions. Dani Schwab, Emily Marlatt and Jillian Kelley will anchor the midfield. River Hill will also benefit from the return of Sierra Kelly (GK), who suffered a season-ending back injury early last fall.
Like in a game of horseshoes, Howard was "close" last year. The Lions lost by one goal to River Hill, Marriotts Ridge and Mt. Hebron and would love to flip the result around this fall. Howard opens its season by hosting the Betty Lang tournament. Then the Lions play Centennial, Glenelg, River Hill and Atholton in quick succession. "One of those teams is going to send me into labor," jokes coach Kristen Vance, who is expecting her first child later this month.
Glenelg Country School plays in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference where Mt. de Sales, Maryvale, Friends and Seton Keough are the teams to beat. The Dragons played all four schools to close games last fall.
Glenelg Country's season started Sept. 4 when the Dragons played on their new turf field against Catholic.
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.
Junior Gina D’Asto is a strong presence at midfield and freshman Rachel Foster, one of two freshmen on the team, will add to the defense.
“Once we are all healthy, I believe we are a good contender in the county,” Dyer said.
All of Atholton’s home games will be on turf.
Coach: Tara (Fadrowski) Carr (sixth year)
2012 record: 3-8, 3-12
Top players: Seniors Margaret Maclean (F), Kay Kelly (MF) and Robin Cagle (F/MF); junior Sarah Arbaugh (F).
The scoop: Depth and unity are Centennial’s strengths, said coach Tara Carr. The Eagles have five seniors, 13 juniors and two freshmen. Junior Olivia Canby (MF) and freshman Mary Margaret Baldy (D) are two newcomers expected to make an impact.
Maclean and Arbaugh look to lead the team in scoring, but they are going to need help. Scoring wasn’t Centennial’s forte last fall as the Eagles scored just 23 goals in 15 games.
Centennial is hosting Towson, Franklin and Mount de Sales in a tournament Sept. 7.
Coach: Ginger Kincaid (37th year)
2012 record: 11-0, 17-1, county, 2A region and state champion
Top players: Seniors Morgan Philie (MF), Stephanie Asher (F) and Amanda Hoyt (GK); junior Megan Taylor (F).
The scoop: Glenelg is solid from end to end. The Gladiators’ front line is led by Asher and Taylor. The midfield is keyed by Molly Milani and Philie, whose aerials are textbook examples, and the team has two high quality goalkeepers in Hoyt and sophomore Nicole Frost.
Glenelg’s strengths are its corners, its center of the field play, its ability to score and its ability to adapt. The Gladiators’ defense needs to gel, but returning starter Rachel Lee will help make that happen.
Freshman Grace Olson should quickly see significant playing time at midfield.
Glenelg will get an early gauge of where it stands when it plays in the South River tournament Sept. 7. The Gladiators face IAAM A Conference power Bryn Mawr and then either WCAC standout Holy Cross or last year’s Class 4A state champion South River.
Coach: Terry Smith (third year)
2012 record: 1-10, 1-12
Top player: Senior Hadiya Hewitt (MF).
The scoop: With nine seniors and five juniors, the Golden Bears have a small squad, but that means plenty of playing time. There are six returning starters on the team, including Hewitt, who is in her third year on varsity and expected to be the team’s leading scorer.
Greer Guzzone, a senior, is Hammond’s goalkeeper. Hammond needs to ramp up its offense or Guzzone will see more action than she would like.
Coach Terry Smith says her team is a great group. “We have commitment and cohesiveness. They have fun together and work very hard.”
Coach: Kristen Vance (fourth year)
2012 record: 6-5, 9-6
Top players: Seniors Megan Green (MF) and Emily Penn (MF).
The scoop: Howard has eight seniors gearing up for their last high school hockey season. None of those players has forgotten the four games that the Lions lost by a single goal last year. Reverse those losses and Howard is one of the top teams in the county.
“We need to finish strong. We lost big games by one goal and know that we were contending in those contests,” said coach Kristen Vance.
