Jensyn Koontz approached the pre-game meeting with the officials and extended her right arm.
“Nice to meet you, coach,” she said, her eyes covered by sunglasses, before Denean Koontz opted for hugs over handshakes.
Certainly not the traditional greeting between county rivals before a field hockey game, but exceptions can be made when one coach changed the other coach’s diapers.
For the first time in their lives, mother faced off against daughter in a sporting event. The younger Koontz prevailed Friday at Western Regional Park when South Carroll shut out Manchester Valley 2-0.
Jensyn Koontz, the Cavaliers’ first-year coach, played her high school field hockey at North Carroll, where Denean Koontz coached for more than 20 years and won more than 200 games. The elder Koontz also won a pair of state championships, in 2013 and 2014, when her daughter was a sophomore and junior on the team. Jensyn Koontz earned Times Player of the Year honors in 2014, and was a three-time first-team all-county selection for the Panthers.
Now, instead of sharing a bus ride back to the same school, or a car ride home after the game, the Koontzes prepared their own team to try and beat its opponent.
“It was definitely an adjustment. I’m used to looking to her for comfort, whether she’s my coach or just my mom,” Jensyn Koontz said. “It was fun. It kind of made me pump myself up, and the girls were more pumped up too.”
Cadance Nail and Stephanie Zirkenbach, a pair of juniors, accounted for South Carroll’s offense, with senior Morgan Collins tallying two assists. The Cavaliers (1-1) celebrated their first win of the season, and the first for their new coach in unique circumstances.
“We kept talking about it ... we really wanted to win for her,” SC senior forward Campbell Vitek said about her new coach. “And for it to be her first win against her mom.”
Denean Koontz said she didn’t sleep much prior to Friday’s game, in part because she and husband Bernie made the trip to western Maryland to see son Dayne play for Frostburg State University’s football team Thursday night (Dayne Koontz kicked extra points in the Bobcats’ 27-20 win over Wheeling). The veteran coach, now in her second season with Man Valley, is always a bit anxious before games.
She tried not to make Friday’s matchup about more than having the Mavericks (1-2) prepared to beat a Carroll County opponent. But Koontz acknowledged the significance of the moment.
“It’s not me versus Jensyn, it’s Manchester Valley versus South Carroll,” Koontz said about being asked how it felt to coach against her daughter. “It’s very rewarding to see her giving back to the sport that has meant so much in our life. And not only give back to the sport, but give back to the sport in Carroll County.”
The rivals played a scoreless first half before Nail put South Carroll on top. She found an spot along the near side of Man Valley’s cage and waited for Collins to send the ball toward the goal. The initial shot found her stick for the tap-in score.
The Cavaliers had a chance to extend their lead a few minutes later with a penalty stroke, but Mavericks goalie Chloe Rama (six saves) made a nifty save on Zirkenbach’s chest-high shot.
Zirkenbach made the most of her second chance during a penalty corner try on the game’s final possession and scored from inside the middle of the circle.
Man Valley and South Carroll were supposed to play at the end of the modified fall sports regular season, but things changed when Westminster and Winters Mill had to delay their starts because of COVID-19 issues. Now, the Mavs and Cavs have a rematch set for March 29.
“I’m kind of glad we got to do it [now], and the anticipation isn’t lingering,” Jensyn Koontz said. “It was cool, though. I tried to not think it was my mom over there. It was hard.”
Goals: SC-Cadance Nail, Stephanie Zirkenbach
Assists: SC-Morgan Collins 2
Saves: MV-6 (Chloe Rama); SC-2 (Danielle Bowman)
Halftime: Tied, 0-0
JV result: Tied, 1-1