Mallory Pappas has been a three-sport athlete at Glenelg County School since her freshman year. Having been a part of the field hockey, basketball and lacrosse teams, her groups have faced many ups and downs.
Sometimes at season's end, those highs still seemed a good distance away, and that's why this year's girls lacrosse team has every one in the school excited.
Wednesday's 17-2 win over Annapolis Area Christian School bumped the Dragons' record to 10-3 – nearly a 180-degree flip from 2013's 4-11 final mark.
"It's been a huge turnaround compared to previous years," said Pappas, who scored six goals against Annapolis Area. "This year, I'm a senior captain and I am really determined to leave my mark. I am so passionate about my sports this year."
Marissa Burks and Cameron Baumgardner join Pappas as senior captains. They are the only seniors on a team that has proven itself as an overachiever.
The improvement is due to a combination of factors — team chemistry, talented underclassmen stepping up and a new member of the coaching staff.
At the start of the school year, Glenelg Country School hired Brian Reese as the upper school physical education teacher.
Reese comes with a plent of lacrosse credentials. He was an All-American at the University of Maryland, a professional lacrosse player (NLL and MLL), served as general manager, and coach, of two MLL teams (Denver Outlaws and Chesapeake Bayhawks), and a volunteer assistant for the University of Maryland's women's lacrosse team. Reese's wife, Cathy, is Maryland's head coach.
He also coaches youth lacrosse. Last year, Maddux Walton, the nine-year-old son of GCS girls varsity coach Paige Walton, played on Reese's lacrosse team.
"Paige is the one who told me there was a P.E. opening at Glenelg Country and it would probably require coaching lacrosse," Reese said.
Walton, now in her 15th season, is the head coach; Reese is the assistant.
"I call them the 'Dynamic Duo,' " said Paul Weir, the GCS athletic director.
The two coaches feed off of each other.
"She knows the ins and outs of the program and Coach Reese knows the game so well. He has brought in some new skills and new plays that have helped us tremendously. He knows how to highlight and capitalize on our skills," Pappas said.
"Paige has been really welcoming. She's had an open mind to everything and she's amazing to work with," Reese said.
Walton returns the compliment.
"I have had great coaches coach with me but no one with the lacrosse knowledge and experience that Brian has. He is a great resource and has brought a lot to the program. We work really well together."
At the beginning of the season, Walton and Reese set attainable goals for the team: Finish over .500 for the season, win 50 percent or more of the draws and eliminate turnovers.
But it's the players on the field who ultimately are responsible for what happens in a game and that's where determination and team's chemistry come into play.
The seniors decided that they wanted the team, including the freshmen, to come together as a unit.
"The whole entire team backs everyone up," Pappas said. "We're not playing for ourselves as individuals, we are playing for our team and we try to make the other person look good. Everyone kind of works together."
There's a lot of camaraderie on and off the field. They have become a very close-knit group.
Baumgardner, the senior goalie, has taken Kelly Layton, the sophomore goalie, under her wing and made her more confident. Layton had five saves against Annapolis Area.
The older Dragons have welcomed two talented freshmen — Julia Sheehan and Alyssa Arnold.
"They are serious about lacrosse and they bring things they learn on their club teams," Pappas said.
For the first time in Walton's coaching career, the Dragons defeated Park and Mercy, two former Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference teams. They were milestone victories.
"Winning those games made us realize that we didn't have to be complacent with losing," Pappas said. "We are showing up at practice and working really hard. We are taking ownership of our responsibility. Everyone is taking (lacrosse) more seriously than in the past.
"I think we got lucky how our team chemistry meshed on the field this year."
"I'm lad the girls have had some success. The seniors can look back at the years of hard work that they have put in and it makes it all worth while," Reese said.
A rematch against Friends on Monday is the only game left on Glenelg Country's regular season schedule. The team is currently third in the IAAM B Conference standings behind Friends and Mercy.
The Dragons have the potential to go deep in the playoffs, but regardless they have already clinched the first winning season for GCS lacrosse since 2005. That same year, the team won the IAAM B Conference title.
Glenelg Country 17, Annapolis Area Christian 2
Goals: GCS — Mallory Pappas 6, Alyssa Arnold 3, Julia Sheehan 2, Megan Hooper 2, Lizzie Rice 2, Marissa Burks, Jennifer Rushe. AACS —Emily Johnson 2, Victoria Dix.
Assists: GCS — Alyssa Arnold 3, Julia Sheehan 2, Mallory Pappas. AACS — none.
Saves: GCS — Cameron Baumgardner 5, Kelly Layton 5. AACE — Kaleigh Kotula 10.