Jenny Giampalmo was torn.
It was the night before field hockey and soccer tryouts her freshman year, and she had yet to fully commit to either sport. She could follow in the footsteps of her two older sisters, Susie and Christina, and play for the renowned Glenelg field hockey program. Or she could carve her own athletic path with another activity she enjoyed.
Initially, her plan was to play soccer. Her mother had already turned in all of the necessary forms. But around 8 p.m. that night, she was looking through her school schedule and realized she hardly had any classes with her closest friends, some of whom dated back to elementary school. If she chose to play soccer, she’d rarely see them.
It was at that moment Giampalmo made a decision that would shape the rest of her high school athletic career.
“I changed my mind because a lot of my friends were doing field hockey,” Giampalmo said. “So I just decided, ‘You know, that’s what I’m going to do.’”
“We all wanted her to play field hockey because she’s so good obviously, and we wanted to play alongside her,” added Annie Jubb, who became friends with Giampalmo around second or third grade. “We thought she was going to play soccer, and then she didn’t tell us and she showed up at tryouts, and we were very, very happy of course.”
Trading her cleats for a hockey stick proved to be a worthwhile resolution, as Giampalmo cherished the relationships she developed with both her old buddies and her once-unfamiliar teammates. And it didn’t hurt that Giampalmo was always one of the program’s top players. She was Glenelg’s lone sophomore starter during its state semifinal run in 2016 and a first-team All-County midfielder on the Gladiators’ state championship team a year ago.
This season, Giampalmo served as a captain, the No. 1 facilitator for the county’s top scoring offense (4.1 goals per game) and a key piece for a defense that allowed just 13 shots to find the back of the cage.
She was the engine that drove the Glenelg back to the state semifinals and the motivator who would not let the Gladiators dwell on their mistakes.
Giampalmo was, as coach Nicole Trunzo puts it, “on another level, man,” and a deserving recipient of the 2018 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier field hockey Player of the Year.
“Jenny is just fierce. She’s fierce and supportive,” Trunzo said. “But off the field, she’s as hardworking as always but like a quiet strength. She doesn’t sweat the small things. She’s very down to earth.
“She’s an amazing kid,” Trunzo continued to rave. “She has a great heart, man. Heart of gold.”
Giampalmo is the fourth straight Glenelg player to be named Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of 2015 winner Noelle Frost (goalkeeper), 2016 honoree Laney Treacy (defender) and midfielder Paige Reese, who earned the distinction last season. All three of these players have gone on to play Division I field hockey. Frost is a junior at the University of Maryland, Treacy a sophomore at Bucknell and Reese in her first season at Towson.
Giampalmo will be continuing her athletic career at a Division I school, too, but she’ll ditch the field hockey stick for one better suited for lacrosse. It’s always been her favorite sport and the one she’s committed the most time to. In addition to playing at Glenelg, where she earned first-team All-County honors last spring for a program that won its third straight state championship, she’s been a longtime member of Hero’s Tournament Lacrosse Club based out of Ellicott City.
Combine those achievements with her academic excellence — she’s No. 3 in her class — and you have a future Ivy League athlete. The summer before her sophomore year, Giampalmo committed to Yale, where she plans to study one of the scientific disciplines (biology, chemistry, etc.) before hopefully going to medical school.
“That’s the dream,” Giampalmo said.
This fall marked the end of a long field hockey career for Giampalmo, who estimates she began playing around preschool. Soon after, she joined the Howard County-based Warhawks Field Hockey Club, where she met many of the friends she still has to this day. They played together for the next several seasons, but only during the fall. The rest of the year was dedicated to lacrosse.
Still, Giampalmo excelled as a midfielder in field hockey from an early age and continued to have success at the high school level, as Annie Jubb called her “one of the best players” on JV her freshman year. A year later, Trunzo pulled Giampalmo up to varsity and put her at the top of the diamond, making her the only sophomore starter. Her docility, diligence and discernment warranted such a move.
“She’s a smart kid, and it really reflects to how great she is on the field,” Trunzo said. “When she got on varsity as a sophomore, we were a passing team and we still are, and a lot of it is because of Jenny’s instincts. She knows her angles and she sees things, creates them.”
“She just knows what’s the right play,” added Mallory Jubb. “She knows who’s going to be where before they even get to where they are.”
Giampalmo totaled eight goals and as many assists in 14 games her sophomore campaign, earning second-team All-County honors for a Glenelg team that’s only loss came in the state semifinals. As a junior, she tallied 13 points (five goals, three assists) and was one of three All-County midfielders — Reese and Kathryn Hoffman were the others — who orchestrated the Gladiators’ first state championship run since 2012 and fourth in program history.
“She’s always fighting for the ball,” said Hoffman, whose relationship with Giampalmo began when the two were passing partners as the only underclassmen on varsity in 2016. “She never gives up and she never has an attitude. She never gets down on herself or anything. She’s just always hard working and pushing herself as hard as she can.”
As a senior captain this fall, Giampalmo did a little bit of everything for the Gladiators, who again advanced to the state semifinals before falling to Liberty.
