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Usual contenders looking strong again entering Howard County field hockey season

For the past decade, the phrases “Glenelg field hockey” and “county champions” have been all but synonymous, as the Gladiators entered last season having earned at least a share of the past nine league crowns. And for much of the 2017 campaign, it appeared that streak would extend to double digits. In its first five league games, the team went 5-0 and had not allowed a goal.

Then, in a span of two days, Glenelg’s championship reign came to a screeching halt. First came a one-goal defeat against league rival Marriotts Ridge on Oct. 17, then an overtime loss to River Hill. The Gladiators were shut out in both games and therefore shut out of a league title, which Marriotts Ridge and River Hill earned a share of.

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But these losses, while disappointing and deflating, were not detrimental to Glenelg’s pursuit of a fourth state championship.

The 11-day layoff between its regular season finale and its first state playoff game afforded the team a chance to regroup, and the results were filled with payback for past missteps. The Gladiators not only defeated Marriotts Ridge and River Hill en route to winning a region title, but they also took down Hereford — the program who beat them in the 2016 state semifinals — in the 2A state championship game.

“Winning that state title was an amazing feeling,” Glenelg midfielder Kathryn Hoffman said. “After we lost to Marriotts Ridge and River Hill, we struggled and we really didn’t know what was going on, but we really spent the next couple of weeks before playoffs picking each other up and understanding how important it was to come together and work together as a team.”

Hoffman said Glenelg will be taking that philosophy into this year’s campaign, which kicked off with the first day of preseason practices Aug. 8. It looks as though the Gladiators, Marriotts Ridge and River Hill — as well as Mt. Hebron — will again fight for county supremacy.

“Just understanding that if we do have regular season losses, it’s not great,” Hoffman said. “But we can take opportunities from those to learn from our mistakes and grow and fix it so that next time, we can do better.”

Glenelg lost Player of the Year Paige Reese in the midfield and first-team All-County selection Maddy O’Brien on defense, but coach Nikki Trunzo has several returning players capable of replacing that leadership and production.

There’s Hoffman and fellow midfielder Jenny Giampalmo, both of whom were first-team All-County selections last season, as well as second-team All-County forward Tess Muneses. Hoffman and Giampalmo will serve as this year’s captains along with senior midfielder Sarah Cipolla, who will step into a starting role after serving as a key contributor last season.

In the cage, the Gladiators bring back sophomore Rachel Barker, who led all county goalkeepers last season with a 92.3 save percentage (six goals on 78 shots faced).

“We have a young team,” Trunzo said, “but we have some really strong leaders, and I think they’re going to do a great job.”

Marriotts Ridge, meanwhile, will rely on its four seniors and a talented and experienced junior class as it attempts to back up last year’s county championship and continue its recent stretch of league dominance. Over the past four years, the Mustangs have lost just four times in county play.

After relying on a strong defense last fall, coach Stacie Gado said her team will be “very offensive minded” this season. The Mustangs graduated their entire defensive unit — which consisted of Emy Nelson (first-team All-County), Emily Talentino, Bailey Christianson and goalkeeper Katie Garman (second-team All-County) — but return almost all of their forwards and midfielders.

Seniors Lauren McAuley and Acadia Noll should provide an offensive spark up top. And in the midfield, expect the junior trio of Elle Clevenger, Emma Gladstein and Gracie Kennedy to control possession and set up plenty of scoring chances.

“We need to pull some people back and see what’s going to fit us on our defensive end to fill those spots,” Gado said. “But that’s going to help because then our defense will have that offensive mindset to hopefully get the ball up quicker and more consistent than maybe we’ve had.”

River Hill made a smooth transition to the county’s upper tier last season behind what coach Shelly Chamness called her “strongest team” in her 20 years of coaching. The Hawks won six of their seven league matchups to earn a share of the county title, finished 11-4-1 overall and reached the 2A East region final, where they lost, 2-0, to Glenelg.

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Shamness admitted there’s some uncertainty — like how to construct what will be a “mostly new defense” — but the Hawks seem to have the necessary pieces to contend once again.

Returning first-team All-County goalkeeper Caroline Kral is a three-and-a-half-year starter in the cage, while junior midfielder Quinn Kindbom, another first-team selection, is a special talent in the mind of her veteran coach.

“I’ve said this multiple times,” Shamness said last season. “I think Quinn [Kindbom] is the best player I’ve ever had.”

Kindbom will be one of several players expected to help fill the offensive void left by forward Gaby Hamburger, the program’s first-ever four-year starter who led the county in points the past two seasons. In her absence, the Hawks will rely on Kindbom, senior midfielders Lexi Thielemann and Emily Masker and sophomore forward Lindsey Miller, who will play Hamburger’s former position.

