“I want to play up top,” Julianna Bonner would beg her coach. “I want to play up top.”
Wilde Lake girls soccer coach Megan Shea listened to this proposition all throughout summer league in 2016. Bonner is a longtime left wing on her club team, Maryland United, and yearned to showcase her attacking skills at the high school level.
But Shea felt she couldn’t afford to move Bonner from the team’s back line. Bonner played left full back as a freshman the previous season, and with a lot of strong senior defenders leaving, would be responsible for holding the unit together. So, as Bonner repeatedly expressed her desire to play forward, Shea stood her ground.
“You are the only returning defender that we have, so pretty much you are going to be our go-to person,” Shea would tell her. “You’re probably going to play sweeper. You have to kind of be the one to be the veteran back there as a defender.”
Shea played Bonner at sweeper in her first few sophomore scrimmages, and still, she kept asking the same question before every practice and every game.
As a junior, Bonner led the county with 21 goals. She added nine assists, giving her a league-best 51 points, to spearhead a Wilde Lake offense that scored three goals per game and finished second (8-2-1) in the county standings behind River Hill.
The past two seasons, Bonner has accounted for 48 percent of the Wildecats’ goals.
“She caught a lot of people in the county off guard last year because she was a defender and no one was really expecting her to be that scoring threat,” Shea said. “But she ended up being the leading scorer in the county last year, and I would say most of our offensive opportunities her sophomore year came from Julianna.”
Shea saw Bonner’s attacking potential as a freshman, even as she played defender during Wilde Lake’s run to the 2A state final. She often made runs down the field, showing the ability to dribble past or around defenders to set up her teammates up top.
She showed the same traits as a sophomore, only that year she could finish scoring plays on her own accord.
“I’m best when I have space, and so I like to take people ‘1v1’ and basically put them on their heels,” Bonner said. “It’s a pretty effective tactic because defenders don’t like to have people coming at them. That, and I’m left footed, too, so if I can get the ball on my left foot, that would be great for me and the most likely chance I would have of scoring.”
Once past the defenders, Bonner relishes opportunities where goalkeepers come off their line to challenge her. In other situations where she has more space, she’s learned finding corners with her shots is the easiest way to score.
Both tactics proved immediately effective, as Bonner scored a league-high 15 goals and was tied for the county lead with 36 points as a sophomore.
“She’s not afraid to take on multiple defenders and I think that’s a really rare characteristic, and it’s a thing that you can’t really teach people,” Shea said. “ You’re either confident with the ball or you’re not and she just exudes confidence when she has it, and she can just take on anyone.”
Bonner picked up right where she left off scoring-wise a year later, but Shea saw the reigning first-team All-County selection take more of an on-field leadership role as a junior. Bonner still found the back of the net, evident by her 21 goals, but also used her scoring expertise to make the players around her look better. When multiple defenders challenged her, she frequently found the open teammate.
She finished this past season with nine assists and those don’t even account for all the goals Shea said Bonner helped set up.
With Bonner scoring, midfielder Lily Dunbar controlling the game’s pace and goalkeeper Jenna Hutchison saving more than 90 percent of the shots she faced, Wilde Lake finished the season 12-3-1 overall, a marked improvement from their sub. 500 campaign the year before.
“It was definitely leadership,” Bonner said. “It had a lot to do with the chemistry of the team. Everybody was willing to work for each other. There was no, ‘Oh, I’m going to lead.’ There’s no one-sided play. Everyone clicked.”
Technically, Bonner will spend the offseason improving her right foot her long-range shooting accuracy. She wants to score even more goals next season and become more of a recognizable player across the Maryland girls soccer landscape.
The latter goal might be harder to accomplish. Of the four Howard County player to make first-team All-State, she’s the only one returning next season.
“There’s no way that we’re going to play a team that is not well aware of who No. 8 Julianna Bonner is that’s coming onto the field,” Shea said.
Shea expects Bonner to become even more of a playmaker as a senior. She hopes her vaunted goal scorer will see “a significant rise” in her assist totals while still having her own success around the net.
Bonner won’t have to adapt to many new players this season, either, as Hutchison, a three-time All-County goalkeeper, and Dunbar will also be seniors.
In fact, all of Wilde Lake’s other starters should also be back for a team with state-title aspirations.
“I’m really excited for next year,” Bonner said. “I think that will be a really good chance for us to see how far we can go past the counties.”
Also named to the first-team:
Julz Lamparella, Mt. Hebron, senior.
Lamparella scored a combined six goals as a sophomore and junior, but Mt. Hebron relied on her to be its go-to scorer this year. She thrived in that role, netting twice as many goals (12) as any of her teammates and adding three assists to finish with 27 points.
“As a leader, Julz has been instrumental in keeping our team focused on playing together and for each other,” coach Tim Deppen said.