Megan Green and Emily Penn are Howard’s captains this season. Penn, a senior, will be joined by her sophomore sister, Marissa, on the squad. Both will start.
Before the end of September, Howard should add a 16th “player” to the team with the arrival of Vance’s first child.
“Let’s hope I don’t give birth on the field to give you a great story,” she said.
Howard is hosting the Betty Lang tournament, Sept. 7. The other three teams are Glenelg Country School, Worcester Prep and Parkside High School.
Coach: Rashmi Bhanot (fourth year)
2012 record: 5-6, 8-8
Top players: Seniors Jess Bates (F), Sadie McClelland (F), Jenn Isacoff (D), Patricia Anderson (D) and Nicole Cote (GK); juniors Lillie Miller and Alina Milauskas (MF).
The scoop: Long Reach brings back more starters (eight) than any team in the county, so if the Lightning can get the ball in the cage it should move up in the standings. Bates, McClelland, Miller and Milauskas should fuel the team’s offense.
Newcomers Chloe Dixon and Colleen Dudley are expected to make an impact in the midfield.
“We are united, bonded and determined,” said coach Rashmi Bhanot.
Long Reach is participating in the Paint Branch tournament Sept. 7 and opens against Sherwood.
The Lightning is again hosting a 5K. This year’s race is Sept. 21 and all proceeds will be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, specifically Scott’s Hope.
Long Reach hopes to play some games on its new turf field.
Coach: Stacie Gado (eighth year)
2012 record: 8-3, 12-5
Top players: Seniors Jenna Kerr (F), Sophia Hamilton (GK) and Jasmine Williams (F); juniors Maddie Courtney (F) and Katie Berdy (MF).
The scoop: Kerr is the Mustangs’ top returning scorer and she should get offensive help from Courtney and Williams this fall. Newcomers Lexi Souder (F/MF) and Enya McGarry (MF) are expected to be impact players.
Hamilton’s take-charge attitude and athletic skills will help as Marriotts Ridge rebuilds its defense.
While the team has conditioning and stick skills on its side, coach Stacie Gado said her team “needs to get stronger on our defense. We lost three powerful backs.”
Marriotts Ridge is hosting its own tournament Sept. 7. The Mustangs face Liberty and then will match up against either Patterson Mill or Eastern Tech.
Coach: Jeannette Ireland (24th year)
2012 record: 8-3, 12-4
Top players: Seniors Monica Linn (MF), Tianna Wallpher (F), Shannon Kelliher (D) and Molly Bishop (MF).
The scoop: With seven seniors and six returning starters, Mt. Hebron has the talent and experience to stay high in the county rankings.
“I feel that we have good leadership – the seniors are very dedicated and they encourage the team to work hard. We have a lot of work to do to become really competitive,” said coach Jeannette Ireland.
The Vikings need to work on passing and capitalizing in the offensive circle, according to Ireland.
Wallpher is one of the county’s top scorers but Ally Unkenholz and Lauren Schaaf will need to up their scoring production to replace goals lost to graduation. Coming out of the midfield, Linn should be able to help with the scoring.
Newcomers Kate Anderson (F) and Hannah Scheid (D) are projected to be impact players.
The Vikings will have other new faces too, including goalkeepers Chachi Kelehan and Sarah Seen.
Coach: Nikki Trunzo (fourth year)
2012 record: 1-10, 2-11
Top players: Senior Jordan Kerr (F); junior Maggie Zuelsdorf (D).
The scoop: Low numbers continue to plague Oakland Mills. The Scorpions have 15 on varsity, including four seniors and eight juniors. On the positive side, there are six returning starters. Kerr should be the team’s top offensive threat.
Newcomer Morgan Carral, a sophomore, is slated to play midfield and Zuelsdorf is the top returning defender.
The team works well together but coach Nikki Trunzo said that her players “need aggressive strong hard accurate passes” to improve last year’s performance.
Oakland Mills will play in the Southern-AA tournament on Sept. 7. Meade and Northeast-AA are the other teams.
