HOWARD COUNTY, MD — The 2015 Wilde Lake girls soccer team was loaded with standout players, ranging from Player of the Year Rachel Lazris to first-team All-County honorees Brynn Drury and Annie Hudec. In total, the Wildecats produced five All-County selections — four of whom were seniors — and each athlete played a crucial role in what eventually became one of the best seasons in school history.
During the regular season, the Wildecats lost just once in 11 county games to secure their first league crown since 2009. In the playoffs, they secured four straight shutouts en route to making the state championship game, their first since 2007 and third overall.
Their hopes of winning the program’s first state title ended with a 1-0 loss to Fallston in the 2A final, but their deep playoff run made a lasting impact on that year’s three freshmen starters: forward Julianna Bonner, midfielder Lily Dunbar and goalkeeper Jenna Hutchison. Having played nearly every minute that season, the trio understood the makeup of a state championship contender. They’ve tried to build one ever since.
Three years later, with Bonner, Dunbar and Hutchison as the returning captains, Wilde Lake appears to have the pieces to go all the way. The Wildecats return the reigning Player of the Year (Bonner) and three first-team All-County selections (Dunbar, Hutchison and junior defender Angie Geralis) from a team that finished 12-3-1 overall last fall. Oh, and the rest of the starting lineup is also back, making the Wildecats a team to beat entering what should be a highly competitive 2018 Howard County girls soccer season.
“Wilde Lake is primed to be the top team in our county and maybe in the state,” Centennial coach Steve Baxter said. “Of course, there will be plenty of teams out to prove me wrong and also compete for the county. The player pool is very strong every year at River Hill, so they deserve mention as a team to vie for the county. Several teams have opportunity to be in the top five. Too difficult to predict.”
Coach Megan Shea, who served as the program’s junior varsity coach during the 2015 campaign, chose not to compare the two teams in terms of who’s better and instead talked about the squads’ noticable differences. The 2015 roster was filled with seniors and “physically strong girls” who had been playing with each other for a few years. This year’s group is more balanced age-wise, as the Wildecats have four seniors, nine juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen. They also benefit from having three four-year starters who have already experienced county and state success.
Each player provides a unique expertise. Bonner led the county in goals (21) and points (51) a year ago, while Dunbar — who Shea called “one of the most technically gifted players in the county” last year — has controlled the midfield and created scoring opportunities for the past three seasons. In net, Hutchison rarely allows shots to escape her grasp. She posted 97 saves compared to seven goals allowed last season, good for the highest save percentage (93.1) in the league.
Other expected contributors include their two center backs (Geralis and junior Nicole Wright), as well as sophomore midfielder Jillian Ingram. There’s also the freshmen trio of defender Ashlyn Bonner, Julianna’s sister, forward Gia Johnson and Leah Williams; players Shea said should make immediate contributions.
A weakness with Wilde Lake last season was its lack of depth, which Shea said impacted her team’s ability to “push the pace.” Players wore down late in games and later in the year.
Entering this season, though, Shea does not see that being an issue.
“We have a top solid group, but a lot of our subs are just as good as our starters,” Shea said. “When we make a sub, it’s not like we are downgrading in any way. So, being able to put in subs more often, I think we’re going to be able to keep the tempo of the game up the entire game without kind of dropping off at the end.”
Right near the top of the county along with Wilde Lake should be the team that defeated the Wildecats twice last season — River Hill.
A year ago, the Hawks won their fifth state title in six years and 12th overall, making them the most-decorated high school girls soccer program in Maryland. Back-to-back losses to open the season gave way to a 17-game winning streak during which they finished undefeated in county play and secured regional and state crowns while outscoring their opponents 66-7. A 3-0 win over Hereford in the 2A state final served as a fitting end to a masterful campaign.
However, gone are the trio of captains that powered the Hawks to yet another crown. First-team All-Met midfielders Megan Chun and Victoria Tran are now playing at UMBC and Navy, respectively, while All-County defender Carly Wetzel has also graduated.
Their absence should not affect the Hawks’ ability to finish strikes, as they return first-team All-County selection Brigette Wang — who finished second in the county in goals (20) and points (44) last season — and varsity stalwart Jules Grasso. Song also expects to receive offensive production from freshman Allison Ratcliffe. Their defense should also be solid; with some combination of Sophia Elguera, Ashlee Hamer and Adriana Zakel teaming up with first-team All-County honoree Danielle Poindexter and freshman goalkeeper Caroline Duffy.
The uncertainty lies in the midfield, which Song likened to a “missing puzzle.” The Hawks have the necessary pieces but will be in a constant search for optimal combinations.
“Maybe this year it’ll be more of a combination instead of one person playing where Megan and Vic and Carly played all 80 minutes,” Song said. “We may have five people sharing that 80 minutes within five positions. That’s my goal this year.”
In addition to River Hill and Wilde Lake, county coaches believe Atholton, Centennial, Mt. Hebron and Reservoir will challenge for league supremacy.
Atholton, which finished 12-4 last season and won its first region title since 2004, should be competitive despite losing five of their six All-County selections.
The graduation of first-teamers Adrienne Vaughn, Katie Cardea and Victoria Huxtable hurts, as does the loss of defender Heather Wynne, who will miss the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). But the Raiders do bring back second-team forward Catalina Lennon and defenders Mary Kate Gelak and Delaney Ensor.
