A crop of underclassmen — freshman midfielder Maddy Gibson, freshmen defenders Marissa Inglisa and Alyx Oakley, sophomore forward Alysse Gapsis and sophomore midfielder Catie Denz — are shaking things up for Hereford coach Nancy Ferguson this season.
How good are they?
Ferguson and assistant coach Brad Duvall promoted Denz and Gapsis from last year's junior varsity while Oakley, Gibson and Inglisa played in recent seasons for the Hereford Cobras, a year-round club team.
Oakley, Gibson and Inglisa now play for the Maryland Bays.
Other newcomers are becoming key contributors as well.
Sophomore Samantha Hooker earned the starting goalie job, replacing Melissa Seitz, while freshman Ashley Kassolis, who also plays on the Bays, should take on a bigger role as the season progresses.
"We always have exceptional kids," Ferguson said. "Generally, they go the route of lacrosse. They are lacrosse players playing soccer. I think what is starting to evolve now is that we are getting more kids whose first interest is soccer."
Duvall has also been impressed by the underclassmen.
"They don't have this preconceived notion that they have to play a certain way," he said. "They are willing to try new styles of play," he said. "We are able to play the ball on the ground and play the ball quicker. We play through-balls instead of looking for everything over the top and in the air."
The Bulls' youngsters are learning from and being tutored by senior Abby Noble, a Second-Team Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer last year.
Noble co-captains Hereford with senior defender Jackie Howard and junior defender Marilyn Gerovasilis, who has four goals in three games this season.
Noble will attend East Carolina University next year on a soccer scholarship.
"She brings a calming influence to the team," Duvall said. "We are young. Our biggest strength right now is the experience of Abby Noble and what she brings to the table. She has four years of varsity experience and a lot of play at a high level of club."
Duvall, a Hereford varsity boys assistant last year, appears to be just as impressed with Hooker, who is backed up by Francesca Mondo and Rachel Seitz.
He said that Hooker started at midfield, but the coaching staff felt she could have a bigger impact in goal.
"She has some experience there playing club," Duvall said. "She's doing a nice job. She has great hands. She pretty much catches anything. A lot of times, you get ricochets and balls that bounce back to the offense. But that doesn't happen with her."
Hereford started the season by blanking Franklin, 7-0, and Roland Park Country School, 5-0.
Noble scored two goals in each game.
The Bulls were looking for even more offense when they played three-time defending Baltimore County champion Perry Hall in a game they let slip away when Sofia Perzan scored with two seconds left in regulation for the Gators to send the game into double overtime.
Still, the Bulls came away realizing they're a solid team.
"We were beating the three-time defending county champs," Duvall said. "I would love to see where we are at end of the season."
Perry Hall coach Rick Testerman knows his Gators came as close to a loss as a team can.
"We got a couple of lucky bounces off of players," he said. "They didn't make many mistakes. Hereford is very patient with their attack and defense. They didn't overplay anything. They made us work for everything we got."