As Stephanie Asher sees it, she was just doing her job.
The 36 goals she scored this year — and the 101 in her career — are the result of doing what she's supposed to do.
"My job on the field is to score goals," said the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times field hockey Player of the Year. "So it shouldn't be anything special that I scored a lot because that was what I'm supposed to do."
Asher, a left wing, is only the second Howard County player to record more than 100 goals in her career and she is quick to credit her teammates.
Glenelg's offense frequently started in the midfield with a free hit or an aerial throw from Morgan Philie. Frequently, that ball was hauled in by Asher or fellow forward Megan Taylor.
The trio has played together since they were little, so a nod of the head or a quick glance was all that was needed to convey where to send a pass.
Taylor and Asher were a great 1-2 scoring punch and they are so familiar with each other's style of play that they don't have to look up to know where the other one is. Through passes, a give-and-go, interchanges — they all came as second nature.
"Megan and I work so well together," said Asher. "All I had to say was 'post' and she'd send the ball there. I feel bad getting credit for all the goals because she does all the dirty work."
But getting in position at the goal post doesn't automatically translate into a goal.
The natural instinct is to swing at the ball as it crosses the mouth of the goal; Asher calls that "a rookie mistake."
"The ball is coming in fast enough that all you have to do is block and redirect it," she said.
"Steph is probably one of the most prolific scorer I've ever had besides Alyssa Parker," said Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid.
Not coincidentally, Parker, a 2012 Glenelg graduate, is the only other county player to have 100 career goals. She had 114 goals and 108 assists.
Asher said she picked up some tips from being on the same team as Parker.
"I always envied that she was so good at dodging. I tried to bring that to my game in order to get the ball downfield."
Club play and indoor field hockey helped refine Asher's game and her dodging skills.
Left wing isn't her preferred position because she also likes to play defense, but she says she has grown to like the position.
In the scheme of Glenelg's game plan, Asher still got a taste of defense. She and Taylor alternated as flier on the Gladiators' defensive corner unit.
"I've been flying since I started playing field hockey," Asher said. "It's a fun position."
Asher has had a hockey stick in her hands since she was three years old. Her mother, Gina, was junior varsity coach at River Hill and Steph tagged along to practices and games.
After being undefeated in county play for six years, Glenelg's league season opened on a rough note — a 2-1 loss to Marriotts Ridge.
The loss "wasn't really a bad thing. It was kind of a wake-up call" for us, Asher said.
Glenelg proceeded to win its next 14 games before losing in the second sudden-victory overtime in the Class 2A state semifinals. That loss prevented the Gladiators from potentially winning a fourth-straight state title to go with their four consecutive county and regional titles.
"We had a great run. I'm really proud that we got to the state semis," Asher said. "It's one thing to lose to a team that you think you can beat. Century was a very good opponent and I'm happy with how we played."
While she loves field hockey, Asher has decided to play lacrosse in college. She has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Elon.
In her high school career, she had 101 goals and 29 assists for 231 points.
Named to the all-county first team are:
Jen Bleakney, Atholton. As a dedicated field hockey player, Bleakney "lives, eats, breathes and sleeps field hockey," according to her coach, Martie Dyer.
That determination has paid off as Bleakney developed tremendous stick skills, including a wicked drive and a reverse chip shot. She joined teammate Rachel Day to become the dynamic duo of Atholton's offense.
"Jen's the real deal," Dyer said. "She has already committed to play at Syracuse."
Bleakney, as a junior this fall, scored 22 goals and had 19 assists this season.
Rachel Day, Atholton. When Atholton made a coaching change last year, a star was born. Day had played defense but Martie Dyer, the incoming coach, saw her potential as a forward.
"I've never seen anybody with such a capability, such determination and such an eye for the goal," said Dyer. "That ball is like a magnet on her stick. She makes everything happen even when people try to mark her out."
Day had an outstanding senior season. In just 13 games, she scored 35 goals and added 15 assists to tie Glenelg's Stephanie Asher in points (85).
In two years as a forward, Day's 56 goals and 20 assists exceed what many other players accomplished in a longer period of time.
"To me, she's the best player," Dyer said.
Jenna Kerr, Marriotts Ridge. A foot injury brought Kerr's season to an early end, but before that mishap, she scored in nearly every game. She finished the season with 13 goals and 11 assists and she was equally effective the previous two years, getting double digits in goals each time.
"In her three years on varsity, Jenna has more points (100) than any other player who has played for Marriotts Ridge," said coach Stacie Gado.
Kerr will play lacrosse at Towson University.
Margaret Maclean, Centennial. Technically, the Eagles' MVP was a center forward, but on the field, she seemed to be everywhere. She was a striker at the top of the circle on corners and her team's primary stroker. Her 21 goals were nearly half of Centennial's output this season.
"Marg has a nose for the cage and a wicked shot that, combined with her stick work, forced many teams to double (team) her during games," said Centennial coach Tara Carr.
Maclean had 40 goals and 15 assists in her high school career but she could also have a defensive presence. She had two amazing stick saves on defensive corners against Mt. Hebron.
She will play for Millersville University next fall.
Megan Taylor, Glenelg. The ball is sent to an open area of the field and the race to get to it is on. Usually the first person there was Taylor, who outran many a defender.
"Most of the time people were chasing her down from behind," said Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid.
Taylor gave her team more than pure speed. She led the Washington Metro area in assists (30) and she was content to play a supporting role unless her team needed her to be a finisher. She had 21 goals this year as a junior.
