The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral. In the name of raising awareness and funds for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association, people of all ages and levels of fame are challenging their friends and acquaintances to video themselves getting doused by a bucket of ice water.
Fall practice had barely started when the Atholton field hockey team ice-bucket-challenged the other fall sports teams at their school. In addition to being ice-bucketed, the Raiders' hockey team also donated $667 to the ALS Association.
The Ice Bucket Challenge isn't the only challenge Atholton's hockey team is issuing this year.
Led by senior forward Jen Bleakney, the county's top returning goal scorer (22), the Raiders have the talent to win the county title. Bleakney, just back from playing two weeks of field hockey in New Zealand with her club team, has committed to play collegiately at Syracuse University.
"Our strength is our experience. …This team is already ahead of where it was at the end of last season," said Atholton coach Martie Dyer. "It has the mentality of the team that won states two years ago."
The 2013 Raiders tied for third with Marriotts Ridge in the county behind co-champions Mt. Hebron and Glenelg.
Mt. Hebron, which was a finalist in last year's Class 3A state competition, and Glenelg, always a tough team to beat, both lost key players to graduation, but return outstanding goalkeepers.
Glenelg's Noelle Frost made the USFHA U-17 national team, and Mt. Hebron senior Chachi Kelehan was a standout in her first year in goal last year.
No one takes a game against Marriotts Ridge or River Hill lightly. Each school always fields teams that are tough to beat. This year will be no exception.
The Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland realigned its conferences. Glenelg Country School is still in the B Conference, which now has 11 teams. Expect the Dragons to finish in the upper half, aiming especially for a top-four finish, which would give the team home field advantage going into the playoffs.
Hammond and Wilde Lake each have new varsity coaches this fall.
It's safe to say that Carolyn Freel, the Golden Bears' coach, is the first choir teacher to coach field hockey in the county. Her task will be to build the choir program and the field hockey program at Hammond.
Kathy Kern has been promoted to the varsity at Wilde Lake. She coached the Wildecats' JV team last fall. As the season begins, she is actually coaching both teams as Wilde Lake continues to look for a JV coach.
Freel and Kern played high school field hockey in Montgomery County. Freel was a goalie for Magruder, while Kern played at Blake High School.
Top players: Seniors Jen Bleakney (F), Mollie Belson (MF), Gina D'Asto (MF) and Emily Clinch (GK); junior Meaghan Quinn (F); sophomores Rachel Foster (MF) and Ashley Martin (D); freshman Tori Raulin (F).
The scoop: Jen Bleakney, who was named the county's outdoor track female Athlete of the Year last spring, heads up a talented Raiders team. The 800 and mile were her specialties, so she has speed and stamina on her side. After spending two weeks playing field hockey in New Zealand with her club team, Bleakney comes into her final high school season in top shape.
The addition of Tori Raulin will make it more difficult for teams to double-team Bleakney
"Believe it or not, Tori could be Jen's twin as far as playing styles and talent," said coach Martie Dyer. "The two of them, because of that, are a dynamic duo on the forward line like I've never seen."
The Raiders have eight returning starters, an offense that is stacked and a midfield that is strong.
"I think we are going to do really well," Bleakney said. "Everyone came back really strong and excited about the upcoming year. Everyone wants to go at another run for states and I think we can do it."
If all pans out, the Raiders could have another ice bucket experience in November at the state finals at Washington College.
Coach: Tara Carr (seventh)
2013 record: 7-8, 6-5
Top players: Seniors Olivia Canby (D), Steph Sachs (F) and Sarah Arbaugh (F); sophomore Mary Margaret Baldy (MF).
The scoop: With 13 seniors, Centennial is top heavy on experience. There are 23 players on the squad, including seven returning starters. Newcomers junior Alana Morganete (D) and sophomores midfielders Laurie Bracey and Olivia O'Connell will provide the foundation for future Centennial teams.
"All of my players are hard working and desire strong cohesiveness on and off the field," said coach Tara Carr. She admits that her team lacks "standout stars" like other teams, but "we are inundated with players that have strong fundamental skills and play competitive hockey year round.
"Our depth and flexibility will make it more difficult for teams to defensively strategize" against us, she added.
Steph Sachs and Sarah Arbaugh are the Eagles' top returning scorers, combining for nine goals in 2013, but they will need to pick up their offensive effort and get help from their teammates for Centennial to rise above the middle of the pack.
Coach: Ginger Kincaid (38th)
2013 record: 15-3, 10-1 (co-county champion)
Top players: Seniors Megan Taylor (F) and Molly Milani (D); junior Noelle Frost (GK); sophomore Grace Olson (MF).
