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Howard County 2021 girls soccer preview

A preview of the 2021 Howard County girls soccer season, with team-by-team capsules and players to watch.
A preview of the 2021 Howard County girls soccer season, with team-by-team capsules and players to watch. (Photo by Doug Kapustin)

Entering the spring 2021 season after a year off from high school sports, some questioned whether shortened seasons without state playoffs would still be competitive.

The girls soccer season proved that when Howard County squads are going head to head, it will always be exciting.

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Several teams had good regular seasons, but Marriotts Ridge dominated county competition without losing a game and only allowing two goals. However, it was Glenelg that was at its best when it mattered most, as the Gladiators won four straight games in the season-ending tournament — two of which came in penalty kicks — to earn the county championship.

This fall, the county’s coaches expect the season to be even more competitive, with no one team expected to dominate the league. The coaches believe Mt. Hebron, Marriotts Ridge, Glenelg, Reservoir and River Hill will be fighting for the top spot once again, while Atholton and Wilde Lake are expected to have competitive squads as well.

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The regular season starts Sept. 3 — with the first full slate of county games scheduled for Sept. 9 — and finishes Oct. 23. The MPSSAA soccer playoffs begin Oct. 27 and end Nov. 20.

Here’s a look at the 14 county teams entering the 2021 season:

Atholton

Ava Morales dribbles the ball during a game in the 2019 season.
Ava Morales dribbles the ball during a game in the 2019 season. (Photo courtesy of Dave Machuga)

Coach: Clifford Walcott (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 3-7

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Returning starters: Four

Top players: Seniors Sara Saula (A), Ava Morales (MF) and Laila Cowsette (D).

Header: The Raiders showed glimpses of success last season, including a 3-1 win over River Hill, but they couldn’t string together a couple wins in a row. Morales, a George Washington University commit and a first-team All-County midfielder in 2019, is back for her senior campaign after missing the spring 2021 season due to scheduling conflicts.

Centennial

Centennial's Lauren Pellegrini makes a lunging effort to connect with the ball during a girls soccer playoff game at Atholton High School on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2019.
Centennial's Lauren Pellegrini makes a lunging effort to connect with the ball during a girls soccer playoff game at Atholton High School on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Hank Hurren (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 6-5

Returning starters: Seven

Top players: Seniors Emma Bennett (D), Callie LasCasas (A/MF) and Lauren Pellegrini (A); junior Sofia Thomas (MF).

Header: The Eagles had an up-and-down season this past spring, including a three-game losing skid preceded by a three-game winning streak. This season, Hurren is hoping for more consistency, and he believes his team’s camaraderie will help the Eagles achieve that goal.

Glenelg

Glenelg teammates celebrate on the field following their 1-0 win over Reservoir during the girls soccer county championship game at Wilde Lake High School on April 16, 2021.
Glenelg teammates celebrate on the field following their 1-0 win over Reservoir during the girls soccer county championship game at Wilde Lake High School on April 16, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

Coach: Vincente D’Antuono (second season)

Spring 2021 record: 8-3-1 (county champion)

Returning starters: 11

Top players: Seniors Brianna Werner (A), Symone Jensen (MF) and Ava Montgomery (D); sophomores Stephanie Lathrop (A) and Carlin Costell (MF).

Header: The Gladiators went 4-3-1 in the regular season before reeling off four straight wins to earn the county championship this past spring. This fall, D’Antuono’s squad is the most experienced in the county with 13 seniors and 18 players who have started in multiple varsity games. The Gladiators also welcome back Werner, who didn’t play this past spring but was the county’s leading scorer in 2019 with 13 goals in 16 games.

Hammond

Hammond's Milana Newby tries to settle the ball during a girls soccer playoff game at Oakland Mills High School on Friday, Oct. 26, 2019.
Hammond's Milana Newby tries to settle the ball during a girls soccer playoff game at Oakland Mills High School on Friday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Molly Schaefer (second season)

Spring 2021 record: 0-10

Returning starters: Nine

Top players: Seniors Caroline Nugent (D), Milana Newby (MF), Laura Keister (MF) and Caroline Schreier (GK); junior Jenna Wilson (MF).