Deppen added Lamparella, one of his senior captains, was dangerous whether she faced the goal or had her back to it and lauded her ability to capitalize on set plays. Five of her goals were headers off set pieces.
Adrienne Vaughn, Atholton, senior.
Vaughn served the senior leader and high scorer this season for Atholton, which won its first 3A East region title since 2004. She put home 11 goals, and her eight assists were tied for the third most in the county. A two-time first-team All-County selection, Vaughn also made first-team All-State in her final campaign.
Her speed and technical skills stood out to coach Stephanie Stoutenborough. Vaughn often attacked the goal aggressively and drew the attention of opposing defenders, creating scoring opportunities for her teammates. The Raiders averaged more than three goals per game this fall.
“It will be hard to replace Adrienne’s creativity on and off the ball,” Stoutenborough said.
Brigette Wang, River Hill, junior.
While senior midfielders Victoria Tran and Megan Chun controlled the River Hill midfield, Wang often converted the scoring chances they helped create. She ended the season second in the county in goals (20) and points (44), trailing only Wilde Lake’s Julianna Bonner.
“She is incredibly fast with a ball and she can go to goals and score against anyone,” coach Brian Song said. “Very quiet, goes about [her] business, very hard worker on and off the field. She can turn on a dime and is very precise.”
Wang shined in the postseason, too. In the regional championship, she netted the equalizer in the final minutes to help the her team avoid an upset loss to Calvert (the Hawks would prevail in overtime). Then, in the 2A state title game, Wang opened the scoring early on as the Hawks cruised to their state-best 11th championship.
Katie Cardea, Atholton, senior.
Cardea is perhaps best known for her game-winning overtime goal against Wilde Lake a battle between two of the county’s best teams on Oct. 3. About two weeks later, she again scored lone goal in the Raiders’ 1-0 win at Centennial.
However, she consistently impacted the game with her intensity and aggressiveness, coach Stephanie Stoutenborough said. Cardea controlled the midfield by intercepting passes and winning 50/50 balls, and she used her speed and quick decision making to set up teammates around goal.
“We are going to miss Katie’s ‘never give up’ attitude.,” Stoutenborough said. “She gave 100 percent in every game until the final whistle. She pushed our team to play hard and be competitive.”
Megan Chun, River Hill, senior.
Coach Brian Song views Chun as one of the best passers in the county, and her numbers this season back up that claim. She led the county in assists for the second straight season, tallying 16 dimes to go along with 13 goals
A three-time All-County and two-team All-State selection, Chun ensured her high school career would conclude with another state title. She netted five goals in as many postseason matches, including the game winner versus Calvert in the regional championship and against Hereford in the state final.
“She leaves behind two county, three regional and three state championships,” Song said. “She will leave a great work ethic and people will follow what she have started and keep it going.”
Lily Dunbar, Wilde Lake, junior.
In Megan Shea’s mind, Wilde Lake had two coaches this year: herself on the sideline and Dunbar on the pitch.
Shea rattled off Dunbar’s impactful traits. She’s smart, consistent and one of the most technically gifted players in the county. She “dances with the ball” to create space and find open teammates but can score, too. She finished with 10 goals and eight assists this season and earned team MVP from Shea.
“A lot of Julianna [Bonner’s] success coming from the fact that she has someone feeding the ball to her that is as smart as Lily is,” Shea said.
Victoria Huxtable, Atholton, senior.
A three-time All-County first teamer, Huxable served as the “rock” of this year’s team by controlling the pace of the game. She could play anywhere and dominate, coach Stephanie Stoutenborough, and Atholton will miss that versatility next season.
Huxable finished third on the team with 13 points (five goals and three assists) but affected the game beyond those statistics. She could steal the ball and race down the field in one smooth motion. Stoutenborough also said she had the “most powerful shot” she’s seen in the county in recent years, which was equally strong with both feet.
Kaitlin Rice, Mt. Hebron, senior.
As Mt. Hebron’s other senior captain, Rice was the “heartbeat” of the Vikings, coach Tim Deppen said.
She provided structure to a strong midfield and could find the back of the net when necessary, notching five goals on the season. Three of those were game-winning scores in one-goal victories.
“She took every restart in the offensive half and her accuracy is outstanding,” Deppen said. “Kaitlin covers so much ground and is very physical, smart, and technically and tactically gifted.”
Victoria Tran, River Hill, senior
Tran, along with Chun, has won two league crowns, three region titles and three state championships. She’s also been named to first-team All-County for three straight seasons.
This year, the senior captain finished with seven goals and eight assists to help the Hawks claim their third state title the past four years.
“She is most technical and dynamic player we have,” coach Brian Song said. “Very unselfish, does not care much about the individual stats if the team is winning and playing as a team.”