"I love my team; they are hard working, connect as a team and have wonderful character,” Chamness said. “I believe that with the great leadership of our experienced players and the enthusiasm of our new players, we will reach our potential.”

Mt. Hebron, which went 5-2 in county play last season and advanced to the 3A East region final, returns six starters. The Vikings bring back senior forward Ellie Miller, the third-highest point scorer in the county a year ago, as well as junior midfielder Esha Shah, who scored both goals in an upset win over Marriotts Ridge.

Atholton, Centennial, Howard and Reservoir should also contend for a spot in the league’s top half.

Like last year, Mt. Hebron will compete in the county’s upper tier with Atholton, Glenelg, Marriotts Ridge and River Hill. Centennial, Howard and Reservoir are in the middle tier, while Hammond, Long Reach, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake make up the lower tier.

There are two new coaches in the county this fall. After eight years coaching at Howard, Kristen Vance accepted a teaching position at Oakland Mills this summer and will now coach the Scorpions’ varsity squad. Courtney Sprissler replaced Vance as the Lions’ head coach.

The only noteworthy rule change is in regard to overtime. In the event of a tie after two 10-minute “sudden-victory” periods, the teams will now compete in a series of one-on-one’s instead of penalty strokes. The State Field Hockey Committee of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) instituted the rule change.

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Each team will pick five players to participate in one-on-one’s. Then, on an alternating basis, the offensive player will start from the 25-yard line and have 10 seconds to score on the opposing goalkeeper. The attacker can also take follow-up shots as long as it’s within the 10-second window.

An unintentional foul by the goalkeeper will result in a restart of the one-on-one, while an intentional foul will result in a penalty stroke.

If a regular season game is tied after each team has completed five one-on-one’s, the match will end in a draw. In the event this happens during a playoff game, the teams will continue to alternate one-on-one’s until a winner is decided.

Coaches around the county seem to be in favor of this rule, although they admit it will be more difficult for the referees.

“I think the new overtime really reflects how fast and competitive the overall game is and really highlights the overall skill and speed of the goalkeeper and field player,” Trunzo said.

“It’s going to be tough on the officials with the goalies,” Atholton coach Martie Dyer added. “With a stroke, the ball is either in the goal or it’s not. With this, it can be questionable as to did the shot go in before the time was up? Did the goalie take out the girl and commit a foul or was she playing the ball? Those kinds of things. It’s going to be a little tougher on the officials, but I think it’s going to be great. It’s going to be exciting and definitely more challenging.”

In the private school ranks, Glenelg Country will again compete in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) B Conference after finishing 6-4-2 overall last year.

In preparation for the first game day, which will be Aug. 31, here’s more information on each of the 13 programs from around the county:

Atholton

Coach: Martie Dyer

2017 record: 3-5 county, 4-10 overall

Top players: Seniors Stephanie Gottwals (F) and Brooke Merwitz (MF); juniors Natalie Lewis (F) and Kerri Silverstein (GK).

Quotable: “They’re all in really good condition. They came in good condition this year and ready to go. ...We’re getting better all the time.” - coach Martie Dyer

Centennial

Coach: Lizz Engle

2017 record: 5-6, 7-9

Top players: Seniors Annabel Baldy (MF) and Abby Doff (F); sophomore Lily Sullivan (MF).

Quotable: “While we graduated 10 seniors last year, we still have strong returning varsity players. These leaders have stepped up to the plate, helping us to have a seamless transition into preseason. We continue to have a diverse variety of individual strengths, so we’re working together on putting all of that together to utilize everyone’s best attributes for the good of the team. I’m excited to see my returning players step up into leadership positions and watch some underclassmen develop further to fill the gaps left behind by last year’s seniors.” - coach Lizz Engle

Glenelg

Coach: Nikki Trunzo

2017 record: 5-2, 12-4 (2A state champions)

Top players: Seniors Sarah Cipolla (MF), Jenny Giampalmo (MF) and Tess Muneses (F); junior Kathryn Hoffman (MF); sophomore Rachel Barker (GK).

Quotable: “It’s awesome to be back. I have a really good group of girls. It’s exciting. I’ve been here for four years, and now the seniors this year, it’s their four years, so it’s a special year for us.” - coach Nikki Trunzo

Hammond

Coach: Lauren Harrison

2017 record: 3-3, 8-6

Top players: Seniors Hana Bramble (F), Carina Thorton-Celesna (D) and Morgan Yeckley (F/MF); sophomore Lizzy Hughes (F).

Quotable: “We had several seniors graduate after last season. However, we had juniors and sophomores that were able to play with that team who are now aiding in building us up this season. After a huge turnaround season last year, we are focusing on staying consistent and keeping composure. Our forward wings will be our strongest asset along with a large range of strong defensive players.” - coach Lauren Harrison

Howard

Coach: Courtney Sprissler

2017 record: 6-5, 8-6

Top players: Seniors Jamie Tsao (F) and Skylar Wishner (GK); junior Lindsay Cowan (D).

