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Catonsville field hockey and Lansdowne boys soccer squads overcome obstacles during first week of practice

Catonsville High's Ava Waddell, left, battles for the ball during a 2019 field hockey game against Perry Hall. Waddell is one of two returning starters back for the shortened winter season.
Catonsville High's Ava Waddell, left, battles for the ball during a 2019 field hockey game against Perry Hall. Waddell is one of two returning starters back for the shortened winter season. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

When the Baltimore County School Board passed the motion to bring back fall sports on Feb. 13 for in-person practices and have a shortened game schedule starting with football games on March 5, they had no idea that snow, sleet, cold and ice and rain would be a major obstacle.

In addition to COVID-19 rules and restrictions, teams have been facing the weather challenge since most practices were cancelled on opening day.

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The Catonsville High field hockey program and Lansdowne High boys soccer teams are working to just get on the field with respectable teams.

The first time the girls at Catonsville got on the turf field was Wednesday, Feb. 17.

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“There were some hunks of ice on a huge part of the field, but we made the best of it,” Catonsville field hockey coach Barbara Bates said.  “We’re trying to be creative, it’s just a drain. I’ve been teaching, coaching for 31 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s crazy.”

Sleet, snow and freezing rain kept them off the turf on Thursday, Feb. 18, and the coach is trying to maintain optimism.

“We did a virtual [fall] season and that actually went really well, we had good attendance for that earlier on, but the week before the season started, multiple girls said I have to work, I have a nanny job, I’m not going to try out,” said Bates, who had 34 girls come out for the in-person tryouts.

Only 10 of them are juniors and seniors and Bates has only two returning starters.

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Ava Waddell, who will play field hockey at Frostburg next season, and goalie Megan Davis are the veterans.

“It’s my youngest team ever, probably going to be the smallest team ever, I’ll keep 16 or 17 max,” Bates said. “We were impressed with some of the younger players. We obviously have to give them enough tryouts to see what they can do, but I will definitely have a few freshmen I’m looking out for varsity.”

During a normal year, where games start in the summer, Bates had her squad practice from 6-8 a.m. to beat the heat.

Now, it’s the cold and other elements that are a factor.

“It’s very different, literally, we are just so bundled up and wearing the masks and prepping for that,” Bates said. “Just wearing the mask is really hard. We tell them bring more than one mask, some of their masks were soaked, just from coaching mine was soaked.”

Catonsville is slated to play seven games and they will open on March 8 at Eastern Tech.

The Comets first home game is March 22 against Sparrows Point. They also have home games against Towson (April 7), Hereford (April 9) and Franklin (April 12).

Bates and new assistant coach Emma Walsh, who played at Catonsville and in college at Virginia Wesleyan University, are eager for the challenge.

“It’s definitely different, but I’m really excited,” Bates said. “They are a really nice group of girls and they are all coachable. We are just going to do our best and try to have some fun along the way.”

Lansdowne soccer ready to play for real

When Lansdowne head soccer coach George Dunn finally got on the turf with his boys soccer team on Feb. 16 and 17, he was elated.

Dunn, who is also the varsity wrestling coach already saw the wrestling season wiped out because of COVID-19 and didn’t want to see another quality team lose its chance to play.

“It felt so good just to get out there and just having the kids running and excited and it felt like a sense of normalcy,” said Dunn, whose squad is scheduled to play twice a week beginning March 9 at home against Milford Mill. “We are excited for the season and just fired up. Our core guys are back and the division we are playing in we should do pretty well.”

Lansdowne is scheduled for seven games and its eighth game would be the division championship if they win the division which also features Woodlawn, Milford Mill, Dundalk, Patapsco and Kenwood.

Getting on the field for the first time as Vikings wasn’t the first time some of the guys played during the winter.

Lansdowne's Van Thang, center, celebrated a 2019 triumph over Parkville. The Vikings hope to have more celebrations during a shortened season that begins with a home game against Milford Mill on March 9.
Lansdowne's Van Thang, center, celebrated a 2019 triumph over Parkville. The Vikings hope to have more celebrations during a shortened season that begins with a home game against Milford Mill on March 9. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

“Everyone who is back has been playing, whether it has been a club team or some of the kids played in this All-Asian Cup thing up and down the East Coast,” Dunn said. “They are playing constantly.”

Top returning players for Dunn and assistant coach Nick Salatto are juniors Ben Kolarek (midfield/defense), Nick Bentley (D), Steven Geisler (forward) and Dominik Supak (F) and seniors Pablo Lema (goalie), Ai ling (D) and Lai Tha (M). Sophomore Va Sa (M) also looks to break the lineup.

“Kolarek is big and strong and he’s going to be dominant,” Dunn said.

Although only 20 total athletes came out for the early, Dunn was inspired by their enthusiasm.

“They were really happy to get back out there,” he said.

The last time the Vikings played a real game they lost to Century, 5-0, in the Class 2A state semifinals.

That 9-2-1 squad was first Viking boys squad to win a regional championship and Dunn was proud of that historic season.

“This is the first time we’ve ever won a regional championship and you can’t take that away from them,” said Dunn after the game. “I’m proud of these guys. They left it all out on the field tonight and just came up short.”

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