When Hank Hurren first met Ashley Bilger, he immediately recognized her leadership qualities.
The first-year Centennial girls soccer coach said being a leader — “a unifier and a galvanizer” — is crucial for a goalkeeper. Bilger, who is one of the top goalies in Howard County, is enjoying a successful season so far with 65 saves in 12 games.
“She brings people together and is very inclusive,” Hurren said. “She has the ability to draw people and have them feel comfortable and work hard. … She’s a very vocal leader. To have someone who is vocal and encouraging is brilliant for helping us stay organized and focused.”
Hurren also credits senior defenders Gabriella Castle-Smith, Hannah Souba and Sarah Sopchick on their solid play this season. The Eagles (5-1-1 Howard County, 8-3-1) have allowed 13 goals this season, though Hurren said “none of them have been (Bilger’s) fault.”
“She has not been a mistake in goal,” Hurren said. “She has been nearly flawless. She gives confidence to be the backline and the entire team. It’s inspiring that she works so hard and trains with such passion.”
Hurren said Bilger, who has chosen to play college soccer at Division II Frostburg State, will be a “massive loss” when she graduates.
“I’ve had some good keepers, but she’s certainly one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Hurren, who has coached soccer for more than 20 years.
Reservoir field hockey raises money to fight pediatric cancer
Last month, the Reservoir field hockey team raised more than $300 dollars for pediatric cancer.
The Gators teamed up with Go4theGoal, an organization that raises money for pediatric cancer research and aims to improve the lives of children with cancer, for their game against Southern (Anne Arundel County) on Sept. 17, which Reservoir won, 2-1. The players wore yellow laces for the “Lace Up for Cancer” game and sold t-shirts to raise $375 for Go4theGoal.
“I’m so grateful that I have a great group of girls that I get to work with every day,” said Reservoir head coach Megan Maloney. “They know that there’s more to life than just field hockey and their social lives. It was really nice to see them be able to acknowledge this issue.”
Maloney hopes the fundraiser becomes an annual one for the Reservoir field hockey program.
“This has always been something close to my heart. Those kids are so strong. It’s tough seeing kids not able to be kids when they want to be,” Maloney said. “I’m wishing each year (the fundraiser) gets bigger and bigger.”
Reservoir girls soccer overcoming injury-ridden season
Reservoir girls soccer coach Phil Ranker said his Gators have sustained more injuries than he’s “ever seen in high school soccer.”
Eleven players, Ranker said, have missed game time due to an injuries, including six starters and two returning all-county players.
“We’ve had an insane amount of injures,” Ranker said. “In the last few games alone we’ve had two girls have to go to the hospital — one broke a bone in her face and one had a broken collarbone.”
Ranker said he’s proud of his team’s grit through the tough circumstances. For example, forward Jessie Chapman has stepped in for injured goalie Lizzie Dudzinski this season.
“The biggest story for us is the amazing amount of resilience the girls have had,” Ranker said. “They have a next-man-up mentality, and the girls who didn’t think they’d be starting have been forced to start and have stepped in admirably.”
However, despite the injury-ridden season, the Gators seem to be improving at a time when they weren’t last season. In 2018, Reservoir started the season 9-1-2 as one of the best teams in Howard County, only to lose its last three games, including a 2-1 loss to Mt. Hebron in the playoffs. This year, the Gators started the season 1-2-3 but have won three of their last four games, including wins over Wilde Lake, which beat River Hill, and C. Milton Wright, which defeated Marriotts Ridge.
“I think that’s one of the things that’s most frustrating about the injuries is that it seems like we’re hitting our stride,” Ranker said. “… It’s been a season of adjustments. We’ll get a few players back for the playoffs, but we’ll still be missing quite a few of them for the rest of the season.”