Header: The Golden Bears have an experienced squad with nine returning starters and eight seniors entering the fall season. Schaefer said the key for her team is to improve its offensive pressure to give her strikers opportunities to find the back of the net.

Howard

Howard #24 Skylar Ehart and Atholton #6 Sarah Saula battle for the ball. Girls soccer first-round tournament game between Atholton and Howard, Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at Howard High School.
Howard #24 Skylar Ehart and Atholton #6 Sarah Saula battle for the ball. Girls soccer first-round tournament game between Atholton and Howard, Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at Howard High School. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Coach: Laine Angle (sixth season)

Spring 2021 record: 4-6-1

Returning starters: Three

Top players: Seniors Skylar Ehart (D) and Samantha Tran (MF); junior Dani Farias (MF).

Header: The Lions are tasked with replacing Danielle Campbell, who graduated in June after leading the county in goals — scoring 13 of her team’s 17 goals. Angle said her team is motivated to have a full soccer season and that her players have a strong bond coming off the spring 2021 campaign earlier this year.

Long Reach

Long Reach's Grace Drasin in a game against Atholton during the spring 2021 season.
Long Reach's Grace Drasin in a game against Atholton during the spring 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Coach: Chris Loetell (first season)

Spring 2021 record: 4-6-1

Returning starters: Seven

Top players: Senior Jessica Ruano (A); juniors Reagan Burfeind (D) and Grace Drasin (MF); sophomores Carly Vincent (MF) and Lucy Howe (MF); freshman Kate Hoffman (MF).

Header: Loetell believes his team has the experience and talent to have a successful season this fall. However, the Lightning have to replace Payton Holmes, who was the team’s captain and a first-team All-County defender as a senior this past spring.

Marriotts Ridge

Marriotts Ridge's Megan Wagner swings her leg into a kick during a girls soccer game against Glenelg at Marriotts Ridge High School on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
Marriotts Ridge's Megan Wagner swings her leg into a kick during a girls soccer game against Glenelg at Marriotts Ridge High School on Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Brian Krista)

Coach: Darius Qualls (fourth season)

Spring 2021 record: 8-1-1

Returning starters: Eight

Top players: Seniors Megan Wagner (MF), Caroline Albert (GK) and Anna Page (D); junior Giavana Liberto (A); sophomore Bridget Ford (D).

Header: Marriotts Ridge has sported the top defense in the county the last two seasons, with the Mustangs allowing only two goals in 10 games this past spring. Entering this fall, Marriotts Ridge is without twins Jordyn and Morgan Choe, who were All-County players the past two seasons and graduated in June. However, Qualls is bringing back the majority of his starting lineup, including a high-scoring duo in Wagner and Liberto and a stout goalkeeper in Albert.

Mt. Hebron

Mt. Hebron's Lauren Gustafson scores on a free kick from outside the 30 yard line Saturday against Wilde Lake in the 2019 MPSSAA playoffs.
Mt. Hebron's Lauren Gustafson scores on a free kick from outside the 30 yard line Saturday against Wilde Lake in the 2019 MPSSAA playoffs. (Nicole Munchel for the Baltimore/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Tim Deppen (20th season)

Spring 2021 record: 7-2

Returning starters: Seven

Top players: Seniors Kate Hanks (MF), Lauren Gustafson (D) and Ana Hoover (D); sophomores Sinclaire Green (A) and Olivia Hoover (MF).

Header: Mt. Hebron was one of the top teams in the county this past spring, and Deppen hopes his squad can continue its recent success. The longtime Hebron coach is excited for his experienced midfield and defense as well as his young attack.

Oakland Mills

Catonsville's Sofia Pulone gets tangled up with Oakland Mills' Kaity Browne during Friday evening's match between Catonsville and Oakland Mills in Catonsville during the 2019 season.
Catonsville's Sofia Pulone gets tangled up with Oakland Mills' Kaity Browne during Friday evening's match between Catonsville and Oakland Mills in Catonsville during the 2019 season. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Alex Douyon (second season)

Spring 2021 record: 1-10

Returning starters: Seven

Top players: Senior Lilly Smull (D); junior Kaity Browne (A); sophomores Olivia Rollins (A), Brenna Carter (D) and Paige Andrews (GK).