She only scored twice but finished third in the county with 12 assists. In some games, she served as the inserter on corners, and other times she was the primary shooter. She was also a part of the corner defense, and whenever she would regain possession for her team, she’d quickly begin the transition process. Every move was calculated. If she had space, she’d weave up the field. If not, she’d find an open teammate. The timing of her hits were “always perfect,” Annie Jubb said.
Hoffman added that Giampalmo was “honestly everywhere” this season, and she would not have it any other way.
“I like that at midfield, you can basically go everywhere on the field where the ball is,” Giampalmo said,” You’re not restricted by the lines like the people around [you]. So, obviously you’ve got to keep your spacing and all that, but pretty much anywhere on the field you’re expected to be, and I enjoy that because if I’m out there, I want to be around the ball.”
While playing midfield came naturally, becoming a leader took years of development. As a sophomore, Giampalmo said she rarely spoke with her varsity teammates aside from Hoffman, a fellow “youngin” as she puts it.
But over the next two seasons, Giampalmo developed confidence and realized her role within the program. She led mostly by example, according to her teammates, but knew the appropriate times to speak up, especially during her final campaign. All the while, Giampalmo was known for her unwavering positivity and support.
Take Glenelg’s nonconference tilt with Broadneck on Oct. 1 for example. With the match knotted at two in double overtime, Mallory Jubb scored what she and her teammates thought was the game-winning goal, but the referees waved it off because of a violation. The decision deflated the Gladiators but not Giampalmo, who flooded her teammates with phrases like, “it doesn’t matter, shake it off,” and “we’ll just get the next one.” While the game ended in a draw, Giampalmo’s outlook in the face of adversity stuck with Mallory Jubb.
“I feel like it’s really just her personality,” Jubb said. “She’s so just go with the flow, doesn’t worry about the future. She’s so focused on what’s happening in the moment, and it’s really her personality. She’s just always supportive, like off the field, so I feel like it just carries over onto the field.”
When asked about she’ll miss most about Glenelg field hockey, Giampalmo points to the bonds she’s formed with her teammates and Coach Trunzo. She’s made some of her best friends representing the Gladiators in a sport she nearly abandoned before high school. It’s hard to visualize what her life would have been like without it.
“I think about it, but I have no idea,” Giampalmo said. “Like I can’t imagine not having done field hockey anymore.”
As for what coaches and teammates will miss the most about Giampalmo, there isn’t a concrete answer. Her leadership is unique, her work ethic unparalleled and her play on the field contagious. As Giampalmo excelled, Glenelg thrived.
And for all of those reasons, they can agree on at least one thing: they’re grateful she chose not to play soccer.
“The stats don’t really show it,” Hoffman said, “but she’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen play field hockey.”
Also named to the All-County first-team:
Eloise Clevenger, Marriotts Ridge, junior
Clevenger followed a first-team All-County girls lacrosse season last spring with a breakout campaign on the field hockey pitch this fall.
With 24 points (eight goals and eight assists), Clevenger was the leading scorer on a Marriotts Ridge team that finished second in the county behind Glenelg. Her strength and accuracy made her the Mustangs’ strength on the right side of the field, coach Stacie Gado said.
“She has a powerful drive, allowing her to make a successful cross from that top-right corner,” Gado said. “She is one of our hitters on our offensive corners.”
Stephanie Gottwals, Atholton, senior
Gottwals earned first-team All-County honors for the third straight year and was a legitimate Player of the Year candidate for her season-long dominance this fall. A UMass commit, Gottwals scored 15 of the Raiders’ 18 goals and added three assists to finish with 33 points. It marks the third straight season Gottwals tallied at least 24 points.
“Stephanie is an amazing, unique player,” coach Martie Dyer said. “Her creative stick skills and determination make her an incredible standout.”
Tess Muneses, Glenelg, senior
Muneses, who made second-team All-County last season, was a crucial piece to a Glenelg offense that scored more than four goals per contest this fall. She found the back of the cage 10 times, good for third most on the team, and found her teammates for goals on five occasions.
Muneses will continue her field hockey career at Division III Washington and Lee in Virginia.
“My favorite thing to watch about Tess is when she would receive the ball on the forward line and just make her way to a 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper and finish,” coach Nicole Trunzo said. “Just amazing skill and an overall team player and such a strong finisher for us.”
Emma Gladstein, Marriotts Ridge, junior
As a second-year starter, Gladstein was one of the county’s top midfielders this fall. Her eight goals were tied with Eloise Clevenger for most on the team, while her four assists were second.
Coach Stacie Gado described Gladstein as a “highly skilled player with a lot of field hockey knowledge.” It’s her ball control, strong drives, powerful aerials and vision, Gado said, that has made her one of the nation’s best players in her class. A Delaware commit, Gladstein is currently the only player from Maryland ranked in the top 50 for the Class of 2020, according to MAX Field Hockey.
“She is the whole package,” Gado said. “She was a key contributor to our success this year.”
Kathryn Hoffman, Glenelg, junior
Three seasons, three All-County selections.
