River Hill left a lot unaccomplished a year ago. That history is not likely to be repeated. The Hawks took a bruising defeat at the hands of Atholton last year, and were bumped from the Class 3A playoffs in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005. Never mind that River Hill won a county title and the District 5 championship. A chance to compete for the big prize — a state title — got away.
Coach Brian Song, who notched his 100th win at River Hill last year, said, "As with any coach or players, we want to win. Ultimately, the team wants to win the state championship." Already, the Hawks have won two games, outscoring their opponents, 9-2, in the Tournament of Champions at Tuscarora.
But, Song added, the county race will be as tough as ever. "There are multiple teams" that can claim the crown.
"My expectation of my team does not change and we want be a winner. The seniors have set the tone and everyone is following their leadership and guidance," he said.
Marriotts Ridge, the only team to beat the Hawks in county play last year, rebuilt in 2011 and will challenge the Hawks.
"River Hill is the team to beat," coach Robin Grey said. "In addition to being extremely well coached, they return Hamer and Street up top — I call them the destructive duo," she said, referring to sophomore Alex Hamer and junior Sheridan Street. "And (Katie ) Arensmeier is in the midfield. All are tremendous talents and huge playmakers.
Still, she added, "Given the number of kids we have returning — seven are starters — along with our newcomers, we have the potential to cause some trouble in the county this fall. The key will be staying grounded and healthy. We have a tremendous amount of speed and athleticism in every position."
Marriotts Ridge would like to do better in the Class B playoffs but has never gotten past Glenelg. "Glenelg has always been our kryptonite. If we can get over that mental hurdle, we should be able to make that goal a reality," Grey said.
Count Centennial to be in the top three. The Eagles have gotten off to a slow start (0-1-1) after losing player of the year Jordan Coburn, who anchored the Eagles' defense, and keeper Katie Donegan to graduation, and three players are sidelined with injuries. But, said coach Steve Baxter, "We set the bar high last season and we could very well be that good again. With our county being so competitive, it is simply too hard to predict.
"Howard is my dark horse pick to make noise in the county this season," Baxter added.
Glenelg, always looking toward the playoffs, is going through some growing pains, with a new coach and a team full of talented freshmen. Reservoir, a state semifinalist in 2011, has lost Amanda Jackson, a pre-season player of the year candidate who has torn her ACL and is out for the season. But, not too surprisingly, Reservoir may have the talent to work around the loss.
"Amanda has been an all-state, all-met player for three years, so she is obviously a huge loss, but we have a lot of girls who can fill step up and hopefully fill her void," said Josh Sullivan.
In the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, the nice rivalry that was building between Glenelg County School and Chapelgate has been broken up. Chapelgate moves up to a more competitive division this fall after winning two straight conference titles. "This will be a rebuilding year for us," said Christen Gjeldum.
New eras for fathers, daughters
Two role reversals have happened at two schools. Maureen Hammond takes over at Glenelg. She served six seasons as assistant to her father, Dean Sheridan. He won six regional titles and three state titles since 2003, and will now be his daughter's assistant.
"I have always loved working with my father," she said. "This is a great year for us to switch roles because the team is so young and most of them have younger siblings who will come through Glenelg. I will get to coach these girls and get to know their families for many years."
Rick Rollyson, the long-time JV coach at Glenelg, has a new assistant: his daughter, Janice. "We have a real father-daughter thing going on," said Hammond. "Family and community are so important at Glenelg. It is nice to be able incorporate that into our soccer program."
At Wilde Lake, there's another father-daughter team. Davia Procida, a Wilde Lake graduate, takes over the reins. She played for her father, David, who coached Wilde Lake from 2003 to 2007. His last team lost a heartbreaker in the state championship game.
"My dad is the person who inspired me to become a teacher and a coach," said Davia Procida. "I was lucky enough to play for him for three years at Wilde Lake. The night that we lost to River Hill in the second round of playoffs (2005) my senior year, I knew a couple things: One, I was going to sincerely miss spending every afternoon with my dad, and two, I wanted to come back to Wilde Lake and coach -- and I knew I wanted him right beside me.
