In the aftermath of Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Howard, River Hill coach Shelly Chamness was so wrapped up in the intricacies of the game that the magnitude of the big picture didn’t hit her until after all her players had gone home.
Chamness, who began coaching the Hawks’ varsity program in 2000, had just won her 200th game as a varsity head coach.
And yet, as she allowed herself a few minutes to relish the accomplishment, Chamness said the lack of fanfare afterward didn’t bother her much.
“From the very beginning when I started here, it’s never been about me and even though I knew coming into this season that I was getting close, it just wasn’t really in the forefront of my brain,” Chamness said. “I do it for these players, and I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with a lot of great girls over the years. I’m definitely proud of this, I mean it’s pretty much double-digit wins every year, and that’s hard to do. And I think the longevity with River Hill is what means the most to me, having had the chance to help build the program and stick with it.”
POLL: Each week this spring, we are letting the community help pick a Howard County boys and girls Athlete of the Week. Our staff, after consultation with coaches, will pick players from each of the fall sports and then let voting decide the rest. To participate, either vote below or click here for the boys poll and/or click here for the girls pollby 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Chamness started at River Hill as a teacher in January 1997 and began coaching the JV field hockey team in August of that same year. She moved up to varsity three years later and has been at the helm every since. Among the highlights in the last 20 years were county titles in 2008 and 2017 to go along with the program’s lone state championship in 2010.
For all the varsity success, however, she says it’s been consistency on all levels of the program that have been just as instrumental. She pointed in particular to having a quality JV coach like Marni Rosenbaum with her for the last 19 years.
“We have absolutely built this together, she deserves so much credit,” Chamness said. “She has taken so many kids over the years that have barely picked up a stick before and developed them into solid varsity players.”
It’s a tight-knit coaching group, according to Chamness. She said she’s particularly close with Kincaid after the two coached indoor field hockey together for 15 years.
As for this season, River Hill currently sits alone in first place in the Howard County standings at 4-0. The Hawks are back in action on Monday against Reservoir (1-3).
Marriotts Ridge grad Barnard named MEAC Pitcher of Week
Over the winter, as uncertainty hovered around whether there would be a softball season for Morgan State this spring, Marriotts Ridge 2018 graduate Mikayla Barnard said she “crossed her fingers every night” that she would get a chance to pitch for the Bears after her sophomore campaign was cut short.
So, as word eventually came down that after a delayed start games would indeed begin in March, Barnard made a pact with herself that she would make the most of the opportunity.
Barnard went 3-0 the first week of the season, earning wins over Kutztown and Norfolk St. twice while posting an ERA of 1.55 and striking out a total of 18 batters in 18 innings. She recorded a career-best 11 strikeouts on March 13 in a 5-3 win over Norfolk St.
It’s the improved strikeout numbers that Barnard says are the most telling of her improvement since last year. She registered 39 strikeouts in 87 innings as a freshman in 2019 and 16 strikeouts in 31 innings during the shortened 2020 season.
“I was a groundball pitcher as a freshman in college, so to strike out 18 last week was definitely very different,” Barnard said. “My dad even came up to my last week and was like ‘Where did that come from? You’ve never struck out players like that.’ To be honest, I kind of shocked myself.”
Looking forward, Barnard has her eyes on even bigger recognition both for Morgan St and herself.
“For the team, I want to win the MEAC tournament and, for me, I want to earn MEAC Pitcher of the Year. I know that’s a big goal, but that was my goal last year before the season got taken away,” she said. “So I worked even harder so that I would be ready when we got back out here … now I’ve just got to keep this up.”
Howard County Girls Player of Week (March 14): Megan Wagner, Marriotts Ridge soccer
Already an instrumental piece for the county-champion Mustangs as a sophomore, finishing with five goals and four assists from her midfield position in 2019, Wagner has taken on an even more elevated role this spring. But for Marriotts Ridge coach Darius Qualls, he said he’s seen the star potential for quite awhile now.
“I saw flashes right away when she came to our summer camp as a freshman, which is why we took her on varsity that year even though we didn’t have as much playing time available. But we knew how big she was going to be for our program,” Qualls said. “So to see the level she is playing at now is certainly not a surprise. Her soccer IQ and knowledge of the game has totally expanded and that’s been really fun to see.”
The lone junior captain on the team, Wagner had at least one point in each of Marriotts Ridge’s four victories to open the season — including goals in three of the contests.
In the team’s season-opening 2-0 win over Mt. Hebron, she scored the team’s first goal and assisted on the second. In a one-goal decision against Howard, she delivered the game-winning goal early in the second half on a free kick. Against Oakland Mills, she had an assist and then against Centennial she had a goal and an assist.
Of the first nine goals that Marriotts Ridge scored this season, Wagner had a hand in six of them.
“We play a formation that is really flexible and we often interchange our players, but she is the player on this team that everything generally goes through,” Qualls said. “She takes a lot of our indirect kicks, she is responsible for serving those passes in and really is integral to our offense. But she also defends like everyone else. It’s the complete package with her.”
Up next: Marriotts Ridge girls soccer vs Hammond on Tuesday, March 23.
Howard County Boys Player of Week (March 14): Grant Gladden, Wilde Lake football
In high school football, having a good kicker is a luxury.
It can be difficult for some programs to find a player who is able to consistently make short kicks, which can sometimes be the difference between a win and a loss.
The importance of having a kicker was never more evident than in Wilde Lake’s 9-6 victory over Hammond on March 12. In the low-scoring affair, Wildecats kicker Grant Gladden made three field goals, including the 18-yard game-winner with only seconds remaining, to lead Wilde Lake to a season-opening victory.
“Honestly, I didn’t really understand how important a kicker could be until last week during the game,” Gladden said. “I saw that Hammond didn’t have a kicker, and then my coach had confidence in me to kick those first two field goals. That gave me the confidence when it was tied and I lined up for the game-winner.”
After the win, Gladden, a senior, said he decided to play football this season for the first time in his life because he wanted to try something new after being a member of Wilde Lake’s state championship boys soccer team in 2019.
But Gladden’s main sport is baseball. He’s been playing travel since he was 10 years old and is a pitcher and infielder for the Wildecats. While he hasn’t decided where he’s going to college, he’s considering playing at a Division III school after he graduates this spring.
“For baseball, I think that’s my natural-born talent, but I’ve also been playing soccer for a long time,” Gladden said. “I grew to be passionate about soccer and love the game the more I played. Soccer is more of a passion, while baseball is also a passion that I think I’m more talented at.”