Each week this spring, the Howard County Times is letting the community help pick a Howard County boys and girls Athlete of the Week. After more than 15,000 combined votes, the selections for the week ending March 20 are Reservoir junior volleyball setter Jessica Rothermel and River Hill junior soccer midfielder Milan Gupta.
Rothermel has helped the Gators to a 6-0 start, sweeping each of the team’s opponents thus far. Gupta, meanwhile, has played a central role in helping the Hawks roll off six straight wins and outscore the opposition 22-7 during that stretch.
POLL: Our staff, after consultation with coaches, has picked players from each of the fall sports based on outstanding performance over the past week (ending March 27) and are letting voting decide the rest. To participate, either vote below or click here for the boys poll and/or click here for the girls poll by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Girls Player of Week (March 21): Jessica Rothermel, Reservoir volleyball
A starter since her freshman year, Rothermel has taken on the role of being the engine behind the Gators attack. While she hasn’t always garnered as much of the spotlight as some of her teammates, her coach Carole Ferrante said her impact as a junior has been undeniable while helping Reservoir to a 6-0 start this season.
“She’s always been so smart with the decisions that she makes, looking at the holes and then running plays to exploit them,” Ferrante said. “She’s like the quarterback in football, she controls what we do. And I think what makes her even more valuable this year is her growth and development as a leader to go along with her incredible volleyball IQ.”
Just as important to the team’s success has been Rothermel’s proficiency as a server this season. She has won 80 service points, including four times helping the Gators jump out to 10-point leads at the onset of matches, and has tallied 15 aces.
“To go along with her great float serve, her ability to now move the ball around has gone to a completely different level,” Ferrante said. “She doesn’t necessarily do it with a lot of aces, but because of her placement the other teams simply can’t get the ball back over the net.”
Through six games, Rothermel has totaled 85 assists, 18 digs, 2 blocks and 6 kills. Reservoir has yet to drop a set in any of its matches.
Up next: Reservoir volleyball vs. Marriotts Ridge on Monday, March 29.
Boys Player of Week (March 21): Milan Gupta, River Hill soccer
In his first year playing high school after opting to play Academy soccer during previous seasons, Gupta has fit right in as a two-way midfielder for the Hawks. River Hill coach Matt Shagogue says the transition has been seamless for Gupta thanks to a familiarity that goes beyond the soccer field.
“He’s grown up with these kids and been friends with most of them for many, many years. So even though it’s his first year with us, there is a chemistry there,” he said. “He used to come to our games and support us from afar, so to now have him down on the field with us has been tremendous. He’s got great leadership, is a hard worker and loves to compete. I can’t say enough positive things about him and the impact he’s having.”
After dropping the team’s first game of the year, River Hill has rolled off six straight wins, and Gupta has played a significant role every step of the way. Over the last four games, the junior has scored a total of five goals to bring his total up to seven goals on the season. He scored two times apiece in victories over Wilde Lake and Glenelg.
“He’s got the ability to keep the ball, is rugged enough to win challenges when needed and he’s got the freedom to push forward as a box-to-box midfielder. So I definitely think there are going to be times where his hard work will put him in position to have some big offensive performances,” Shagogue said. “But his impact goes beyond the scoring and I think you see that in how he literally leaves it all out on the field. When those 80 minutes are over, he’s spent because of the effort he gives.”
Up next: River Hill boys soccer vs. Centennial on Tuesday, March 30.
Howard, 2-0; Marriotts Ridge, 2-0; Oakland Mills, 2-0; River Hill, 2-0; Wilde Lake, 2-1; Atholton, 1-1; Long Reach, 1-1; Mt. Hebron, 1-2; Reservoir, 0-2; Centennial, 0-3; Hammond, 0-3; Glenelg, 0-0.