Carroll County’s high school fall sports athletes and coaches didn’t know what to expect when their 2020 season went on a shelf amid the COVID-19 pandemic, out of reach yet still visible.
The county’s Board of Education spent plenty of time during September and October meetings trying to figure out what to do about high school athletics. A fall season was planned to begin in mid-October, then delayed when the BOE agreed not to start sports at the same time as its hybrid learning model. Those associated with cross country, field hockey, football, golf, soccer, and volleyball were looking at three weeks of games at best.
Most Carroll athletes didn’t like the idea of a few scheduled games and the understanding that it could all end in a flash should a COVID outbreak hit. But the county eventually decided to follow the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s plan of having three sports seasons of six weeks each, beginning in December. That move put fall sports, traditionally played in September, October, and November, starting in March and going into mid-April.
Not the norm by any means, but nothing has been quite the same since last March when the coronavirus wreaked havoc on high school sports around the state.
Fall sports are indeed underway in Carroll, so here’s a rundown of what to watch in soccer, field hockey, golf, volleyball, and cross country (football will have a separate preview this week).
Carroll has a reigning state champion in Century, which went 15-4 in 2019 and blanked La Plata 1-0 in the Class 2A final. The Knights’ offense lost a combined 35 goals from first-team all-county standouts Jackson Glenn, Alex Grasso, and Kyle Kropfelder. Senior Kyle Hatmaker and sophomore Cooper Santos are two offensive players tasked with filling the void.
Liberty (11-2-1), the reigning Carroll County Athletic League champion, returns a pair of first-team all-countians in defender Michael Pellicciotti and midfielder Ben Hiebler. Both factored in the Lions’ season-opening win Tuesday against Westminster (5-8-2). Pellicciotti and Hiebler are the only returning all-county first-teamers around Carroll.
Manchester Valley (9-6) has a new coach in John Woodley, and the Mavericks won their opener against Century on Tuesday. South Carroll (8-5-1) graduated the reigning Player of the Year in forward Carter Chesney, and the Cavaliers tied Winters Mill (6-9) in their opener.
Francis Scott Key (9-6-2) reached the 1A state finals a season ago, and the Eagles will try to make another run despite losing seven starters and graduating a first-team all-county player in Jakub Mihulka.
Century won the CCAL title last season and was 16-0 before falling to Calvert 1-0 in the 2A state semifinals. The Knights return junior forward Haley Greenwade, the Times Player of the Year, who had 23 goals and 50 points. Century blanked Man Valley (6-7-2) on Tuesday in its season opener.
Liberty (12-4) also enjoyed a win in its first game by beating Westminster (5-10-1). The Lions bring back first-team all-county midfielder Jordan Townsend, who scored Tuesday, but will look to replace first-teamers Caitlin Mulholland (goalie), Grace Maciejewski (defense), and Alanna Wray (forward).
Winters Mill (6-7) won its opener against South Carroll (10-3) and the Falcons got a goal from returning first-team all-county selection Madison Harmening, a senior midfielder who patrols the defense.
Francis Scott Key (3-10) lost first-team all-county pick Marina Weller on offense but the Eagles have senior midfielder Emma O’Donnell and senior defender Kallie Palumbo as anchors on a squad that includes five freshmen and three sophomores.
Carroll had a pair of state champions in 2019 in Liberty (18-0) and Westminster (14-5). The Lions won the 1A title, and the Owls needed overtime to claim the 3A crown. Liberty graduated the Player of the Year in Meghan Huey, but brings back plenty of talent to go after a fourth state title in five seasons.
CCAL champ Liberty has first-teamers Caitlynn Szarko and Kayleigh Ward on offense, and a sturdy defense behind them. Westminster, meanwhile, brings back first-team defender Miranda Moshang and senior forward Kirby Henneman.
The Owls are on pause right now because of COVID-19 concerns, along with Winters Mill (3-11). Senior Allie Williams is back on offense for the Falcons after earning first-team all-county honors in 2019.
Century (11-5) won its season opener Monday and first-team all-county midfielder Mackenzie Feltz had two goals and two assists in the victory. Emma Buzby, a second-team all-pick in 2019, returns as a goalie for Francis Scott Key (10-4). The Eagles are the reigning 1A West Region champs.
Manchester Valley (5-9) dropped its season opener against Liberty, and the Mavericks graduated a first-team all-county midfielder in Jaclynn Gouge. The Mavs have a unique matchup set for Friday when they face South Carroll (9-7) and first-year coach Jensyn Koontz ― daughter of MV coach Denean Koontz.
Westminster (11-2) is are back with reigning Times Player of the Year Aaron Sorkin, who won the 2019 county tournament and posted a top-five finish at the 4A-3A state tournament. Winters Mill (13-2) won the county championship but graduated first-team all-county players Brian Inglis, Emil Serafin, and Ethan Wolbert.
Century (6-6-1) had Liam Wolf, Liberty (8-8) had Justin Bartolowits, and South Carroll (4-8-1) had Nick Amateau ― only Amateau is back from the all-county first team. Logan Austin, a second-team pick in 2019, is back for Man Valley (6-8-1).
Francis Scott Key didn’t field enough players to compete last season but senior Brody Brilhart returns for the Eagles after taking last fall off.
The golf season is set to begin March 16.
For the first time since 2015, someone other than former Westminster standout Jilienne Widener will earn Times Player of the Year. The county champion Owls went 17-1 last season and reached the 3A state semifinals. They bring back seven seniors and first-team all-county picks Sabina Rinda (hitter) and Alexis Troy (setter), but look to replace top hitter Widener and first-team libero Kasey Thomas.
Century (17-2) won the 2A state championship and graduated three first-team all-county players in Ally Everton (libero), Caroline Mastria (hitter), and Ali Whitworth (setter), but return second-team hitters Maria Acaron and Eva Brandt. The Knights swept Man Valley (3-13) in their opener.
Senior middle hitter and captain Laura Gilford returns for Francis Scott Key (8-6), and Winters Mill (7-9) has a core of veterans coming back. Liberty (3-12) has a new coach in Emma Lorenzen, a senior at McDaniel College.
Sophomore libero Calista Kalishek, a second-team all-county player last season, is back for South Carroll (4-11).
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Carroll runners have a county championship scheduled for April 15, and expect Liberty to contend for another title. The reigning champ Lions have seniors Gavin Edson and Trent Taylor leading the way. Taylor already has an individual victory this season.
Runner-up South Carroll graduated its entire varsity squad from a season ago, including first-teamers Brendan Cave and John Kettula. Century, meanwhile, lost reigning Times Runner of the Year Hayden Hebert.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
South Carroll will be without Grace Siehler, the reigning Runner of the Year and last season’s county meet victor. The Cavaliers took second last year to Liberty, which went on to claim the 2A state championship.
The Lions appear talented again with returning first-team runners Izzy Lucas and Julia Lucas, both sophomores.
Winters Mill has its own 1-2 combo with sisters Kathryn Hopkins and Makenzie Hopkins, the latter of which is back after dealing with injuries the last two seasons. Kathryn Hopkins won a quad-meet race at Liberty on March 6, and Makenzie was second.
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SC’s Kate Yokay returns from her first-team all-county 2019 season. And Man Valley’s Rubie Goffena is also back for her junior year.