The talk had some instances of awkward silence, but, like so many times over their four years together, Megan Chun, Victoria Tran and Carly Wetzel smoothly covered for each other.
It was August 2016, the final cuts for the River Hill girls soccer team had just been made and the three junior standouts were standing before a young and eager group for the first time as captains.
There was the usual house cleaning items that come with the start of a new season, and then it was time for the meeting’s most important message.
They were nervous and tripped over their words at times, but when it was necessary, they smoothly finished each others’ thoughts to get the point across. The group left inspired, well aware of the season’s goal and what it would take to accomplish it. For the three captains, they left reassured and relieved they had each other to count on.
Three months later, the Hawks were celebrating the program’s 11th state championship. It came after a rare down year when injuries and inexperience ended their run of three straight titles.
The trio, now in their senior years as four-year starters and two-year captains, will all say last year’s journey, completed with a 2-1 win over Calvert in the Class 2A final, easily tops the list of the many fine memories they’ve enjoyed playing soccer at River Hill. They’re banking on more.
“It’s definitely last year, can’t be anything else — underdog year, a rebuilding year,” Tran said. “Coming off a win in the championship game and knowing that everybody is back this year, we’re more refined and it’s really excited.”
After falling to perennial national powers Good Counsel and No. 2 McDonogh to start the season — coach Brian Song believes the difficult matchups are a chance to learn and improve — the No. 4 Hawks opened their Howard County schedule with five straight wins going into Tuesday’s game at Glenelg.
Song gives a lot of responsibility to his captains, both on and off the field, and he knows exactly what he’ll get from Chun, Tran and Wetzel.
He reflects back to their freshmen seasons, when each made important contributions to a state championship team, and is impressed with how they’ve grown.
“All of them showed something and I knew they would be special,” he said. “Each year, they had more responsibility and they had to grow up fast. They’re the glue and their presence has made it easy for me.”
They all bring different personalities and strengths to their captain’s role and together they have formed a bond that will with them forever.
Chun, who earned All-Metro first-team honors last season, brings intensity, fierce competitiveness and picks just the right time to lighten the mood. A versatile two-way player who finished with seven goals and 14 assists, she handles many of the team’s free kicks with precise accuracy.
Tran, an All-Metro second-team pick, is the captain who brings calm to any situation. If a teammate has a concern, chances are she’ll turn to Tran for advice or encouragement. On the field, she’s one of the area’s most gifted players with the ball at her feet.
If the team ever has doubts, Wetzel will have them believing otherwise. When the three had that first captain’s meeting going into last season, there was no question who would provide the motivational chatter. On the field, she’s a relentless force at center back that can always be counted on.
“I think we complement each other very well,” Wetzel said. “We get along very well and our styles of play work together. When one of us is missing something, another is there to pick it up. I think that helps bring the team together, so the chemistry is good.”
Junior sweeper Dani Poindexter, certain to take on leadership next year when she’s a senior, is making sure to take notes from the experienced trio. She’s impressed with how they selflessly work together to create a balance of hard work and fun at practice that translates into a strong team bond. The end result is success.
“I definitely learned from them that you always need to be working hard no matter what. Even though we have some easy fun practices, we still need to be pushing, so we can get the most out of it and come out with wins,” she said.
“It’s definitely super comforting because they’re always the ones who are talking, just guiding us and letting us know how you’re doing. Off the field, they’re always telling us what we’re doing well and what you can do better.”
For all three, it’s hard to believe it was four years ago when they were all sitting in the school’s cafeteria for a team snack a few hours before playing in their first state championship game. They’re aware that, at this time next year, they’ll have taken separate college paths. All ‘A’ students, Chun has committed to UMBC, Tran is set to play at Navy and Wetzel is still weighing her options.
The season’s first meeting was a piece of cake compared with last year, but they know bringing home another state title won’t. They welcome the task ahead and are cherishing the time.
“It’s definitely going to take determination because, year after year, everyone is coming after River Hill,” Chun said. “We have to be humble. We won states last year and that’s great, but then again, we want to do it again, so the process is exactly the same: Be humble and take it game by game and don’t get caught up in the pressure.”