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Howard Co. competition looks to knock Glenelg boys lacrosse from throne

Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic AssociationEthicsNew York DragonsEric SmithNick TaylorMike McCarthy

What’s in a dynasty?

Perhaps it’s a 60-game win streak against county opponents that spans into the playoffs. Maybe it’s a 3-3 record in state championship games over the past nine seasons. It could even be a community’s consistent expectation of greatness.

Few teams in Maryland have enjoyed the type of success that the Glenelg boys lacrosse program has over the last decade.

Head coach Josh Hatmaker enters his ninth season with the Gladiators, and as always, his team will embody the same ‘business as usual’ attitude. Those in the red and white have grown accustomed to finishing at the top of the county, and every year they seem to reload, rather than rebuild.

But, with that achievement also comes an ever-expanding target. This spring, for example, teams like Howard and Centennial are both looking to hit a bullseye and unseat the six-time defending county champs.

“Every season is tough, and there’s nothing set in stone,” said Hatmaker of his team’s chances this season. “We fill holes just like everyone else does, and every single matchup is big for us because everyone wants to give us their best game.”

The Gladiators bring back a plethora of all-county talent that will make them hard to beat. First-team selections Nick Forrest and Tyler Wasson combined for 138 points last season, while Landry Marshall led the county with a 64.1 save percentage.

“I think it will be interesting to watch the battle between Glenelg and Howard this year,” Atholton coach Erik Burnett said. “Glenelg is strong year after year, but Howard has been building an impressive program over the past few seasons. I will be watching to see if this is the year that they make a run at the county title.”

Armed with Notre Dame-commit John Travisano — a second-team all-county selection in 2013 — along with several other returning starters, the Lions look to enter the 4A playoffs after building momentum in county play.

“Every year it is a challenge to find out your team’s comfort zones,” said Howard coach Jimmy Creighton, who even admitted that it’s difficult to bet against the Gladiators until they drop their first league game.

Travisano enters this season as one of the county’s top midfielders. As a junior in 2013, he recorded 46 points, finished second in the county with 163 ground balls and held the county’s third-best faceoff percentage at 64.8.

“He’s a horse, and he’s a man,” said River Hill coach Keith Gonsouland, who coached Travisano over the summer. “He’s tough as nails. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

The Lions also return important pieces in 2013 all-county selections Scott Bruner (first-team) and Peter Emery (second-team).

Another team that could be knocking on the door as May approaches is Centennial, which starts its season off against Glenelg for the third year in a row.

After losing to the Gladiators by a combined two goals in the past two season-openers, the Eagles are a team that is on every coach’s radar for 2014.

“I would make Centennial my dark horse candidate,” Burnett added. “They have some talented players, and they seemed to be a cohesive, opportunistic team last year. Teams with those traits can win surprise games.”

The Eagles return first-team all-county defenseman Chase Conley, but coach Nick Kellinger is also looking to midfielders Quinn Western and John Kolp, as well as Andrew Gavlin (attack) and Kevin Wilson (defense) to boost the team to the next level.

The Route 99 schools in Marriotts Ridge and Mt. Hebron always seem to field quality teams on a consistent basis as well. The rivalry between the schools also creates one of the top matchups on the schedule year after year.

“Mt. Hebron is always a huge game for us,” sad Mustangs coach Tony Incontrera, who returns quality talent in players like Kenyon Hendershot, who recorded 22 points in his sophomore season.

According to coaches, Reservoir, Atholton, River Hill and Wilde Lake round out the remainder of favorites to shake up the county scene. Still, with the Gladiators having established their dominance for such a long time, coaches know it’s still their league to lose.

“The favorite is Glenelg. I say it every year,” Incontrera said. “They are the king of the hill until someone beats them.”

Here’s a thumbnail look at the teams across the county heading into the season: 

Atholton

Coach: Erik Burnett

Last season: 6-5 county, 7-9 overall

Top players: Seniors Alex Dagen (D), Stephen Bratchie (D), Tyler Shams (MF), Andrew Seidel (G), Colin Lawall (D) and Sean McHugh (FO); junior Sam Smith (A).

What to expect: The Raiders graduated four of their top five goal-scorers from last season, forcing coach Erik Burnett to dig deep when it comes to rebuilding a winning team.