The scoop: Megan Taylor (30 assists) lost her front-line wingman, Player of the Year Stephanie Asher, to graduation. Midfielder Morgan Philie, whose aerial throw started many of Glenelg's offensive sets also graduated, as did the team's starting goalkeeper.
Even though there are six returning starters, including seniors Taylor, Milani, Mia Astran (F), Kayla Tatum (B), Jeanine Gezelle (MF) and Grace Perry (D), the Gladiators need to rework their lineup from front to back, or vice versa.
"We need to gel as a unit because we did not return many field combinations," said coach Ginger Kincaid.
"Noelle Frost is an amazing goalkeeper but we are going to have to change our defensive system to accommodate her big play in the circle. We need to tweak our system to make room for her keeping style."
Over the summer, Frost was chosen for the USFHA's U-17 national team.
Speed and stickwork will be Glenelg's strength. The addition of freshman midfielder Paige Reese will also help the team.
Coach: Carolyn Freel (first)
2013 record: 1-12, 1-10
Top players: Seniors Jasmyn Thomas (F), Caroline Goyne (F), Ellen Barrios (F) and Hannah McGowan (MF).
The scoop: Hammond is still finalizing its team selections. The four seniors listed above are the squad's only returning players.
"We're a growing team," Carolyn Freel said. "We have two freshmen on varsity who have played quite a bit."
Kathleen Morias, who came up to varsity late last year, is the team's goalkeeper. "I can tell that she will blossom through the year," said Freel, a former goalkeeper.
The Golden Bears' team strength is in its communication and its eagerness to learn.
With many new players, emphasis will be on making strong passes and positioning — being in the right place at the right time.
Coach: Kristen Vance (fifth)
2013 record: 7-7, 5-6
Top players: Seniors Rosey O'Connor (D) and Allyson Sloan (F).
The scoop: Howard's strength is in its midfield and its youth.
Freshmen Madeline Land, Zoe Summa and Abigail Williams, sophomore Annette Jarosz and junior Marissa Penn all have club playing experience. The team may "be" young, but it won't necessarily "play" young.
Rosey O'Connor and Allyson Sloan are Howard's captains and junior Kelly Makar takes over in goal.
With so many newcomers, coach Kristen Vance said her team will be "working on the dynamic of where people are going to be on the field."
Coach: Rashmi Bhanot (fifth)
2013 record: 8-9, 4-7
Top players: Seniors Lillie Miller (MF), Cloe Dixon (F), Kim Pelton (D) and Caroline LaGow (D).
The scoop: Carrying a 14-player squad, including six returning starters, means that playing time shouldn't be an issue at Long Reach, but injuries could. The Lightning feature a freshman and a sophomore on its squad. Nina Collins, a freshman defender, is expected to make an impact this season.
Miller is the team's top returning scorer.
"We have great personalities (on the team) this year and we click on and off the field," said coach Rashmi Bhanot.
Coach: Stacie Gado (ninth)
2013 record: 13-3, 9-2
Top players: Seniors Enya McGarry (D), Maddie Courtney (F) and Katie Berdy (MF); juniors Lexi Souder (MF), Keally Ingersoll (MF) and Allie McAuley (F).
The scoop: Will this be the year? Marriotts Ridge has consistently been just a fraction below the top tier teams. Last fall, the Mustangs became the first county team to beat Glenelg in six years and they tied for third in the county standings. Can they repeat that success and maybe take down some other "biggies," say an Atholton or a Mt. Hebron?
There are seven returning starters on the Mustangs' team. Newcomers Caroline Blalock, Sarah Blalock and Lily Kennedy, all sophomores, are expected to be impact players.
Preseason conditioning and speed are among the assets Marriotts Ridge possesses.
Coach Stacie Gado said her team "needs the time to play together. There are new players in the mix and some strong shoes that will need to be filled from last year's seniors."
Top players: Seniors Emily Purnell (MF), Hannah Schied (D), Chachi Kelehan (GK) and Ally Unkenholz (F).
The scoop: Just over half of last year's starting line-up is back, including goalie Chachi Kelehan, but the Vikings have to quickly figure out who is going to score goals. Last year's top five scorers graduated. Expect the team to lean on its defense and forward Ally Unkenholz until the offense develops.
It's a given that Mt. Hebron will grow as a team as the season progresses. This year will be no different for the hard-working Vikings who were Class 3A state finalists in 2013.
Mt. Hebron will get an early test in the Mt. Hebron invitational Sept. 6. The Vikings will host McDonogh, Catonsville and North Harford. Traditionally, all are strong programs.
"It is exciting to begin a new season. Howard County field hockey is very competitive," said coach Jeannette Ireland.
Coach: Nikki Trunzo (fifth)
2013 record: 4-11, 2-9
Top players: Seniors Christina Devine (LB), Olivia Eldridge (MF), Maggie Zuelsdorf (MF) and Candace Okumko (CB).