"His ability to inspire others and motivate young athletes to be the best they can be is exactly the kind of teacher and coach I have been striving to be since I began my career. To work alongside him is a blessing; we are a great team," she said.
Here's a thumbnail look at the teams:
2011 record: 4-5-2 county; 6-7-2 overall.
Top players: Seniors Katrina Macadoff (F); Maddie Boccio (MF); Isabelle Kim (D).
What you need to know: If there's one team that is always competitive, it's Atholton. Last year, the Raiders stepped up their game and pulled a huge upset, ousting favored River Hill from the playoffs, for example. Four all-countians, including keeper Amy Weinberg, have graduated from that team, but a new crop of seniors has stepped up.
"We will rely a lot on Katrina (Macadoff)," who led the Raiders' with 10 goals last year, said coach Stephanie Stoutenborough. "We have always been competitive, but have had problems finishing. She can score but she also sets up great scoring opportunities."
The Raiders "need to play simple and smart to reach our goals. We will have to play our kind of soccer (passing) and not get caught up in the kick ball game," she added. "We have always had really athletic girls that played soccer well. This year we have very talented soccer players. I think we are ahead of where we were this time last year and expect to keep developing as a team. We want to do well in county, but are really looking forward to playoffs."
2011 record: 8-1-2 county; 10-2-2 overall.
Top players: Junior Carolyn Eichhorn (MF); sophomore Anna Mitchell (F).
What you need to know: The Eagles had a sterling 2011 season, but injuries and graduations leave big voids. Junior defender Sammie Albornoz and junior midfielder Ruthie Lucas are both sidelined with concussions and all-county defender Anna Cowan is "struggling" to recover from a sprained ankle, said coach Steve Baxter.
Mitchell, with eight goals last year, is the go-to player this fall. "She brings a strong offensive presence to our team. She is the offensive catalyst of our team," Baxter said.
"Offensively, we will create chances and our success will come down to our ability to finish with quality. Our defensive approach is solid and we have several returning players who played on the back line and were part of our success last season. "
2011 record: 8-2-1 county; 12-3-1 overall.
Top players: Senior Samantha Creese (MF/F); sophomores Taylor Zucco (D), Emily Taylor (D), Kathleen Mensing (F).
What you need to know: Maureen Hammond is new to the head coaching position, but that doesn't change Glenelg's goals.
"As a team we are very young, but skilled," said Hammond. "The girls would like to make it to the state championship game."
The Gladiators lost in the semifinals in 2011 and were finalists in 2010. There is a strong tradition at this school.
One huge setback is the loss of Samantha Heisig, gone for the season with a torn ACL. The Gladiators also lost their top three scorers to graduation. Crease and Mensing will have to pick up the slack.
"It will be important for this team to learn to work together, since they will most likely be together for a while," said Hammond.
"As of right now we are only starting three seniors and two juniors. As long as we have it figured out in order to win the last five games, that is all that matters, and that is what we will focus on," she added, taking a page from her father's playbook.
2011 record: 0-11-0 county; 1-11-0 overall.
Top players: Seniors Molly Albano (D/MF), Allie Kennedy (MF/F), junior Julia Reed (GK).
What you need to know: Coach Mike Koplow said he believes "Hammond's program will be exciting." The team is led by returning players, especially the four captains -- Albano, Callie Cridlin, Kennedy and Reed - "who promise to bring new life to the program with renewed energy and enthusiasm."
"While graduating five starters, this year's team's energy and commitment seems to outweigh any theoretical void. There is renewed excitement at Hammond."
One veteran, defender Laura Loeffler, will miss some early games dues to a broken collarbone, Koplow said. Three freshmen — Zoe Pekins, Cristina McGuire and Juno Kawasaki — will see a lot of playing time, he added.
2011 record: 4-5-2 count, 6-6-2 overall.
Top players: Seniors Caitlyn Whitford (F), Emma Bruzdzinski (D/MF), Leah Bialecki (D), Liz Price (GK).