“I expect Sam Smith to have the biggest breakout,” Burnett said. “He has been working really hard in the offseason, and spent the last two years filling in where we needed him to.”

Burnett added that Smith will be responsible for carrying more of the offensive duties on the team. “I think he is going to surprise a lot of people this year,” he added. “He is not flashy, and he just does all of the little things right.”

Atholton’s biggest strength comes on defense, where a group of seasoned players return after what Burnett said was a great offseason.

“The more I watch them in practice and scrimmages, the more impressed I am with their progress,” he said. “I think those guys will keep us competitive in a lot of games.”

Second-team all-county selection Sean McHugh also returns for the Raiders. His 67.1 faceoff percentage was second-best in the county last season.

Centennial

Coach: Nick Kellinger

Last season: 10-1, 14-3

Top players: Seniors Andrew Gavlin (A), John Kolp (MF), Quinn Western (MF) and Chase Conley (D); junior Kevin Wilson (D).

What to expect: With 14 seniors having graduated the Centennial program, this season will be a test to see where the Eagles’ leadership will come from.

Chase Conley will be the only returning all-county talent on coach Nick Kellinger’s roster. Last season, Conley paired with teammate Quinn Western to wrangle 186 ground balls. Andrew Gavlin, who led the Eagles with 27 assists on the season, returns as well.

While incoming senior talent could be enough to keep Kellinger’s team afloat, the four-year coach added that underclassmen would need to step up and contribute.

Insert sophomore attack Mike Moore, who started last season as a freshman for the Eagles. Kellinger said his versatility and work ethic make him one of the players to watch out for as the season progresses.

Kellinger added that matchups against Howard and Mt. Hebron — the team’s biggest rival — are already circled on the calendar.

Glenelg

Coach: Josh Hatmaker

Last season: (11-0, 16-3)

Top players: Seniors Nick Forrest (A), Tyler Wasson (MF), Landry Marshall (G), Craig Burris (D), Luke Cheswick (MF) and Tommy Chaisson (A); junior Matt Baxter (A).

What to expect: Coach Josh Hatmaker said he doesn’t pay much attention to records, numbers or statistics. “Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to the kids,” he added. “You can’t put that responsibility on a sophomore that was in the fifth grade five years ago.”

Still, while the nine-year coach doesn’t like talking about his teams’ success, the play from his loaded roster this season may speak for itself.

Senior Nick Forrest (54 goals, 34 assists, 88 points) returns as not only the top offensive weapon for Glenelg, but also in all of Howard County. Add in goalie Landry Marshall, who recorded a league-best 64.1 save percentage last season, and it doesn’t seem like the team will miss a beat after graduating some important pieces.

Hatmaker said his biggest concern will be playing with consistency, as some of the team’s younger talent will learn to work with the rest of the unit.

Hammond

Coach: Chris Reagle

Last season: 0-11, 1-14

Top players: Seniors Robbie Eddy (MF), DJ Penders (D), Alex Gladstone (MF), Logan McCombs (MF), Blaze Fischer (MF) and Nikhil Patel (A).

What to expect: Second-year coach Chris Reagle is expecting big things from his group of underclassmen, but the biggest challenge will still be getting them to adjust to the speed of the varsity game.

“We did a great job of really working hard in the weight room during the offseason,” Reagle said. “I think this is going to allow us to matchup physically with some of the best teams in the county.”

Last year’s Golden Bears failed to win a game in county play, and with no selections on the first or second all-county teams, the time to shine for the young talent on Reagle’s squad could be now.

Joel Thomas (sophomore), Brendan Smith (freshman) and Elijah Kane (junior) all look to contribute on the offensive end of the field in breakout fashion, while Reagle also expects midfielder Eric Smith to have a big season as well.

Howard

Coach: Jimmy Creighton

Last season: 9-2, 16-3

Top players: Seniors John Travisano (MF/FO), Peter Emery (D) and Bryan Mauser (G); juniors Scott Bruner (A), Cody Ford (A) and Adam Friedman (D).

What to expect: Many coaches favor the Lions as the team with the best shot to take down Glenelg.