Quotable: “We have a lot of changes this year with losing a large senior class and a new head coach. There are a lot of girls stepping up in the leadership role on and off the field. The team has been working on position changes and growing together. Looking forward to showing the county what we have been working on. I am extremely lucky to be working with such a great group of girls.” - Courtney Sprissler

Long Reach

Coach: Amber Myers

2017 record: 3-4, 5-6

Top players: Seniors Katie Brand (D), Jasmin Jones (F), Erin O'Reilly (F) and Cassidy Trojan (MF); juniors Leah McClelland (MF) and Samantha Ponsford (F).

Quotable: “We have a larger varsity team this year at Long Reach. The players offer more experience in field knowledge and stick skills. We are looking to really continue to grow the school culture and establish ourselves in the county. We are achieving this by determining the type of approach to the game we want to take, and how to best use the the talents of the players on the field.” - coach Amber Myers

Marriotts Ridge

Coach: Stacie Gado

2017 record: 6-1, 9-7 (co-county champions)

Top players: Seniors Michaela Hartigan (D), Audrey Lyu (F), Lauren McAuley (MF) and Acadia Noll (F); juniors Elle Clevenger (F), Emma Gladstein (F), Gracie Kennedy (M) and Grace Tolle (GK).

Quotable: “We are super excited for this season to have started. We lost our entire defensive lineup from last year, but the new players have been training hard, are ready to fill their shoes and show what they can accomplish on the field. The girls have tremendous positive attitudes, are goal hungry and are fun to have at practice. The possibilities are endless of what we might be able to do on the field this year.” — coach Stacie Gado

Mt. Hebron

Coach: Jeannette Ireland

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2017 record: 5-2, 11-6

Top players: Seniors Ellie Miller (F) and Eliza Munns (F); juniors Hailey Conklin (GK), Ally DeBels (D) and Esha Shah (MF); sophomore Haley Kampert (MF).

Quotable: “We are excited about this season even though we only have six returning starters from last year’s team that lost in the 3A East regional finals. We have a lot of talented young players who will contribute. Right now there is a large learning curve, but it is exciting to think about the potential.” - coach Jeannette Ireland

Oakland Mills

Coach: Kristen Vance

2017 record: 0-6, 1-11

Top players: Seniors Erin Crotty (F) and Peyton Gomes (MF); junior Mackenzie Minarcin (MF).

Quotable: "We have five returning seniors, and I am excited to see what we can improve upon this season. There is always room for growth, and even though we are a young team, we have capable players who know and love the game of field hockey."

Reservoir

Coach: Lindsey Miles

2017 record: 5-6, 5-8

Top players: Seniors Zara Ameli (F) and Molly Oppenheim (F); junior Sarah Nam (F).

Quotable: “Last year, we graduated some very talented seniors, so I was going into this season looking to my former juniors and younger players to really step up. I have already been quite impressed with the play I have seen from many of my players during preseason. I have seen that these girls have been working hard in the offseason. I have a large senior group this season, and I can really see that they all have begun to take their game to a more competitive, intense level. This year, we also have several younger players on varsity (two sophomores and two freshman) with a lot of natural athleticism. They will be bringing a lot to the team this year, and I strongly believe that Reservoir Field Hockey is about to gain some serious competitive momentum in the next few seasons with the number of young players coming in with great experience and athletic ability.” - Lindsey Miles

River Hill

Coach: Shelly Chamness

2017 record: 6-1, 11-4-1 (co-county champions)

Top players: Seniors Abby Bae (D), Erin Jeffrey (D), Caroline Kral (GK), Emily Masker (MF) and Lexi Thielemann (MF); junior Quinn Kindbom; sophomore Lindsey Miller (F).

Quotable: “It’s exciting to have a lot of people back that were good last year and work together even better this year and just try to bring our new people up on board with them playing up with us.” - coach Shelly Chamness

Wilde Lake

Coach: Ginger Kincaid

2017 record: 1-7, 2-13

Top players: Juniors Aliyah Hodges (MF), Zoey Reading (F) and Melanie Simmons (MF).

Quotable: “It’s my third year there, and I feel good about the progress we’ve made in the last three years. I feel like we’re going to be competitive in the lower tier this year.”

Glenelg Country

Coach: Anne Smith

2017 record: 4-3-1 IAAM B Conference, 6-4-2

Top players: Seniors Avery Dyer (MF), Lauren Heydt (D), Ishika Kathuria (GK) and Kate Sites (MF).

Quotable: “This season, GCS is fielding a scrappy, athletic team with well-rounded athletes, many of whom play multiple sports. With the new alignment of the IAAM B conference, the Dragons are excited about taking on new challenges and competing against new teams.” - coach Anne Smith

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