Header: The Scorpions were better than their record indicated last season. Despite winning only one game, Oakland Mills allowed only 20 goals, losing eight contests by two goals or fewer. Among Douyon’s seven returning starters are Browne, a 2019 second-team All-County selection, and Smull and Andrews, who were second-team picks this past spring.

Reservoir

Reservoir's Karis Turner (1) sprints after the ball in the Gators' game against Long Reach on March 10, 2021.
Reservoir's Karis Turner (1) sprints after the ball in the Gators' game against Long Reach on March 10, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Coach: Phil Ranker (eighth season)

Spring 2021 record: 9-2 (county runner-up)

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Returning starters: Seven

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Top players: Seniors Karis Turner (A), Gabbie Chapman (D), Margot Laughner (D) and Sophie Davidson (D); sophomore Avery Oergel (MF).

Header: The Gators made the county championship game and were the highest scoring team in the league last season behind Turner and spring 2021 Player of the Year Kat Parris, who graduated in June. Reservoir was the highest-scoring team in the county this past spring at 2.8 goals per game, and Ranker expects his attack to once again generate a high number of chances.

River Hill

River Hill's goalie Caroline Duffy makes a save against South River on Sept. 29, 2019.
River Hill's goalie Caroline Duffy makes a save against South River on Sept. 29, 2019. (Nicole Munchel for the Baltimore/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Brian Song (17th season)

Spring 2021 record: 5-4-1

Returning starters: Five

Top players: Seniors Caroline Duffy (GK), Kaitlyn Heitzman (D) and Ara Omitowoju (A); junior Allie Lubitz (MF).

Header: The Hawks are hoping to get back to the success they had last decade when they won three straight state titles from 2016-18. Song believes Duffy and Heitzman, the team’s two captains, will be vital in leading River Hill’s defense, while the speedy Omitowoju will once again lead the Hawks’ attack.

Wilde Lake

Wilde Lake's Ashlyn Bonner heads the ball away from Northern's Rachel Deresky in the first half. Wilde Lake falls to Northern-Calvert 5-0 in the 2019 MPSSAA Class 3A girls soccer state championship game Saturday afternoon in Baltimore.
Wilde Lake's Ashlyn Bonner heads the ball away from Northern's Rachel Deresky in the first half. Wilde Lake falls to Northern-Calvert 5-0 in the 2019 MPSSAA Class 3A girls soccer state championship game Saturday afternoon in Baltimore. (Doug Kapustin For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Kristyn Neubauer (second season)

Spring 2021 record: 5-5-1

Returning starters: Five

Top players: Seniors Ashlyn Bonner (D), Leah Williams (MF) and Hannah Lowry (GK); junior Grace Dunbar (F).

Header: The 2019 3A state runner-up Wildecats bring back a handful of starters from last season’s squad. Neubauer said having experienced players like Bonner, Williams, Lowry and Dunbar will be critical in having a successful season and getting back to the success the program had from 2016-19.

Chapelgate

Coach: Lydia Radcliffe (third season)

2019 record: 1-7 IAAM C2 Conference, 4-10 overall

Top players: Senior Miriam Titolye (D); sophomores Kya Beans (MF) and Jodie Penn (D).

Header: The IAAM didn’t have an official fall 2020 season, with its private schools participating in an “open season” amid the coronavirus pandemic. This fall, the Yellowjackets have a young team, but Radcliffe said her squad is dedicated to improving every day.

Glenelg Country

Coach: Karla Bailey (first season)

2019 record: 2-6 IAAM B Conference, 2-9 overall

Top players: Senior Corrin Grimes (A/MF), Maggie Weisman (MF) and Josie Pell (A); junior Taylor Closson (UT); sophomore Lilly Fortin (GK); freshman Victoria Richardson (MF).

Header: After last year’s “open season” as a member of the IAAM, the Dragons enter this fall with a large senior class and a new coach. Bailey said speed is the Dragons’ strength, in addition to their work ethic and competitiveness.

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