First-team selection Scott Bruner looks to be one of the more talented attacks in the county. His 51 goals and 29 assists both ranked first on his team, and coach Jimmy Creighton mentioned the talented junior as one of the Lions to watch this season.

While John Travisano and Bruner both look to be early Player of the Year candidates, Howard has a stout defense that returns as well.

Co-captain Peter Emery, a returning second-team all-county selection, will team with junior Adam Friedman to anchor a defense that is sure to get every opponent’s best effort. Junior Marshall McGlone is the third returning starter from last season on the defensive end.

Many coaches throughout the county have dubbed Howard as the team with the most upside, as many of their best players remain on the roster. Look for that April 11 matchup with the Gladiators as a good measure for how the county race will shake out.

Long Reach

Coach: Frank Valenza

Last season: 2-9, 3-10

Top players: Seniors Konner Kick (MF) and Brandon Reggie (A); junior Skylar Briscoe (MF); sophomore Anthony Valenza (G).

What to expect: With help from Howard County Rec and Parks, as well a few coaches looking to broaden the area’s exposure to the sport, Lightning coach Frank Valenza has been building middle school programs that feed into the Long Reach system for a number of years. This season, that effort may finally show itself on the field.

Still, Valenza’s squad returns talent that shouldn’t be ignored. Brandon Reggie recorded 23 goals last season, while Anthony Valenza’s 51.1 save percentage as a freshman ranked him among some of the county’s best.

Though the longtime Lightning coach said his school may not be known for its lacrosse, with the amount of talent surrounding Howard County also comes the opportunity for parity. His squad may fit the bill as one of the league’s up-and-comers.

Marriotts Ridge

Coach: Tony Incontrera

Last season: 6-5, 8-7

Top players: Seniors Chris McTague (G) and Donald Colegrove (D); juniors Patrick Clipp (M) and Austin Dorsey (MF).

What to expect: “The biggest challenge for Marriotts Ridge will be to find an identify,” coach Tony Incontrera said. “We lost two of our all-time best last season in Paul Bennett and Sean Harrison, and over the past three years, we relied heavily upon them. Finding players to fill their leadership void will be difficult.”

The second-year head coach said the Mustangs’ biggest strength will be found in the goal – where Chris McTague’s chops will be tested for the second consecutive season as a starter. His 58.3 save percentage ranked seventh in the county last season.

Like all coaches, Incontrera said he is eager to take on the county’s best. With a team that is searching for the ‘next man up,’ playing top competition is a good way of finding those natural leaders.

“Glenelg is always the most important game for every team, as you get to gauge yourself not just in the county, but also in the perspective of the state,” he said.

Mt. Hebron

Coach: Michael McCarthy

Last season: 8-3, 12-4

Top players: Seniors Connor Dubois (D), Thomas Stone (MF) and Zach Stevens (A); junior Shane Brookhart (A); sophomore Casey Dubois (G).

What to expect: Having graduated 15 seniors last year – including nine starters that combined for 85 percent of their scoring and 80 percent of their faceoff wins – Vikings coaches will be looking to their young crop of athletes to step into those sizable voids.

“We have a few talented sophomores who will be vital in our success on the defensive side of the field,” coach Michael McCarthy said. “Sophomore transfer Casey Dubois in goal is a legitimate first-team, all-county candidate.”

Additionally, Connor Dubois returns for the Vikings on defense after collecting 83 ground balls in 2013. On the offensive side, Shane Brookhart nabbed 73.

Brookhart also led the returning Vikings in scoring last year after wracking up 14 goals and 14 assists.

Oakland Mills

Coach: Matt Hipszer

Last season: 1-10, 5-11

Top players: Seniors Wyatt Neely (A) Cole McGruder (D); junior Jesse Ketchum (G); freshman Evan Riss (MF).

What to expect: Fortunately for the Scorpions, there are more returning varsity players than in any other year Matt Hipszer has been at the helm of the program. That experience, according to the coach, will be imperative to his team’s success.

While it will be easy for thoes players coming back to get into the swing of the season, familiarity can only go so far. 

“Midfield is our weakest position,” Hipszer added. “We need to find a couple of guys that can step up and fill that void. It may be players who have previously played defense or attack. It might be a player new to the program or a young guy we call up from JV.”

