Garrison Forest finds itself in an exciting position this fall as the Grizzlies gun for a third straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship.
And they certainly have the experience and talent to pull it off with 11 returning starters from a 2011 squad that went 18-1-2.
Garrison Forest’s strengths are a potent attack and a stingy defense.
“You put those two together and it can be magical,” said Garrison Forest’s Traci Davis, who serves as co-coach with Leigh McDonald Hall. “It doesn’t happen like that all the time.”
Even with all the talent the Grizzlies possess — they are ranked as the top team in the Baltimore metropolitan area — Davis doesn’t like to hear her players dwelling on or talking about a three-peat.
If they pull it off, It would be Garrison Forest’s fifth title in 12 years under Davis. The Grizzlies also lost in the finals in the 2006 and 2009 finals to Bryn Mawr.
“It would be naive to say its not in the back of everybody’s mind,” she explained. “It is a daunting task. But we actually don’t even talk about it or think about it. We have always lived by the code: It’s one practice and one game at a time. If you look too far ahead, you can miss the moment.”
Nevertheless, the Grizzlies are off to a perfect 3-0 start, having blanked Century, 4-0, St. Paul’s School for Girls, 5-0, and Notre Dame Prep, 2-0.
“These girls have played together for years,” McDonald Hall said. “Not only at Garrison, but on club teams.”
You want offense?
Check out the Garrison Forest’s high-scoring frontline of seniors Brooke Adler and Erica Marshall and junior Bayly Jarrett.
Feeding that outstanding group of forwards is a midfield spearheaded by junior Megan Rossi and senior Geagy Pritchard, a Miami University of Ohio recruit.
Adler will play field hockey at the University of Maryland while Jarrett earned recognition this past summer, qualifying for the AAU Junior Olympic team that played in Houston.
Opponents know if they have a defensive lapse, they could be in big trouble very quickly.
That happened to St. Paul’s, falling behind, 2-0, in the first 12 minutes.
“We always like to play up-tempo style of play,” Davis said. “It’s an aggressive style of play. I don’t mean physically aggressive.”
Adler could be Garrison Forest’s most feared player, boasting five goals in three games, including a first-half hat trick against the Gators.
“She wants to play at the highest level,” Davis said. “And she does everything to improve her game. She has the drive determination and skill set. She has a terrific shot and field vision. Every year, she has improved.”
If there’s one area in which McDonald Hall wants to see improvement, it’s on penalty corners.
“We would like to see more production on our corners,” McDonald Hall said. “We would like to score more. Some games, we have so many corners and we don’t score. That’s not acceptable.”
McDonald Hall and Davis have less concerns about the formidable defense of seniors Merritt Davis, Claire Forbes, Claire Schuler and Garland Mooney.
“It’s another solid defense that has been playing together for a number of years,” Davis said. “They work together well on the field communicating. They know where each other is going to be and they back each other up exceptionally well.”
The defense protects standout senior goalie and Columbia University recruit Kendall Kuntz.
The Grizzlies are looking forward to a healthy season from Kuntz, who only played in three games last year because of injuries.
“She is just a really good competitor and very solid,” said McDonald Hall, noting Kuntz, is backed up by sophomore Yavalar Ariyel.