Ashley Deng, Centennial, junior.
Deng has been one of the league’s top defenders the past two seasons. She earned second-team All-County honors last year and continued to sharpen her skills along Centennial’s back line this year. Putting aside 5-1 losses to Wilde Lake and Atholton, the Eagles allowed less than a goal per game.
But what made Deng unique was her prominent role in the Eagles’ attack. Her eight points (three goals and three assists) were fourth-highest on the team.
“Her speed, quickness and fitness, coupled with her strong technical and tactical skills, allowed her to contribute in a unique way offensively,” coach Steve Baxter said.
Emily Dorn, Reservoir, junior.
As she did last season, Dorn headlined another stout Reservoir back line this fall.
The Gators played the entire season without senior goalkeeper Janie Romer, started freshman Lizzie Dudzinski and still allowed just 14 goals in 16 games. That’s a testament to Dorn and the entire defensive unit, which played a big role in Reservoir finishing with a record of 9-6-1.
“Emily is such a smart player,” Ranker said. “She always takes the right angle and cleans up potential chances. She leads the team defense and is always a calming influence on everyone. That was vitally important for us this year since we counted on so many freshmen to contribute.”
Angie Geralis, Wilde Lake, sophomore.
Geralis is coach Megan Shea’s favorite type of player.
“She’s not afraid to challenge anyone, no matter what their size is,” Shea said. “But then she can also walk over and do 1,000 juggles because has the technical skills to follow along with the toughness.”
As the stopper, Geralis held together Wilde Lake’s defense. And in Shea’s mind, Geralis was one of the biggest reasons for the team’s 46-11 goal differential this season. She not only halted offensive threats but also initiated counter attacks.
Of the Wildecats’ 16 games, every player on the roster saw field time in 13 of them. But even when Shea pulled most of her traditional starters, she made sure to leave at least one in the game.
“Angie was the one person that I would never pull out because I knew she was kind of the backbone of our team,” Shea said.
Jesse Lee, Long Reach, senior.
Lee has been the face of the Lightning’s defense the past two seasons. A first-team All-county member last year, she had similar success in her senior campaign.
In addition to being a defensive stalwart, Lee chipped in offensively to score a goal and total three assist.
“Jesse Lee has been an exceptional leader to all of her teammates on and off the field, even while dealing with her personal injuries,” coach Kudzai Dzimiri said. “Her guidance and determination led this team to play to their fullest potential.”
Danielle Poindexter, River Hill, junior.
An attacking player on her club team, Poindexter emerged as a top-notch defender this season. She paired with senior Carly Wetzel to shut down nearly every opponent River Hill faced, especially during league play. En route to an 11-0 county record, the Hawks allowed two goals and posted nine shutouts.
Their supreme effort carried into the postseason, where four of their five opponents failed to score.
“She was our leader on defense,” coach Brian Song said. “She was solid as a rock and no one could beat her this year. She is very easy going and has the drive and determination to get better. She will be counted on to take on a leadership role next year.”
Jenna Hutchison, Wilde Lake, junior.
Hutchison was a well-deserved first-team All-County selection after making the second team as a freshman and sophomore. She’s also a two-year captain.
She led the county with a 93.1 save percentage, making 97 saves while allowing seven goals, and helped Wilde Lake shut out half of its 16 opponents. Whenever a ball entered the ball, coach Megan Shea could almost guarantee Hutchison would make a goal-saving play.
“She’s probably one of the most motivated girls on the team,” Shea said. “Her freshman year, she was the goalie, and that’s when they went to the state finals. So she played every minute of every game her freshman year.”
Catalina Lennon, Atholton, junior, forward.
Ashley Molz, Centennial, junior, forward.
Blair Vant Hoff, Reservoir, junior, forward.
Ashley Bissenas, Hammond, senior, midfielder.
McKenna Griffin, Centennial, junior, midfielder.
Mia Lee, Marriotts Ridge, senior, midfielder.
Caroline Lewis, Howard, senior, midfielder.
Alex Masse, Mt. Hebron, freshman, midfielder.
Kat Parris, Reservoir, freshman, midfielder.
Paige Rosenfeld, Long Reach, sophomore, midfielder.
Kerry Browne, Oakland Mills, junior, defender.
Kelli Dunagan, Centennial, senior, defender.
Mariel Frith, Glenelg, senior, defender.
Mackenzie Folch, Mt. Hebron, senior, defender.
Carly Wetzel, River Hill, senior, defender.
Heather Wynne, Atholton, junior, defender.
Bryce Bathras, Atholton, senior, goalkeeper.
Emma Meininger, Marriotts Ridge, senior, goalkeeper.
IAAM B Conference All-Stars
Alisha Netus, Glenelg Country School, senior, forward.
Ava Swartz, Glenelg Country School, freshman, forward.