Primarily a defenseman, freshman Evan Riss has agreed to try and be that missing link the Scorpions need. Hipszer said the young talent has shown “tremendous poise and work ethic” for his age, and his play will most certainly have an impact on how Oakland Mills’ season will go.

Reservoir

Coach: Bryan Cole

Last season: 6-5, 7-9

Top players: Seniors Trent Teodori (G), Cole Evans (MF), Max Schuster (MF), Grant McMullan (FO/MF), Austin Mitchell (A); junior Matt Marsh (MF); sophomore Jackson Hill (D).

What to expect: Along with Howard and Centennial, many coaches point to the Gators as a potential threat to Glenelg’s supremacy over the county. Coach Bryan Cole’s group returns Austin Mitchell, whose 40 goals and 10 assists ranked him first on the team, and goalie Trent Teodori, who notched a 59.9 save percentage that ranked fifth in the county.

“The Gators look to have a promising year with the veteran varsity players returning…many whom all play football and club lacrosse together,” said Cole, who described his guys as a “hardworking group that is looking forward to competing within the county.”

River Hill

Coach: Keith Gonsouland

Last season: 4-7, 6-10

Top players: Juniors Zac Beard (A), Darius Khademi (G), Kelley Remson (D), Zach Wolf (D) and Brian Decker (D).

What to expect: Last year, when River Hill coach Keith Gonsouland was asked to name the players to watch in the lacrosse preview, the veteran coach mentioned quite a few sophomores that were on his radar.

This season, the amount of in-game experience should be enough for the Hawks to finally right their ship. Back-to-back losing seasons is not the norm for Gonsouland’s group, but with the amount of parity in league play, every season gets a little more difficult.

“When I first started coaching, there were some layup games,” Gonsouland said. “There aren’t any more games like that teams can mark on their calendar.”

The coach added that in the past few seasons, he's been forced to "throw guys to the wolves" in county play. This spring, he hopes everything will all come together.

Wilde Lake

Coach: Jon Robinson

Last season: 3-8, 5-10

Top players: Seniors John Radcliffe (MF), Jack Quinn (MF), Joe Boccher (G), Luke Budorick (D), Siyon Lowe (A) and Avon Greene (D).

What to expect: While the Wildecats have second-team all-county midfielder Siyon Lowe (53 goals, nine assists) returning, coach Jon Robinson’s squad still lacks experience in other key roles.

When asked if there were any players ready to break out this season, Robinson mentioned Ryan Tiffey – a sophomore attack that could figure to be a big part of the Wilde Lake offense.

Citing athleticism as his squad’s greatest attribute, the Wildecats will certainly need the strength when they play their first three games with only one practice in between (Howard, Aberdeen and Mt. Hebron).

Glenelg Country

Coach: Risto Worthington

Last season: 0-12 MIAA B Conference, 0-13

Top players: Seniors Emory Parker (D) and Christian Vinyard (G); sophomores Wyatt Naylor (A), Sean Escalante (MF), Pat Welsh (MF) and Reid Chaconas (MF).

What to expect: Not winning a single game in 2013 was a difficult pill to swallow, but coach Risto Worthington’s young group looks to rebound as best as possible this season. With much of the roster returning, and a group of key freshman ready to make a significant impact almost instantly, the Dragons have nowhere to go but up.

“We have a dedicated group of young men,” Worthington said. “They are always upbeat and play a lot of lacrosse outside of school. So we have the beginnings of a great team.”

Depth and consistency will be the biggest challenge this year, especially early on. Worthington described his guys as tough but few in numbers leaving open the opportunity for teams to pounce during crucial moments in games.

Look for Pat Welsh, Sean Escalante and Wyatt Naylor to work the offensive side of the field as much as possible. With a senior in goal, opposing teams may continue to find difficulty going on scoring runs, especially as the season progresses.

Chapelgate

Coach: Paul Merena

Last season: 6-7 MIAA C Conference, 6-11

Top players: Seniors HoChang Han (MF), Jordan Jones (D), Nick Taylor (A); juniors Temi Aladesuru (MF) and Tommy Carlson (A).

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic AssociationEthicsNew York DragonsEric SmithNick TaylorMike McCarthy
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