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River Hill sophomore Maddie Vasilios takes center stage as Howard County field hockey Player of Year

River Hill sophomore Maddie Vasilios, named Howard County field hockey Player of the Year this spring, is photographed at the school on May 5, 2021.
River Hill sophomore Maddie Vasilios, named Howard County field hockey Player of the Year this spring, is photographed at the school on May 5, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

On paper, Maddie Vasilios is a standout multi-sport athlete.

The sophomore has wasted little time establishing herself as an integral piece for the River Hill field hockey and lacrosse teams, starting games and settling into a midfield role for both squads.

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But if you ask Vasilios, ever since the end of eighth grade, she would classify herself as a field hockey player.

“I kind of realized in middle school that my passion was field hockey and that was the most important thing to me,” she said. “I loved the competition of club lacrosse and being with my teammates at M&D [lacrosse club], but I started to realize that there were a lot of conflicts and things that were forcing me to have to skip field hockey. So, before high school, I basically decided that I was going to focus on field hockey year round with Freedom [club] and just play high school lacrosse.”

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Just two years into her high school career, Vasilios is already reaping the rewards of her decision to specialize.

This spring, building on a freshman campaign in which she finished as one of the top 20 scorers in the county with six goals and five assists, Vasilios took the next step and became the focal point offensively for a River Hill field hockey team won a county championship. In eight fewer games than 2019, she compiled totals of 11 goals and four assists for 26 points — the most by any county player in Division A this year.

For her efforts, she has been named the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Field Hockey Player of the Year.

“Every single thing ran through Maddie this year and as good as she was as a freshman, she still managed to take a major leap forward,” River Hill coach Shelly Chamness said. “I think technically her skills definitely improved, but the biggest thing was probably her confidence. She had done so much playing leading up to this season that it gave her a belief in herself that she could carry over her club success into high school.

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“I saw it right away [in the preseason], she was ready to take over.”

River Hill sophomore field hockey player Maddie Vasilios finished with 26 points (11 goals and 4 assists) during the spring 2021 season.
River Hill sophomore field hockey player Maddie Vasilios finished with 26 points (11 goals and 4 assists) during the spring 2021 season. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

In addition to a newfound confidence, Vasilios’ breakthrough had a lot to do with a position switch. After playing forward as a freshman, she transitioned to playing at the top of the diamond as an attacking midfielder.

In addition to taking advantage of some of her individual skills, Vasilios thought the change — and corresponding move to put fellow All-County sophomore Puja Nanjappa on the other side of the diamond as a defensive midfielder — would give the team its best chance to be successful.

“We actually brought the idea to coach one day after practice, and she was pretty receptive,” Vasilios said. “Puja and I play really well off one another in the middle, and we thought this would be the best way to take advantage of both of our strengths.”

Chamness said the chemistry between her two underclassmen is what convinced her the change would work.

“They have an ability to work together and play off one another that is really remarkable. They know where to cut to in order to receive the ball and they see the next step before it happens,” Chamness said. “We had Puja pushing forward more last year as a freshman even though she is more comfortable defensively, but with Maddie’s development we felt comfortable sliding her back for this year.”

Both players, along with a talented roster around them, flourished for a River Hill team that went 9-1 and secured the program’s first county title since 2017.

For Vasilios, her season kicked into another gear when she scored both the Hawks’ goals in a 2-1 victory over Glenelg in the second game of the season on March 10.

“The entire team played amazing that first Glenelg game and for it to come so early in the season showed us what we were capable of. I think that’s when we really knew a county championship was an achievable goal,” Vasilios said. “And, for me, I think it kind of let me know that all the work I had put in was paying off.”

From that point on, she scored at least one goal in each of the next three games — including two goals and two assists in a win over Reservoir. She later added the team’s lone goal in its second meeting against Glenelg and both scores in a 2-1 victory over Mt. Hebron that secured a season sweep of the Vikings.

The only question now is, what can she do for an encore this upcoming fall as a junior?

“It was a great season … but I feel like there’s still so many things I can work on to keep getting better. And I think I want to keep improving mentally, as [well] as physically,” Vasilios said. “I saw how much better I got by putting in all that work since last season, so I’m going to try and do the same thing this summer.”

Also named to first team All-County:

Helen Baldy, Centennial freshman forward

Centennial freshman Helen Baldy hits the ball in a 2021 game against Long Reach.
Centennial freshman Helen Baldy hits the ball in a 2021 game against Long Reach. (photo courtesy of Ron Hudson)

Baldy burst onto the scene this spring as the leading scorer for an Eagles team that scored 80 goals and finished the season undefeated in Division B. She finished with 22 goals and three assists.

“Helen has a passion for field hockey and was not afraid to show it off,” coach Natalie Fyock said. “She is kind and humble with her skill and she played a major role on this team on and off the field. She challenged others to push themselves and strive to be better.”

Baldy finished with five hat tricks, including in a season-opening victory over Atholton, which finished as the second-best team in the Eagles’ division.

Lindsey Miller, River Hill senior forward

River Hill's Lindsey Miller, right, looks to beat Glenelg goalie Hala Silverstein to the ball during a game on Monday March 29, 2020 at Glenelg High School. Glenelg won 2-1.
River Hill's Lindsey Miller, right, looks to beat Glenelg goalie Hala Silverstein to the ball during a game on Monday March 29, 2020 at Glenelg High School. Glenelg won 2-1. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

After making second-team All-County as a junior, Miller was even better this spring and set the tone right away with both of the Hawks’ goals in a season-opening victory over Marriotts Ridge.

By the end of the season she finished as the second-highest scorer on the team with five goals and six assists.

“She really improved, showcasing herself as an excellent and confident offender with great stick skills,” coach Shelly Chamness said. “As a two-year captain, Lindsey was an excellent leader who was able to inspire other players.”

AJ Eyre, Glenelg freshman midfield

Glenelg's Aj Eyre controls the ball during a field hockey game against Marriotts Ridge at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Glenelg's Aj Eyre controls the ball during a field hockey game against Marriotts Ridge at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021. (Brian Krista)

The Gladiators’ talented first-year midfielder on the right side wasted no time announcing herself as a force to be reckoned with, scoring a goal and registering an assist in the team’s season-opening 3-0 win over Howard. She continued to showcase a balance of strong finishing ability and great passing IQ all season while producing combined totals of three goals and five assists.

Her totals included a two-goal game in a win over Reservoir.

“Her skill level, particularly with her ball control and ability to see the field, was really excellent for a freshman,” coach Nikki Trunzo said. “She did a great job of taking the space in front of her to get into the circle and she had the green light once she pushed forward into the attack. I’m really looking forward to seeing her continue to develop moving forward.”

Kamryn Henson, Glenelg freshman midfield

Glenelg's Kam Henson fends off Marriotts Ridge's Mia Gladstein during a field hockey game at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Glenelg's Kam Henson fends off Marriotts Ridge's Mia Gladstein during a field hockey game at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021. (Brian Krista)

Another immediate impact freshman for the Gladiators, Henson boasted a dynamic combination of strength, speed and intelligence on the field. She was the team’s corner hitter and an undeniable presence on the left side both offensively and defensively.

“Kam is the ultimate hockey head. She’s strong, coachable and listens to everything you say before going out and executing it,” coach Nikki Trunzo said. “When we need to have numbers on defense or on offense, Kam is always a part of that. And I would say I was most impressed with how well she handled herself in pressure situations.”

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As a testament to her ability to deliver in big spots, Henson scored the game-winning goal in an overtime win over Howard on March 24. She finished the year with four goals and three assists.

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Haley Kampert, Mt. Hebron senior midfield

Mt. Hebron's Haley Kampert, seen in this file from 2019 in a game against Westminster, is a first team All-County selection for a second straight season.
Mt. Hebron's Haley Kampert, seen in this file from 2019 in a game against Westminster, is a first team All-County selection for a second straight season. (Doug Kapustin For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A first-team All-County selection for the third time in her career, Kampert was everywhere for the Vikings in her final high school season. She was instrumental on the team’s offensive and defensive corner unit, providing support wherever she was needed.

“[Haley] never comes off the field and has a huge heart,” coach Jeanette Ireland said. “She’s a warrior and so competitive.”

Kampert had some clutch efforts, including scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Marriotts Ridge early in the season and then scoring one of the team’s two goals in a 2-1 win over the Mustangs later in the year to secure a season sweep. She also aided the defensive unit in securing a 1-0 triumph over Howard to close the year.

Puja Nanjappa, River Hill sophomore midfield

River Hill's Puja Nanjappa (15) battles Mt. Hebron's Michelle Pak (28) for the ball during a field hockey match between River Hill and Mt. Hebron on March 15, 2021.
River Hill's Puja Nanjappa (15) battles Mt. Hebron's Michelle Pak (28) for the ball during a field hockey match between River Hill and Mt. Hebron on March 15, 2021. (Daniel Kucin Jr.)

A first-team All-County selection as a freshman, Nanjappa took on a more defensive midfielder role this spring as the back piece in the team’s diamond formation. She still had an undeniable impact on all areas of the field, serving as a key player on offensive and defensive corners and contributing a total of one goal and four assists.

“She is the best dribbler I have ever seen, sometimes this season she got around six people guarding her,” coach Shelly Chamness said. “Many times on the sideline, I would say ‘How did she do that?’ If she ever loses the ball, she usually has it back right away.”

Nanjappa had a goal and an assist in a win over Reservoir and assisted on the team’s first goal of the season in a victory over Marriotts Ridge.

Kaylie Savage, Marriotts Ridge senior midfield

Marriotts Ridge's Kaylie Savage lifts the ball, to play it over Glenelg opponents, during a field hockey game at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Marriotts Ridge's Kaylie Savage lifts the ball, to play it over Glenelg opponents, during a field hockey game at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021. (Brian Krista)

A three-year starter, Savage was one of the key returning leaders from the Mustangs’ state championship team in 2019. She finished this season with two goals and two assists, scoring one time in each of the team’s victories over Reservoir.

Her impact, though, went beyond the stats according to her coach Molly Milani, who said she built the team’s formation around Savage and needed her on the field at all times.

“With her speed, field vision, ability to cause turnovers and eye for the cage when on the offensive end, we literally could rely on her for anything that we needed,” Milani said. “Just as important was her motivation to constantly push the team to improve, and she is someone that you could tell all of the other players looked up to.”

Sophia Baxter, Marriotts Ridge sophomore defense

Marriotts Ridge's Sophia Baxter advances the ball in the second quarter of an opening-day field hockey game between River Hill and Marriotts Ridge, at Marriotts Ridge High School, March 8, 2021.
Marriotts Ridge's Sophia Baxter advances the ball in the second quarter of an opening-day field hockey game between River Hill and Marriotts Ridge, at Marriotts Ridge High School, March 8, 2021. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

Pulled up to varsity during the middle of her freshman season, Baxter impressed so much in her time on the field that she garnered honorable mention All-County recognition in 2019. This year, with a full season to showcase her abilities, she was the leader of the Mustangs’ backfield and helped the team hold half of its opponents to one goal or less.

“I was really impressed with the way she embraced the leadership responsibilities on the defensive end despite only being a sophomore. She thrived under pressure,” coach Molly Milani said. “She is incredibly smart on the field and is a very disciplined defender who knows when to throw tackles. And she was also very versatile in that she was a key for us on offense as well.”

Baxter finished the season with two goals and five assists, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against Glenelg.

Lindsay Garnish, River Hill senior defense

Glenelg's Kam Henson and River Hill's Lindsay Garnish battle for the ball during a field hockey game on Monday March 29, 2021 at Glenelg High School.
Glenelg's Kam Henson and River Hill's Lindsay Garnish battle for the ball during a field hockey game on Monday March 29, 2021 at Glenelg High School. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

For a Hawks’ team that held the opposition to one goal or fewer in seven out of 10 games, Garnish was the “fastest player on the team,” according to her coach Shelly Chamness.

“She can carry the ball all the way up the field and get back. She’s really aggressive and has great timing on the block tackle,” Chamness added. “So many times she came up and took the ball if it got around midfield.”

Garnish, who is headed to play at Stevenson University, was also the fly on corners and had an assist in a victory over Reservoir.

Sarah Kang, Glenelg senior defense

Glenelg's Sarah Kang, right, tries to steal possession of the ball away from Marriotts Ridge's Emi Moran during a field hockey game at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021.
Glenelg's Sarah Kang, right, tries to steal possession of the ball away from Marriotts Ridge's Emi Moran during a field hockey game at Glenelg High School on Monday, March 22, 2021. (Brian Krista)

A two-year captain, four-year varsity player and returning first team All-County honoree, Kang capped her career as one of the county’s best two-way players this spring. The Georgetown signee was a Player of the Year nominee and was a standout starter at center back who wasn’t afraid to push forward as needed.

“She was a great leader with great skill and vision,” Glenelg coach Nikki Trunzo said. “Her prior experience, having contributed as a freshman on the state championship team and then as a starter on two teams that made the state semis, was invaluable for our young team. If we needed stronger attacking, we would push her to midfield. If we needed stronger defense, we would move her back.”

Her versatility was on full display in the team’s 2-1 win over River Hill on March 29 — the only loss for the Hawks this season. She scored the team’s first goal and then helped the defense hold River Hill to its lowest offensive total of the year.

Rachel Barker, Glenelg senior goalie

Glenelg goalie Rachel Barker makes a save and defender Caitlyn Baehr, right, prepares to make a clear during a field hockey game against River Hill on March 29, 2021.
Glenelg goalie Rachel Barker makes a save and defender Caitlyn Baehr, right, prepares to make a clear during a field hockey game against River Hill on March 29, 2021. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

A four-year fixture in the cage for the Gladiators who helped the team win a state title in 2017, Barker garnered first team All-County recognition for a second straight season this spring. She made 54 saves and allowed just three goals. Among her season highlights was a 12-save victory over Mt. Hebron.

“She is a wonderful person and player on and off the field … she comes from a great family,” coach Nikki Trunzo said. “Her fitness has improved so much over the years, as has her overall confidence and athleticism. Her communication and stepping to the ball is just excellent. Between her and Hala [Silverstein], they were the perfect pair for us in goal.”

Barker will play in college at Stevenson University.

Rachel Murphy, Howard senior goalie

Howard goalie Rachel Murphy slides to stop a scoring chance by Marriotts Ridge's Maisy Clevenger during a field hockey game at Marriotts Ridge High School on March 31, 2021.
Howard goalie Rachel Murphy slides to stop a scoring chance by Marriotts Ridge's Maisy Clevenger during a field hockey game at Marriotts Ridge High School on March 31, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

In her second year as a varsity starter, Murphy built on a junior year in which she was an honorable mention All-County selection. She finished with 135 saves and 15 goals against, securing a 90% save percentage.

Murphy, who is headed to play at Elizabethtown College next year, helped the Lions earn a shutout win over Reservoir early in the season and then stopped all five shots she faced during a 1v1 penalty shootout against Marriotts Ridge to secure another Howard victory.

“We had a whole new lineup for our defense of young players and Rachel not only was our goalie but also helped them every step of the way … helping them with their angles, on clearing and cheering them on during corners,” coach Courtney Sprissler said. “With our schedule this year, we had good intense games and she kept us in the game each time. Rachel had many touches this season and her second-shot saves were insane.”

SECOND TEAM ALL-COUNTY

Maisy Clevenger, Marriotts Ridge sophomore forward: In her first full varsity season, Clevenger scored four goals and added an assist from her center forward position.

Jamie Cole, Centennial senior forward: The Eagles’ vocal leader up top, Cole finished the season with 11 goals and two assists.

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Bella Pereira, Reservoir sophomore forward: A second-year starter, Pereira played a big role in helping the Gators transition up field and finished with two goals and two assists.

Claire Slade, River Hill junior forward: The second-year starter finished with six goals and an assist from her position on the left wing.

Ella Walchko, Marriotts Ridge senior forward: An aggressive attacker on the right side and baseline, Walchko finished the season with six goals and two assists.

Brianna Floyd, Wilde Lake junior midfield: Floyd controlled the middle of the field and also took the team’s corners as a second-year varsity player, finishing with five goals.

Hannah Haber, Hammond sophomore midfield: A standout piece of the Golden Bears’ younger core, Haber contributed on both ends of the field with two defensive saves while also compiling two goals and four assists.

Hayley Harris, Centennial sophomore midfield: A standout center midfielder for the undefeated Eagles, Harris finished with nine goals and four assists.

Summer Hughes, Atholton senior midfield: Hughes was a four-year varsity starter who played cover for the Raiders and was involved in almost every play. The captain took all of the team’s free hits, was a striker on corners and finished with three goals and one assist.

Caitlyn Baehr, Glenelg senior defense: A two-year starter who is headed to play lacrosse at High Point, Baehr served as the Gladiators corner inserter, helped the defense register a county-best four shutouts and also contributed two goals on offense.

Sophie Chung, Reservoir sophomore defense: Utilizing impressive stick skills as a second-year varsity starter in the back, Chung made six defensive saves and was key in transitioning the ball through the midfield.

Ashley Cursey, Mt. Hebron senior defense: She built on an honorable mention All-County season as a junior to serve as an instrumental piece on the Vikings offensive and defensive corner unit, helping the team’s defense hold seven of its 10 opponents to one goal or less — including two shutouts.

Hala Silverstein, Glenelg sophomore goalie: Splitting time in goal with Barker, the Junior Olympian finished with 42 saves and five goals allowed.

HONORABLE MENTION

Asha Derstine, Atholton sophomore forward: Scored a team-high 11 goals and added four assists, having a hand in nearly half of the team’s total goals (32).

Alaina Kelly, Centennial sophomore forward: A leader by example according to her coach, Kelly finished with 11 goals and two assists.

Lauren Mason, River Hill junior forward: The team’s inserter on corners, Mason finished with three goals and one assist.

Sophie Pereira, Reservoir junior forward: Moving up to the forward line after playing in the midfield the previous two seasons on varsity, Pereira scored four of the Gators’ nine goals this spring.

Leah Bakhtiar, Marriotts Ridge senior defense: A disciplined and aggressive defender in the middle of the field, Bakhtiar also added an assist in a win over Howard.

Karmjit Barring, River Hill senior defense: Barring finished with six goal-line saves in 10 games and was the post player on defensive corners.

Kiersten Jewell, Reservoir junior defense: Jewell finished with six defensive saves as a captain and third-year varsity starter.

Bridget Thompson, Centennial senior goalie: The controller of the backline for an Eagles’ team that did not allow a single goal all season, Thompson finished with 10 saves.

FINAL STANDINGS

Division A: 1. River Hill*, 9-1; 2. Glenelg, 7-3; 3. Marriotts Ridge, 5-5; 4. Mt. Hebron, 4-6; T5. Howard, 2-7; T5. Reservoir, 2-7.

Division B: 1. Centennial, 10-0; 2. Atholton, 8-2; 3. Wilde Lake, 6-4; 4. Hammond, 4-6; 5. Long Reach, 2-8; 6. Oakland Mills, 0-10.

*County Champions

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