After making second team as a freshman and first team last year, Hoffman again earned first-team All-County recognition as Glenelg’s leading scorer (15 goals) and squad’s only junior captain. Coach Nicole Trunzo called Hoffman “amazingly coachable” and praised her for always looking for extra repetitions in practice.
“Kathryn's strength and speed picked up so much this year. It really showed with her ball movement and game play,” Trunzo said. “Lucky to have Kathryn another year!”
Haley Kampert, Mt. Hebron, sophomore
Kampert has played in every game the past two seasons for one simple reason: she does not let the ball get past her, coach Jeannette Ireland said.
Kampert’s determination and intelligence makes her a must-have at the defensive midfield position. She also has strong stick skills, Ireland said, and can maneuver around or between defenders to set up a young attacking unit.
“Haley Kampert’s play was so important that she hardly ever came off the field,” Ireland said. “She has great anticipation and speed allowing her to keep the ball up on our attack.”
Quinn Kindbom, River Hill, junior
When River Hill coach Shelly Chamness thinks about the most-skilled players she’s ever coached, Kindbom is above the rest.
Kindbom, a captain, has started at center midfielder for the Hawks since coming to high school and has been a first-team All-County honoree the past two seasons. This fall, she totaled 21 points (eight goals, five assists) and impacted the game in a variety of different ways.
“She is a jack of all trades: she sets up our attack, is the main decision maker on offensive corners and plays on defensive corners as well,” Chamness said. “She is an unselfish player who strives to make the whole team better.”
Esha Shah, Mt. Hebron, junior
It was a breakout season for Shah, who not only led Mt. Hebron in scoring but finished tied with Howard’s Jamie Tsao as the county’s top scorer with 19 goals. Four assists brought her point total to 42, second most among league players.
In addition, she was the Vikings’ No. 1 penalty stroke-taker and was part of the team’s overtime unit.
“She has outstanding stick skills and is a dangerous player with the ball, both as a passer and a threat to score,” Vikings coach Jeanette Ireland said. “Her consistent play, along with teammate Haley Kampert, really anchored our team in the middle of the field.”
Lexi Thielemann, River Hill, senior
Thielemann, a three-year starting midfielder, has earned the utmost respect from her peers over her career. Coach Shelly Chamness called her River Hill’s most intense player and lauded her field sense. Thielemann’s teammates voted her as the squad’s most valuable player.
After initially wanting to play lacrosse in college, Thielemann is now set on continuing her field hockey career.
“Lexi was relentless is getting the ball to the attack and played in every offensive and defensive corner,” Chamness said. “Her amazing positivity will carry her into her college career next year.”
Annabel Baldy, Centennial, senior
Coach Lizz Engle viewed defender Annabel Baldy as the foundation of this year’s team. Baldy, a four-year starter, played every minute of every game for the Eagles this season en route to earning the honor of most valuable player.
Baldy is not only a “fantastic defender,” Engle added, but a capable offensive option that scored two goals and assisted on three others. She’ll be continuing her field hockey career at Division III Ursinus in Philadelphia. “Our team would not have had success without Annabel,” Engle said.
Lindsey Cowan, Howard, junior
Cowan is listed as a defender, but her contributions spread well into the attacking third. In addition to making 10 defensive saves over 14 games, Cowan finished second on the team with seven goals.
She proved to be a big reason Howard won seven of its 11 county games during the regular season.
"Lindsey is a dominant force on defense and the most versatile player I know,” Lions coach Courtney Sprissler said. “Whatever the team needs, she can do it all and does it well. Her knowledge and passion for the sport can't be taught."
Michaela Hartigan, Marriotts Ridge, senior
The main question mark for Marriotts Ridge entering this season was its defense: how would the Mustangs replace an entire backline that included first-team All-County selection Emy Nelson?
Enter Hartigan, who coach Stacie Gado referred to as the “rock” of this year’s defense thanks to her strength, endurance and field sense. Hartigan rarely made mistakes and often made the right pass to begin the transition process.
“Michaela was an unexpected leader on our defense this year,” Gado said. “She showed tremendous determination to collect the ball and clear it out of our defensive end successfully. We were extremely fortunate to have her on the field each game.”
Caroline Kral, River Hill, senior
Kral capped an illustrious career with her second-straight first-team All-County campaign in goal. A year after saving 92 percent of shots, Kral had a save rate of 86 percent this season, posting 96 saves compared to 16 goals against.
She’ll be attending Division III Washington College to play field hockey next season.
“She is an excellent communicator, directs the defense, and gives her teammates a positive boost during the games,” coach Shelly Chamness said.
Jasmin Jones, Long Reach, senior
Mallory Jubb, Glenelg, senior
Ellie Miller, Mt. Hebron, senior
Sarah Nam, Reservoir, junior
Zoe Reading, Wilde Lake, junior
Sarah Cipolla, Glenelg, senior
Gracie Kennedy, Marriotts Ridge, junior
Katie Sloan, Howard, junior
Lily Sullivan, Centennial, sophomore
Samantha Ponsford, Long Reach, junior
Eliza Munns, Mt. Hebron, senior