Coach: Lindsay Beil (second year)
2012 record: 3-8, 3-12
Top players: Senior Allison Costenbader (MF); juniors Emily Blanchard (MF) and Monica Lamm (A/MF); sophomore Carly Clarke (MF).
The scoop: The core of this year’s varsity has essentially the same personnel as the JV team Lindsay Beil coached her first year at Reservoir. “We’re very excited to be back together,” she said.
The Gators’ strength in numbers comes from its junior class (10 of the team’s 17 players).
Clarke and Patricia Huerta are expected to be Reservoir’s top scorers. Connie Chung is the squad’s goalkeeper.
Beil said her team has speed and will need to use that in advancing the ball up the field. The Gators need to concentrate on scoring more goals, too.
Reservoir is playing the host team in the Paint Branch tournament and then will face either Sherwood or Long Reach.
Coach: Shelly Chamness (14th year)
2012 record: 8-3, 12-4
Top players: Seniors Dani Schwab (MF) and Emily Marlatt (MF); junior Jillian Kelley (MF).
The scoop: The Hawks’ top scorers are gone, so finding replacements will be high on the priority list. Emily Hamburger and newcomer Caleigh Covell, a transfer from Good Counsel, are the likely candidates to step up offensively.
Coach Shelly Chamness said her team’s strength is “speed and experience in the midfield (and) fast, strong defense.”
Newcomers Maddie Rusenko (MF), Kinsey Johnson (D) and Sierra Kelly (GK) are expected to make an impact. Kelly was the team’s goalkeeper last fall, but suffered a season-ending injury during a game.
River Hill is going to play in the Mt. Hebron tournament. North Harford and Dulaney are the other teams.
Coach: Samantha McElvaney (first year)
2012 record: 2-9, 2-9
Top players: Seniors Brittany Kuntz (F) and Sam Rangos (D); sophomore Bridget Cavanaugh (F).
The scoop: After six years as head coach, Lindsey Startt has stepped aside; Samantha McElvaney, last year’s JV coach, replaces her.
Wilde Lake is carrying the county’s largest squad (22 players). Fourteen are juniors. Cavanaugh, Kuntz and Eileen Mee will pace the forward line. Converting scoring opportunities into goals has been a nagging problem for Wilde Lake. One goal, a little luck and a strong defense used to be enough to win games, but not any more.
Newcomers Marissa Sciabarra and Nicole Sciabarra, both juniors, will play at midfield for Wilde Lake.
McElvaney said that on-ball movement is a plus for her team, but it needs to work on “executing and off-ball movement.”
Wilde Lake is one of the schools that got a turf field this year.
Glenelg Country School
Coach: Jessica McAdams (11th year)
2012 record: 6-4-1 IAAM B, 7-7-1
Top players: Seniors Kelly Johnson (GK), Hannah Veater (MF), Mallory Pappas (D/MF), Marissa Burks (A/MF), Lauren Smith (A/MF) and Gillie Lynch (D).
The scoop: After splitting time in the goal cage, Johnson owns the position full time this fall. The highly talented player moved up from the U-17 National team to the U-19 National team this year. One of seven seniors on the Glenelg Country team, Johnson has made a verbal commitment to play for Cornell University, a Division I Ivy League team.
Veater, a team captain, will be a force all over the field. "She has excellent stickwork, scoring ability and defensive patience," said coach Jessica McAdams.
Pappas, also a team captain, is a steady defender who will be asked to play more of a midfield role this season. That will help the Dragons with their transition game. Burks, Smith and Lynch will also make major contributions.
Veater, Burks and Smith are expected to be the team's leading scorers.
"We need to shoot sooner in the circle, and get touches on any ball near the cage on attack," McAdams said. "We also need to improve our offensive penalty corner scoring percentage."
Sophomore Megan Hooper, who can play any position on the field, will step into a bigger role this season. Junior Koko Etokebe was the most improved player on the 2012 team and will work with Lynch and Johnson on the defensive end.
Glenelg Country is playing in the Betty Lang tournament at Howard on Sept. 7.