What you need to know: The Lions get a boost this fall with the return of Bruzdzinski, who missed last fall's season with an ACL injury. Katie Cocozza, also returning from a torn ACL, will find time in the midfield.
Zaron's roster has seen a lot of change. "We have nine players from last year's JV team up on varsity this year, we graduated three seniors, lost one player who moved to another state and another player who decided to focus on track."
"I think we can improve on last year, but we will see," he said. "It's about being consistent and performing as a team the best we can for every game."
2011 record: 2-8-1 county; 2-9-1 overall.
Top players: Seniors Kristen Fawole (F), Victoria Simpson (MF), Angelina Rebaza, (MF).
What you need to know: With nine returning starters, three four-year starters, and another year of experience, coach Erik Sandersen expects the Lightning to change course dramatically and post a winning county record and win playoff games, too.
"I hope we have early success and build confidence," said the second-year coach. "It will depend on how we gel in the next couple of weeks."
Fawole, with the speed to make strong runs at goal, Simpson and Rebaza - both skilled distributors -- will set the tone for Long Reach. Look for another Rebaza - Ana - to contribute to the Lightning's scoring punch. She returns after taking off a year after an impressive freshman year.
2011 record: 6-2-3 county; 7-4-3 overall.
Top players: Seniors Morgan Crable (MF), Zoe Stukenberg (MF), juniors Taylor Hensh (MF), Laura Fratta (D).
What you need to know: Expect Crable and Hensh to "exploit the backfield of our opponents," said coach Robin Grey. Crable, an all-county first-team pick in 2011, has player of the year potential. She's verbally committed to Loyola. "She is the most unselfish, technically sound player I have ever coached," said Grey.
"Overall, our midfield is incredibly strong," said Grey. "It is definitely where we have the most depth."
Keeper Jenna Bergquist is back and now has a year of varsity experience to her credit.
2011 record: 6-4-1 county; 10-8-1 overall.
Top players: Seniors Kelsi Folch (MF), Susie Halper (F); sophomores Jen Giles (MF), Nia Crump (D).
What you need to know: This team could be the surprise in the county. Coach Tim Deppen is a little more cautious. "I look to us to be a spoiler. We don't look like a big strong team, but we pack a punch."
And, he added, "We are very hungry to win a regional championship."
The Vikings have newcomers in the goal but they are strong up the middle. Folch and Giles complement each other. "Look for great things in our center mid this year," said Deppen.
But the key to the Vikings' season may be junior outside midfielder Yasmine Darrehmane, Deppen said. "This was always a position that we had more speed than skill at. Now we have both with Yas."
2011 record: 4-7-0 county; 6-8-0 overall.
Top players: Seniors Melissa Goodman (MF), Marlee Slaughter (D), Kathlene Striano (D), Alicia Wooten (D); sophomore Gaby Vincent (D),
What you need to know: Oakland Mills graduated nine seniors and needs to "continue learning our new identity," said Christina Bleivik. "We will be an underdog this year."
The Scorpions have already posted a season-opening tournament win over Walkersville and held a lead against Loch Raven when the game was stopped because of the weather.
"We have some key players that now have more experience and confidence," the coach said. "This should help boost our team. We intend to continue to be strong on the defensive side while playing more of an attacking style offense."
Vincent has a year of experience at the varsity level and has stepped up her game. Goodman can play wherever she's needed. Stirano, Slaughter and Wooten need "to be vocal and keep the defense focused and working together," Bleivik said.
2011 record: 5-6-0 county; 9-9-0 overall.
Top players: Juniors Delaney Reiff (D/M), Keri Rager (F/D), Amy Armstrong (MF), Blair Bonner (MF).
What you need to know: The Gators have lost Amanda Jackson, one of the most dangerous players in the county. But they return four juniors, led by Rager and all-countian Reiff, now in their third year of varsity play. "I'm hoping they bring a sense of stability and calmness to the game when they are out there," said Josh Sullivan. "Their skill levels are extremely high, and through their experience they can take lead us to a successful season."
