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Howard County Sports

Mt. Hebron girls soccer maintained its strong defense in second straight run to state finals

Defense has been Mt. Hebron girls soccer’s calling card each of the last two seasons.

In 2021, the Vikings allowed just four total goals, including 10 straight shutouts to end the season leading up to a state championship.

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Mt. Hebron’s stifling defense returned this season with five straight clean sheets to start the year and only six goals allowed. However, the Vikings’ hopes of securing a second straight state title fell just short in a 1-0 state final loss to Crofton.

“I’m proud of the way they are determined and have that grit to never give up,” Mt. Hebron coach Tim Deppen said. “Even at halftime being down 1-0, there was no look of panic, no talk of nerves or anything like that. It was all positive. We knew we had been down to Marriotts Ridge this season and came back to win, 2-1. Their maturity, their determination, we’d been preaching to believe in themselves all season, that was one of the words we used all year.”

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Mt. Hebron's Leen Jawhar watches Crofton receive their championship trophies after Crofton beat Mt. Hebron, 1-0, in the Class 3A girls soccer state championship at Loyola University's Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore on Thursday.

Mt. Hebron returned a large percentage of its defense from the 2021 season and made a concerted effort to allow a lower number of shots on target this season.

They jelled as a unit and accomplished that feat, anchored by junior goalie Claire Fitzsimmons. Center backs Ainsley Wilson and Kaitlyn Magdar, as well as outside backs Emma Schwartz and Maria Brogno, were an integral part of replicating that defensive success. Ellie Fielder added another valuable component to the unit with strong support from the midfield.

“To keep the defensive success going this year, it was really just ongoing conversations and goal setting from the get-go as soon we handed out uniforms,” Deppen said. “It was, ‘Let’s take a day and set goals, let’s try to pick something that’s measurable, that’s achievable.’ We set goals with how many shots on target we’re allowing per game, which improved drastically.

Mt. Hebron's Ellie Fiedler, right, passes the ball as Crofton's Sydney Young closes in during the Class 3A girls soccer state championship at Loyola University's Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore on Thursday.

“Also, kind of staying in Ainsley’s ear, being my captain, leader of the defense back there. Keeping up with her and she’s a super-motivated kid. She is so zoned in and goal-oriented. She has an incredible work rate and understands how to communicate with her teammates.”

Junior forward Leen Jawhar was the Vikings’ leading scorer. Senior midfielder Amari Mehta also delivered valuable contributions from her position, creating opportunities for herself and teammates. Juniors Sinclaire Green and Iva Damyanova helped provide Mt. Hebron’s attack with added versatility throughout the season.

Mt. Hebron loses leadership in its two seniors Mehta and Solana Wynn. However, returning many of their starters next season, the Vikings will look to use the state title defeat as added motivation, hoping to once again put together a deep postseason run.

“I think just their expectations of themselves and of each other,” Deppen said of what excites him most entering next season. “They understand how much talent is on the squad. I think the exciting part is we’re not going to spend a lot of time on anybody’s technical ability, we’re not going to spend a lot of time on fitness levels because everybody should come into the beginning of the season at top level. So, the exciting part is we can just get started right back to where we left off immediately and hopefully not skip a beat.”


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