Julz Lamparella can't pinpoint what exactly has led to her scoring outburst as a senior this season for the Mt. Hebron girls soccer team.
She estimates she netted three goals as a sophomore, her first varsity campaign, and four scores a year ago. The Vikings finished both seasons with a losing record.
But in her final stint at Mt. Hebron, Lamparella found the back of the net six times her first four matches and has helped propel the Vikings (5-1 county, 7-1 overall) towards the top of the county standings. Their lone blemish? A 2-1 defeat to River Hill, which brought back all 11 starters from its 2016 state championship squad.
Lamparella recently spoke with Howard County girls soccer beat reporter Kyle Stackpole about Mt. Hebron's fast start, a revamped team mentality, the players' goals moving forward and more.
Q: How did you get into soccer? What made you want to play?
A: I've been playing soccer since I was really little. I started off with those little clinics with a bunch of little kids running around. I've basically played ever since. I've played club as well, and I have a lot of buddies that I played with that come to high school with me, so that was a big appeal to play high school, and I just wanted to get involved and stuff. My freshman year I made JV, which was like the best time of my life. I was scoring all the time. It was simpler than varsity definitely. So yeah, basically I've been playing forever.
Do you play any other sports?
I pretty much tried all of the sports, but I've always stuck with soccer. I played varsity basketball my sophomore year, and I tried JV lacrosse my sophomore year as well, so I played three sports that year. And then ever since then, I've kind of just focused on playing soccer during high school because it's a lot to balance all of your school work with the high school seasons.
Why did you choose soccer over the other sports?
I just love the game a lot more than the other games, like lacrosse and basketball. And I feel like I'm the best at it. I use to play defense, but now I play striker, and it's kind of made me fall in love with it even more because scoring is the best thing ever; or like assisting other people is like the best feeling ever, too. I fell in love with the sport and the people, and I've been fortunate to have coaches that really nurture me as well.
When and why did you switch from defense to striker?
I always kind of wanted to be the scorer. I always wanted to play striker. But somehow I was defense. And I was on a team where they weren't giving me the opportunity to play offense, and even if they did, they gave me like five minutes, which is not enough time — especially if you're under pressure — to do anything. Then I had switched club teams [before high school], and this coach saw potential in me as a forward, and that's when I started playing, and that's when I started getting good at it. Then that became my full-time position.
What do you like about soccer? What do you dislike?
I love the team aspect about it. I always get close with my teammates. I love running sprints. I can't run far distances. That's why I play striker. I love the scoring part of it. Just getting a great shot off or scoring. It's a really amazing feeling. It's hard to explain why you love something. You kind of just do, you know?
The only thing I would say I don't like about high school soccer, which is something that you can't change — you sign up for it — is the fact that you have seven hours of school, and then you have to practice for two-and-a-half hours after school. It's a lot with no breaks, but it's something you have to realize you're signing up for, and you have to be dedicated and have to be able to have school, practice and then homework.
You scored six goals the first four games this season. What do you think has led to you scoring more?
I joined a new club team, and we trained insanely hard, so I came in with more skill. But at the same time, this team is more meshed and we have so much more team chemistry than years past. It's insane how different of a team this is. Off the field, we're so close, and it makes us play better on the field. It's amazing to see the difference. The two years I was on varsity before were nothing like this. We're all best friends, and I think it reflects on the field. It's not only my training, but it's also the girls playing around me that are a huge factor.
What do you think your strengths and weaknesses are?
My strengths as a player are probably in intense situations, there's a fire lit in my belly, and I'm really competitive. I'll run my butt off when I'm trying to win a game. Something I can work on: I get down on myself and I get frustrated. As a captain and a role model to my players, I have to keep a positive attitude so I don't bring people around me down. It's kind of a battle with myself. I have to make sure I'm staying positive and setting a good example for everyone, even at times when I'm really upset about my play or whatever else I'm upset about.
When I covered your team against River Hill, coach Tim Deppen also told me there's a totally different mentality this year and that this group is a lot closer than years past. Why do you think that is?
Last year was kind of tense all the time because we were told that we were fighting for our playing time. We're were fighting specific people for that position, and it was creating tension.
He had given me responsibility last year to be a captain in the offseason, and then he added the different captains later. So, I was able to talk to him comfortably. Me and a couple other girls got together and told him that we think a big factor in the tension last year was that we were told to fight each other, and really we shouldn't be told that because it was making us work against each other instead of with each other. And then he talked to the team about that and mentioned that, so that was a huge thing for him to say.
Coach Deppen also said your team struggled to score last year, but this group has scored more this season. What do you think has led to the increased production?
We've scored an insane amount more. I think in the first two or three games, we already had half of our full-season score, or something crazy like that. Again, I think it's a huge chemistry thing. It's kind of a freak thing — the fact that we scored this much already. We practice hard. We play for each other. There's no selfishness. If you're selfish, you don't play as well together. We're playing together instead of for ourselves, and I think that's a huge reason why we're looking for the best opportunities and we're finding them with each other.
What were the expectations before the season? How has this team moved towards achieving these goals?
I think every team sets out to win as many games as possible, and I think we even surprised ourselves with how well we did against our first opponents. First we beat Century, then we win the Catonsville tournament. We just wanted to do the best that we could, and I feel like we're surpassing our goals that we had. We're doing absolutely amazing, so I think we're all pretty proud of each other.
With this fast start, did your goals change at all?
Yes. Seeing our performance so far this season, I think that's definitely raised the bar for us. We're like 'Wow, we're doing a lot better than we expected, and now we can do even more.' I think our next goal is to just keep winning game by game and hopefully win counties if it all plays out right. And then we definitely want to go far in playoffs.
What does this team do well? What does it need to improve on?
We communicate with each other well. We're honest with each other about things we can do better, and we're really good at encouraging each other and lifting each other up.
For what we can do better, we just need to start out the game as hard as we can and the way we know how to play. ...We just need to start out faster and finish quicker.
Finally, this question doesn't have to do with soccer. Your brother, Jake Lamparella, swims at Virginia Tech and swam at the 2015 Olympic Trials. Did you ever think about getting into swimming?
I did. I was a swimmer, and I was pretty good. But then I started not liking it as much, mostly because I got so nervous, and I didn't like the way that felt. Swimming is a sport where you have to train all the time. Like my brother got up at 5 a.m., would practice before school, and then after school he would go practice again. It's something that you have to be in love with and you have to be so dedicated to, and I knew that wasn't something I could do. His dedication inspires me, and I will never understand how committed he is. It's similar commitment with me with soccer, but [soccer] requires less vigorous practices and stuff like that.