The scoop: Just when it seemed that the Oakland Mills program had started to turn the corner, there's been a major setback — an acute lack of players. Midway through tryouts only 15 girls were out for field hockey. Earlier this week it was determined that the Scorpions will not be able to field a JV team and that will knock the program back on its heels even more because a JV team is the source of players for the varsity.
Oakland Mills returns five starters from last year. Sophomore goalie Lizzie Yu will help the team out.
"With the numbers low, the girls are staying positive and keeping everything competitive but fun at the same time," coach Nikki Trunzo said. "They are a very determined and very coachable team. …We are all working together, staying positive and trying new things this year to keep our program competitive and developing."
Realistically, with many new players and a lack of playing experience, Oakland Mills victories this year will be of the "mini" variety. The Scorpions have already enjoyed one — they scored several goals during their play day.
Coach: Lindsay Beil (third)
2013 record: 4-11, 3-8
Top players: Seniors Emily Blanchard (MF) and Connie Chung (GK); junior Carly Clarke (MF).
The scoop: For the 10 seniors on the Gators' team, this is the year when all the hard work they have put in should show some dividends.
"We are at the point now in our program where we don't need to focus on the basic skills and understanding of the game," said coach Lindsay Beil. "Now it's the little, disciplined concepts/ideas that take a team to the next level that we need to focus on."
Reservoir returns 10 starters and Beil includes leadership and speed among her team's strengths.
Sophomore Haley Tiller will add to the offense.
However the season turns out, it will be a poignant one for Beil.
"This senior class was my first freshman class here at Reservoir. It's amazing to see the development in each one of the girls, even from last year to this year. I'm really looking forward to sharing their senior season with them."
Coach: Shelly Chamness (15th)
2013 record: 8-7, 7-4
Top players: Seniors Kendall Stull (D), Kinsey Johnson (D), Erin Barker (A/MF), Jill Kelley (MF), Caroline Smith (MF), Emily Hamburger (F) and Jordi Tornatore (D); junior Maddie Rusenko (MF).
The scoop: Experience is on River Hill's side; there are 13 seniors and 10 juniors on the team. The Hawks have 10 returning starters and will get a boost from having Kendall Stull back on the field. A starter as a sophomore, she missed her junior season with an ACL tear.
There are a pair of sisters on the team. Freshman Gabby Hamburger joins her sister, Emily, on the forward line. Emily was the team's second-leading scorer last year. Ally Stull, Kendall's twin, is shifting from defense to attack this season.
The Hawks have the luxury of having two goalies.
Coach Shelly Chamness says her team's strength is its "chemistry, positivity and work ethic, and returning our defense and midfield. I think this may be my best defense since 2001."
Coach: Kathy Kern (1st)
2013 record: 1-13, 0-10
Top players: Senior Paige Boyer (GK); junior Bridget Cavanaugh (MF).
The scoop: Wilde Lake lacks a junior varsity coach at this time so Kathy Kern is pulling double duty by coaching the varsity and the JV. That makes for a long afternoon, but on the positive side it makes it easier to build for the future when everyone is learning the same way.
Wilde Lake's squad has 13 seniors and five juniors, including Meghna Manohar, who looks promising.
At playday, the Wildecats scored and didn't endure any blowouts. Playday, however, showed that the team needs to work on its conditioning.
"They want to put in the effort and I'm hoping we made some strides this year," Kern said. "The thing I love about the Wilde Lake team is that they are pretty resilient and have a strong team bond. …It's not easy coming off an 0-10 season and have a lot of enthusiasm but these girls do."
As an example of team bonding, the Wilde Lake players plan to run a 5k race together this month.
Glenelg Country School
Coach: Jessica McAdams (12th)
2013 record: 7-7, 5-5 (IAAM B)
Top players: Seniors Koko Etokebe (D) and Tessa More (A); junior Megan Hooper (MF/A); sophomore Julia Sheehan (MF).
The scoop: The Dragons will look to Julia Sheehan and Megan Hooper to fill the void after graduating their midfield transition and attacking punch. Tessa Moor is a capable finisher at the offensive end.
Sophia Kalaris takes over in goal, replacing U-19 National team member and current Cornell freshman Kelly Johnson. Kalaris will be supported defensively by
Koko Etokebe, Shagun Kathuria, Olivia Dwelley and Tokunbo Olaniyan.
Seniors Toyin Awotunde, Carmen Zheng, Emelia Weir and Amanda Weir are expected to step up into contributing roles this season.
"The team's strength comes from the positive, close-knit 10 seniors on the team," said coach Jessica McAdams.
The Dragons play in the IAAM B Conference where Maryvale and St. Paul School for Girls are expected to be the top contenders.