Kayla Wood began her fourth varsity season on the Catonsville High girls soccer team playing for her third coach in four years, but that has not changed her outlook or expectations.
"I like to win," said Wood, whose squad lost to Mount Hebron on penalty kicks after the game was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and overtime in the second game of the Catonsville Invitational tournament. "I was so upset about that game. It just makes us want to work harder."
The Comets will work hard under new coach Ricky Sanchez.
Sanchez, a Catonsville resident, takes over for Gary Lynch, who coached the team through the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Lynch replaced James Fitzpatrick after Fitzpatrick took Catonsville High's athletic director position.
Fitzpatrick guided the 2013 squad to a 17-2 record and regional and county titles, but the Comets lost in the Class 4A state championship, 2-0, to Walt Whitman.
Wood was the only one on this season's roster who played on that team and she compared that squad with this year's team.
"I think we all have the same drive, but no player is the same," Wood said. "We don't have as many athletes as we've had in the past, but we definitely have a lot of girls who really care and have a love for the game and that's really all that matters and they come out here and work hard and they just want to get better than the person they were yesterday."
Wood, who will play lacrosse at the University of North Carolina next year, has emerged as a leader.
She is one of the captains along with senior defenders Jen Gast and Megan Wall and senior midfielder Ali Green.
"This, honestly, is probably the best situation anybody can walk into," said Sanchez, whose Comets defeated Franklin 2-0 Sept. 7 for the team's first win. "Kayla is like another coach and Jen is too. I tell all of them all the time how fortunate I am coaching them. It's been an easy transition so far."
Catonsville assistant coach Emily Boller, who played goalie for Fitzpatrick and graduated in 2010, likes the fact Wood can draw on things she learned under him.
"It's nice to have Kayla who played for him [Fitzpatrick] and gets it and all I have to say is one or two things and she knows where I'm going with it and she knows how to relay that to the team," Boller said.
Boller hopes the goalies can rally around the way the team finished last season, when they lost 1-0 in overtime in the regional finals to Sherwood and finished 8-7-1.
Goalie Vivian Montgomery-Walsh made 14 saves, including several point blank stops, to preserve the tie and send the game into overtime.
The Catonsville junior is sharing time in goal this season with sophomore Hailey Murray.
Gast is the sweeper on the defense and she's joined by senior backs Wall and Ashley Rawlings and junior Aubrie Zepp.
Junior Amber Weedon and senior Gabby Colmer join the midfield along with senior Lea Marshall.
Wood and freshman Kolby Weedon are the starting strikers and Weedon already made a strong first impression.
In a season-opening 4-1 loss to Atholton, she assisted Wood for the Comets' lone goal.
The next day against Mount Hebron, she scored the only goal off a corner kick by Gast.
"You wouldn't know she's a freshman," Boller said.
"She's a tremendous athlete," Sanchez added.
The rest of the roster includes several athletes that Sanchez and Boller hope can settle into comfortable positions.
"We are just trying to put together combinations," Boller said.
The rest of the lineup includes: senior Alex Sirasky; juniors Anna Wachsmuth, Leah Marshall, Emily Delaney, Rory Black; and sophomores Savannah Beaver, Amber Stephen, Lilly Scott and Abby Boehl.
Sanchez, who started coaching as an assistant for the men's team at Stevenson University and spent the past eight seasons coaching in the Catonsville recreation league and with the Catonsville Cobras travel squad, admires his squad's game sense.
"I'm very impressed with how sharp and perceptive they are. They are one of the smarter teams I've been around," he said. "They really want to go far and we are just trying to get everybody on board."
Nothing would make him happier than getting to the state tournament's final four.
"Every day, that's all I hear is, "States," and I keep telling them it's a process," he said. "Despite any kind of setbacks, or whatever bumps we hit, even the positive things, we can grow and continue to build from them."