Although Taylor has committed to play for the University of Maryland lacrosse team, Kincaid favorably compares her field hockey skills with three-time Player of the Year Alyssa Parker.
"I think Megan's a better stick-skilled player than Alyssa was at this age," Kincaid said.
A member of Glenelg's seven aside and stroke-off teams, Taylor also had an important role on the defensive end of the field. She and Stephanie Asher took turns as the flier on defensive corners.
Tianna Wallpher, Mt. Hebron. Every team needs a player like Tianna Wallpher – she knows how to win.
"What really makes her unique is that she makes everybody better. Everybody around her rises to her level of intensity and passion," said coach Jeannette Ireland.
Wallpher doesn't save her intensity just for games; she brings it to practice every day.
"Tianna loves to compete and she really was the key to us doing as well as we did this year because she was able to generate our fast break. She is an amazing, amazing player," Ireland said.
Mt. Hebron scored 20 goals in a playoff run that ended in the state championship game. Many of those goals were set up by Wallpher, either off of a fast break or with a timely pass.
She had 15 goals and 15 assists to lead the Vikings in scoring for the third straight year. Her career total is 50 goals, 46 assists.
Although a talented field hockey player, Wallpher has committed to play lacrosse at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"I love her and I am so sad to see her go," Ireland said.
Emily Penn, Howard. It's no secret that coaches tend to put their best players in the middle of the field. And that's where Penn found herself on the Howard team. The talented senior was smack dab in the middle of everything and where she could lead the transition from defense to offense.
"Emily's stick skills are phenomenal and as the center midfielder for our team, she led us on and off the field with her passion for the game," said coach Kristen Vance.
Penn, who would like to play on an Ivy League team, leaves Howard with career marks of 25 goals and 14 assists.
Morgan Philie, Glenelg. A four-year varsity starter, Philie was central to everything Glenelg did.
"Our whole system has been built around her for the last three years because of what she's able to do in the middle of the field," said coach Ginger Kincaid. "She's the field general on our team."
Philie not only plugged up the middle on defense, her mastery of the aerial throw often initiated the Gladiators' fast-break offense.
As Glenelg's stop at the top of offensive corners, Philie either scored or helped set up others.
"Morgan is the most sound player that I have," Kincaid said.
Philie, a third-team All-American her junior year, leaves Glenelg with a legacy of four county and regional titles, three state titles and a career total of 29 goals and 30 assists.
She has committed to play field hockey at Dartmouth.
Monica Linn, Mt. Hebron. As the receiver on Mt. Hebron's offensive corners, Linn made the old field hockey adage "Every corner is a goal" come close to a reality.
"All of our offensive corners go through Monica. This is the one place her power is most noticeable as we have scored a lot of goals on corners," said Mt. Hebron coach Jeannette Ireland.
Linn (eight goals, 15 assists) scored on a corner in the Class 3A state championship game.
"Monica was tremendous in setting people up and distributing the ball," Ireland added. "She was the glue — the backbone — of the team."
Linn's leadership on and off the field as a senior was a big part of why Mt. Hebron's field hockey team went 17-2 and enjoyed the finest season in school history this fall.
Dani Schwab, River Hill. A two-year varsity starter, Schwab was the Hawks' go-to girl when they needed a goal and she came through for her team with 15 goals and three assists.
Her stick work and field vision were invaluable as she helped set up River Hill's offense from the center midfield position.
"Dani is a very skilled player and one of the best captains I've ever had. She has great leadership and character," said River Hill coach Shelly Chamness.
Schwab will play at Dickinson College next year.
Shannon Kelliher, Mt. Hebron. Smart and confident, Kelliher had solid tackles and did an excellent job of organizing Mt. Hebron's circle defense.
The Vikings' defense was stingy. In 19 games it allowed just 16 goals and posted eight shutouts.
"What was really amazing is that we only allowed 80 corners and 18 came in the (state championship) game," coach Jeannette Ireland said. C.M. Wright, Mt. Hebron's opponent, scored just three goals in that game, a percentage lower than what would be expected for the number of corners the Mustangs took.
"That's because of Shannon," Ireland said. "She does an outstanding job of clearing the ball. … I knew that we would do well this year because of her. To make a run in the playoffs, you have to have a good defense, and I knew we would do well because of her, specifically her. She's that good."
Molly Milani, Glenelg. Because Glenelg lost its two backs to graduation, Milani dropped back from the midfield to play defense this year.
"Molly is really a greatly skilled defender," said coach Ginger Kincaid. "I find it difficult to teach the discipline and the patience for doing nice tackling at the high school level."
To Milani, a junior this fall, those skills come naturally. She has a great jab and a nice block tackle, defensive moves that frustrated opposing forwards.
She was Glenelg's trail on defensive corners and a member of the Gladiators' seven-a-side and stroke-off teams.
Sophia Hamilton, Marriotts Ridge. As a year-round player, Hamilton's field hockey accomplishments fill a full page. She's an agile goalkeeper who has no qualms about coming out to the top of the circle to challenge for the ball. She's not afraid to dive to stop a shot either.
This season, her 92.5 save percentage led to 10 shutouts. She only gave up 12 goals in 16 games.
"Sophia's had a great run in her career," said Marriotts Ridge coach Stacie Gado.
In three years on varsity, Hamilton played in 49 games and had 29 shutouts. Her combined save percentage is 89.6.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun