The Player of the Year award usually goes to the best player on one of the top teams in the county.
Consider Reservoir junior Kat Parris the exception to the rule.
Following a second-team selection as a freshman and earning a spot on first team last season, Parris garnered Player of the Year honors for a Reservoir team that finished with a below .500 record.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to win player of the year,” said Parris. “I just didn’t think at all that I would be considered for it. I didn’t think I’d get recognized for all the work I was putting on the field because of how our team did this season.”
The midfielder ended this season with nine goals and three assists to finish seventh in the county in points with 21. Reservoir head coach Phil Ranker said Parris’ combination of speed, technique and strength is why she’s worthy of the top award.
“Kat is a high-level player because she can score within 40 yards, so the defense has to push up to her, but she’s so fast, so they have to respect her speed,” said Reservoir head coach Phil Ranker, who last coached a player of the year in 2016 with Kylie Toler. “There were numerous times throughout the season where she took on two or three girls in tight spaces, got through them and created a chance. When you have a player who can single-handedly change the game in a matter of five seconds … it’s pretty rare.”
Despite her individual achievements, Parris’ 2019 season can’t be described without the mention of the struggles the Reservoir soccer program went through. The Gators were coming off a 9-4-2 season, but despite losing a talented group of seniors, they were among several teams hoping to compete for a county championship and have success in the postseason.
That didn’t happen, though, as Reservoir battled through a rash of injuries en route to a 5-6-3 overall record and a 2-4-3 county mark. The majority of the team’s starters dealt with injuries, including star sophomore Karis Turner, who missed the entire season.
“It was frustrating because I knew we were a strong team,” Parris said. “But we weren’t playing like it because of the injuries.”
During the season, Ranker said his Gators sustained more injuries than he’s “ever seen in high school soccer.” Eleven players missed game time due to injuries, including six starters and two returning All-County players. Despite the injuries, Ranker said having Parris meant the Gators always had a chance to score and win games.
“The good thing with having her this year with all the injures was we knew if she was on the field that we had a chance to score,” Ranker said. “No matter what else was happening or who we were playing, having her in a season where you couldn’t rely on consistent lineups because of injuries, it helped to know if we were down a goal that we’d have a couple of chances because of her.”
While Ranker said the entire team rallied and fought hard all season, he added that Parris was one of the main reasons the Gators were able to stay competitive against the tough competition in Howard County. Taking away the eight goals Reservoir scored in its first game of the season, the team scored 17 all year. Parris scored nine of those 17 and assisted on three others.
“Coach (Ranker) told me heading into the season that other teams would always have a girl mark me,” Parris said. “I would get frustrated during the season, so it was harder to make an impact. I had to learn to gain confidence in my teammates to give them opportunities, and that opened things up for me too.”
Like many kids, Parris started playing soccer in early elementary school. She often looked up to her older sisters, Brooke and Madison, both of whom played soccer for Reservoir.
The initial signing date for prospective student athletes enrolling in college for the 2020-21 school year is Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 and a multitude of individuals around Howard County participated in the festivities.
Coming off a strong freshman season, Parris was hoping to break out like many high-caliber players do in their second high school campaign. However, Parris missed the first four games last year due to an injury.
It took a few games, but Parris eventually made her mark. She showed glimpses of what was to come this year by scoring four goals in the Gators’ 5-2 win over Mt. Hebron.
“I always knew she had that in her,” Ranker said. “I think the rest of the county really noticed that, though, because it came against a county team. I think that was a moment for her where she realized that she can really go now.”
After starting up top for the Gators as a sophomore, Ranker realized early in the season Parris’ influence would be greater felt if she played in the midfield.
“She’s too good on the ball, and she changes the game in the middle of the field,” Ranker said. “This year we had to find a way to get her to influence the game more. With how dynamic she is, that seemed to be the best spot for her.”
Along with scoring more than 50 percent of her team’s goals, Parris’ goals often came in crucial moments. She scored both goals in the team’s ties with Long Reach and Howard. She then scored a goal in three straight games in the middle of the season — a 1-1 tie with Centennial and one-goal wins over Wilde Lake and Glenelg. Her last two goals came in a 3-1 playoff win over Hammond.
Junior Monica Prince, who plays alongside Parris in the midfield, said her teammate was “a great leader” for the Gators this season.
“I love watching her play and playing with her,” Prince said. “She’s helped me grow so much as a player.”
The Gators lose only three seniors from this year’s squad. Returning 19 players, including eight starters and multiple All-County players, is exciting for the future of the program, Parris said.
“I’m hoping everyone is healthy,” Parris said. “I’m already ready to get back into it. A lot of the girls still have a lot to show. We’re all really excited.”
Marriotts Ridge coach Darius Qualls said moving Choe from the midfield position to attack last season was instrumental in the team’s success the last two years.
“She was a midfielder last year, but I noticed how well she can dribble and her good technical ability,” he said. “A lot of teams don’t know how to deal with her, so teams focused on her more than anyone else. They know she has that quickness and speed and skill to dribble and pass well.”
Carolina Pellegrini, Centennial, senior.
As one of 10 seniors to make the All-County list, Pellegrini is a first-team selection in her final season at Centennial.
With younger players pacing the way for most teams, Pellegrini helped lead the Eagles attack alongside her sister, Lauren, who also played up top.
She tallied five goals and three assists for a Centennial team that had a chance to win the county title heading into the final week of the season. Pellegrini was also a first-team pick last season as a defender.
Bri Werner, Glenelg, sophomore.
Werner ends her sophomore season as the leading goal scorer in Howard County and a first-team All-County selection.
The striker scored 13 goals and tallied five assists for the Gladiators to lead the county with 31 points. She scored three more goals than any other player and scored in nine of Glenelg’s 16 games. Werner started the season hot with nine goals in the team’s first four games.
“Leading Howard County in scoring in no small feat, especially for a sophomore, so obviously Bri was very important to our success offensively in 2019,” said Glenelg coach Christian von Rautenkranz. “Beyond that, Bri took on more of a leadership role for our team, which was impressive the entire season. From day one in the preseason, her fitness and work rate were unmatched, and her finishing ability became evident as soon as the season started.”
Danielle Campbell, Howard, junior.
Campbell scored in seven of Howard’s 15 games to be named a first-team All-County midfielder. The junior ended her season with nine goals and one assist.
The highlight of Campbell’s season was her hat trick in an early-season victory over La Plata. She also scored crucial goals in games against Annapolis, Reservoir, Glenelg and Atholton — all of which the Lions either won by one goal or tied.
“Danielle has a natural ability to manipulate the ball at her feet with a magnetic drive toward goal,” said Howard coach Laine Angle. “Her vision on and off the ball creates the attack opportunities for her team. She has been a three-year starter on varsity, and her confidence and leadership shines more each season.”
Alex Masse, Mt. Hebron, junior.
Masse, who controlled the midfield for the region-champion Vikings, ends her junior campaign as a first-team All-County pick.
The midfielder kicked off the season with a game-winning goal against Thomas Johnson — the team that knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs in 2018. Masse, who was a second-team selection as a freshman, ended the season with four goals and five assists. One of her assists came in Hebron’s 1-0 win over Centennial in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
“She was instrumental to our team,” said Mt. Hebron coach Tim Deppen. ”She had three game-winning goals and an equalizer to tie a game to go into overtime. She’s one of the kids who tries to be the best she can be, and she’s raised the standard for the program.”
Ava Morales, Atholton, sophomore.
Morales, along with Werner, is one of two sophomores on the first-team All-County list.
She ended the season with five goals and three assists. Morales scored a crucial goal in the Raiders’ early-season victory over Reservoir and assisted on the game-winning goal in Atholton’s playoff win over Long Reach.
“Ava Morales is a diminutive student-athlete who plays like a fully grown young lady,” said Atholton head coach Clifford Walcott. “(She) plays as well as any accomplished youth soccer player I’ve experienced. She frequently defeats opponents with the ball and can turn in either direction while shielding the ball with superior efficiency. Yet, she is not unwilling to pass the ball when that’s the right decision.”
Aicha Wilson, Wilde Lake, junior.
It’s hard to be more valuable to a team than Wilson was to the Wildecats this season. With Wilson in the lineup, Wilde Lake was nearly unbeatable. When Wilson missed time due to injury, however, the Wildecats went on a three-game skid in the middle of the season. When she returned, the Wildecats won seven straight games and made it to the 3A state championship game.
Along with sophomore Gia Johnson, Wilson — who was a first-team pick last season — helped lead the highest-scoring attack in the county (2.3 goals per game) with six goals and 10 assists, which ranked her third in the county in points.
“Aicha has one of the most unique skillsets of any player I’ve ever come across in coaching,” said Wilde Lake coach Megan Shea. “She’s incredibly fast; she has awesome technical skills; and to top it off, she has a ginormous throw in. … Other teams know that she is such a threat, so they always have to mark her, which allows for other girls to have more space.”
Morgan Choe, Marriotts Ridge, junior.
Morgan Choe, the top defender on the best defense in the county, joins her twin sister, Jordyn, as a first-team selection.
Morgan Choe, who moved from outside back to center back this season, was a stout one-on-one defender for Marriotts Ridge. Defense was vital to the team’s success this season, as the Mustangs allowed a county-best 0.6 goals per game.
“She was extremely important for us,” Qualls said. “She was really comfortable at right outside back, but coming into the season we needed a center back. Being a team leader, she said she would play any position to help the team, and she really shined in that spot. From a tactical standpoint, she knew her role and her teammates’ roles.”
Sophia Elguera, River Hill, senior.
Elguera backed up her second-team pick in her junior season with a first-team campaign as a senior.
The Dickinson commit led a River Hill defense that allowed 0.8 goals per game and only four goals in the team’s nine county contests. In a down season relative to the Hawks’ extremely high standards, Elguera was a bright spot for the defense that kept the team in almost all its games. Elguera, who played through some ailments, also chipped in offensively with three goals and one assist.
“She sacrificed a lot for the team,” said River Hill coach Brian Song. “She is a tremendous midfielder, which is where she plays for her club. But she played defense because that’s where the team needed her. I was thankful for her dedication and her sacrifice for the team.”
Angie Geralis, Wilde Lake, senior.
While Geralis is known as one of the top defenders in the county, the highlight of her high school career was as a scorer.
Geralis made the game-winning penalty kick in the Wildecats’ win over Chesapeake to advance to the 3A state final. Throughout the season, Geralis led the Wilde Lake defense and brought along sophomore goalkeeper Hannah Lowry. Geralis, who is committed to play at Haverford, was a first-team defender in both her sophomore and junior seasons.
“Angie has been the keystone of our defense now for at least the past three years, if not the last four years,” Shea said. “She’s started every year since she was a freshman. She is definitely one of our toughest players, but she is also very technically gifted.”
Julia Noppenberger, Mt. Hebron, senior.
Noppenberger was vital to Mt. Hebron’s defense in the Vikings’ region title-winning season.
Along with goalkeeper Ainsley Sowers, Noppenberger and the defense pitched four shutouts — two of which came to start the 3A playoffs. Noppenberger, who is committed to play at Haverford, also added two goals and one assist for one of the higher scoring teams in the county (2.1 goals per game).
“She was basically the voice back there,” Deppen said. “She is the most vocal person on the field. She was the quarterback of our defense because she has such a high soccer IQ. She’s also such a physical player, so she wins a ton of balls and was really key in shutting down the other team’s attack.”
Ashley Bilger, Centennial, senior.
As the top goaltender in the county, Bilger led an improved Centennial squad, as the Eagles entered the final week of the regular season with a chance at winning the county title.
Despite allowing 16 goals in 15 games, Centennial coach Hank Hurren said near the end of the season that none of them were Bilger’s fault.
“She has not made a mistake in goal,” Hurren said on Oct. 15. “She has been nearly flawless. She gives confidence to the back line and the entire team. It’s inspiring that she works so hard and trains with such passion.”
Second Team All-County
Kaity Browne, Oakland Mills, freshman, forward
Gia Johnson, Wilde Lake, sophomore, forward
Riley Benson, Mt. Hebron, junior, midfielder
Jamie Caine, River Hill, senior, midfielder
Monica Prince, Reservoir, junior, midfielder
Paige Rosenfeld, Long Reach, senior, midfielder
Leah Williams, Wilde Lake, sophomore, midfielder
Gigi Castle-Smith, Centennial, senior, defender
Layla Hamro, Hammond, junior, defender
Payton Holmes, Long Reach, junior, defender
Hallie Koele, Glenelg, senior, defender
Margot Laughner, Reservoir, sophomore, defender
Caroline Duffy, River Hill, sophomore, goalie
Ainsley Sowers, Mt. Hebron, senior, goalie
IAAM B Conference All-Star
Celia Pell, Glenelg Country School, junior, midfielder