Armstrong is out for a few weeks, nursing a sprained ankle. Amaya Phillips is out for the season. "Amaya would have been a huge help to us with her skill set, so losing her as well is tough, but the girls will just have to adapt and overcome.
"I love this team's attitude and approach. They are focused and driven right now. Our team goal since I have been at Reservoir is to be playing our best soccer in November. If the regular season is successful and we are in a county race, then that's great and icing on the cake," said Sullivan.
2011 record: 10-0-1 county; 12-2-1 overall.
Top players: Senior Katie Arensmeier (MF), junior Sheridan Street (F), sophomore Alex Hamer (F).
What you need to know: The Hawks return four all-county players: Sheridan, who led the public school players with 17 goals and four assists last season, Hamer (five goals and 12 assists), Arensmeier (six, five) and Callahan Allen. They have another year of experience and the drive to win. What's not to like about River Hill?
"Katie will be the leader on and off the field and the team will be under her guidance," said Brian Song. "She is very precise and detail and her expectation is very high from everyone."
"As a whole, the team needs to step up together in order to stay on top," Song said.
2011 record: 2-8-1 county; 2-10-1 overall.
Top players: Seniors Maria Pascale (MF), Abbie Wright (MF/F); juniors Sarah Hulit (D), Becca Riley (D).
What you need to know: The Wildecats have their sixth coach in 13 seasons, but this one has a familiar name: Davia Procida, a Wilde Lake graduate who played for her father, David, during his five-year coaching stint. She got a win over South Carroll in her coaching debut. The school has not fared well since winning a county crown in 2008, but Procida may usher in a new era.
Pascale will carry a lot on her shoulders. She will be the "difference maker this year. She will have an improved group around her which will make her on-field contributions more noticeable. Her leadership, however, will be the biggest contribution," said Procida. "She brings a combination of skill, toughness and leadership that is truly unique."
"The leadership of our veteran players must be evident every day. With the potential to have six first-year players on the field at one time, their ability to elevate the play of the younger players is key, especially in the county where the game can be very physical.
"The building of a strong and consistent girls soccer program is our goal and it starts with this team. We believe that we will have an impact in the county this year but understand that there will be bumps along the way," Procida said.
Chapelgate Christian Academy
2011 record: 8-0 IAAM C Division; 15-2 overall.
Top players: Juniors Lydia Frierson (MF), Christina Vanwingerden (MF); sophomores Jennifer Lindaure (D), Emma Rufolo (MF).
What you need to know: As a reward for dominating the C Division for the last two years, Chapelgate got bumped up to the B level this fall. But the team makes the move without eight starters who graduated and were integral to the team's conference championship. Returning midfielder Jen Yahiro tore her ACL in lacrosse and is also gone for the season.
Count on Frierson to continue scoring, and scoring a lot. She pounded in 39 goals and added 11 assists in 2011 to lead the county. But the second half of last year's potent scoring machine Kristen Thomas, with 30 goals, graduated. Frierson is a "league talent" and can hit "amazing goals from outside the 18. She will definitely have to step up this year and score early on in the game," said Christen Gjeldum.
"We have a very nice group of girls, but on the field they need to be tough so that we don't get pushed around," Gjeldum said.
Still, she added, "We hope to shine the light of God as we play and hope to improve each game relative to our skill level. We will still be fired up and ready to try and upset teams this season."
Glenelg Country School
2011 record: 5-3 IAAM C Division; 9-4 overall.
Top players: Junior Ninah Dawson (D); sophomores Chloe Lewis (MF/D); Deja Hursey (F).
What you need to know: "We will be a contender this season, as we surprised many of our opponents last year and are returning seven starters," said Christy Mink. But, she adds, "many of our conference (opponents) will be prepared this season for our style of play."
Hursey led the team with 18 goals last year. Lewis comes with extensive club team experience and Dawson directs transition plays from her sweeper position. Catelyn Gamble is also expected to step up her role in transitions.
"With our talent and player experience, we should be able to earn a top three spot in the C Conference (of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland). It is also a goal for us to reach the championship game".