Coach Stephanie Stoutenborough expects to rely on these seniors for leadership and experience on a team that has seven underclassmen (five freshmen and two sophomores).
Centennial returns three of its four All-County players from a 9-6-1 squad: seniors Ashley Molz, McKenna Griffin and Ashley Deng. Molz, an American University commit, should once again be the team’s most consistent scorer, though Baxter maintains other players will have to step up and produce offensively. Griffin can also play up top but will likely roam the midfield along with sophomore Carolyn Desena.
Deng is back on defense, as is the Eagles’ goalkeeper duo of senior Courtney McVicker (Marshall) and junior Ashley Bilger. They’ll be crucial for a team that averaged three goals allowed in their six losses in 2017.
Mt. Hebron, which won 10 of its 15 matches last fall, will rely on its eight seniors for maturity and motivation, according to coach Tim Deppen. One of those players is Erin Halper, who will headline the offense along with fellow midfielder Alex Masse. As a freshman last season, Masse tallied 12 points (five goals and two assists) en route to making second-team All-County.
Reservoir brings back nearly everyone, which has coach Phil Ranker enthusiastic about his team’s potential. There’s the three All-County returnees — seniors Emily Dorn (defense) and Blair Vant Hoff (midfield/attack) and sophomore Kat Paris (attack) — plus a host of others. Senior Kennedy Hawkins and sophomore Monica Prince will assist in the midfield, and on defense, seniors Clara Janush and Kate Hyde will headline a unit secured nine shutouts in 16 games last season.
Howard underwent a rebuilding year in 2017 but has heightened expectations under second-year coach Laine Angle. Expect a host of upperclassmen to contribute for the Lions, who will learn a lot about themselves from playing River Hill and Wilde Lake to start the league slate.
Second-year coach Kudzai Dzimiri has a young team at Long Reach but believes toughness and a strong work ethic will allow the Lightning to build on last year’s 7-8 record.
There are five new coaches in the county: Jen Yahiro at Chapelgate, Christian von Rautenkranz at Glenelg, April Motaung at Hammond, Darius Qualls at Marriotts Ridge and Hassan Mostafa at Oakland Mills. Each will be looking to establish a culture at their respective school while striving for immediate success.
Glenelg Country, meanwhile, has made significant strides the past three seasons. This year’s seniors started their high school careers going undefeated and winning the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) C Conference championship. Next came a .500 record in the B Conference, then a 11-3 mark and the league No. 2 seed after that. This fall, the Dragons are excited to test themselves against A Conference competition.
Here’s a look at all 14 county teams entering the 2018 season:
*2017 first-team all-county; ^2017 second-team all-county
Coach: Stephanie Stoutenborough
2017 record: 8-3 county, 12-4 overall
Top players: Seniors Delaney Ensor (D/MF), Mary Kate Gelak (D), ^Catalina Lennon (F/MF) and Caroline Morton (F/MF); freshman Ava Morales (MF).
Quotable: “We are counting on the leadership and experience of our seniors to help us have another successful and competitive season. With their speed and foot skills, Catalina Lennon and Caroline Morton will create a lot of scoring opportunities for us on the attacking end. We have a solid defense returning led by Mary Kate Gelak and Delaney Ensor, who are strong and hard to break through. We have a lot of young talent on the roster with five freshmen and two sophomores and are looking for them to make an immediate impact on the field. Freshmen standout Ava Morales will add a spark to our midfield and help start our attack.” — coach Stephanie Stoutenborough
Coach: Steve Baxter
2017 record: 5-5-1, 9-6-1
Top players: Seniors *Ashley Deng, Courtney McVicker (GK) and ^Ashley Molz (MF/F); juniors Ashley Bilger (GK) and ^McKenna Griffin (MF); sophomore Carolyn Desena (MF).
Quotable: “I expect to have a balanced team, solid on both sides of the ball. Our defense will be led by senior goalkeeper Courtney Mcvicker and junior goalkeeper Ashley Bilger, who will also see plenty of time in goal. Our midfield will be led by senior Mckenna Griffin and sophomore Carolyn Desena. These two having a full season together should lead to increased offensive production out of our midfield compared to our last few years. Senior Ashley Molz proved her goal scoring ability last season when she was moved to forward about a third of the way through the season and led our team with 12 goals scored. Moltz and Griffin are interchangeable if necessary, but we are looking for and need some others to step up and improve our offensive production from a season ago.” - coach Steven Baxter
Coach: Christian von Rautenkranz
2017 record: 4-6-1, 6-9-1
Top players: Seniors Hope Grzebien (MF) and Madeline Nichols (MF); (D); junior Hallie Koele (D); sophomore Sarah Lathrop (MF); freshman Brianna Werner (F).
Quotable: “This is an important season for our team as we look to re-establish a competitive program in Howard County girls soccer. We will rely heavily on the leadership from returning midfielders Hope Grzebien, Madeline Nichols and defenders Hallie Koele and Josie Stubs as we look to integrate a strong group of freshman/sophomores that will make an immediate impact for our squad. Our goal is to improve throughout the season and to be playing our best soccer during a challenging county schedule and through the state playoffs.” - coach Christian von Rautenkranz
Coach: April Motaung
2017 record: 1-10, 1-14
Top players: Sophomores Ana Comen (F) and Camryn Johnson (D); freshman Laura Keister (MF).
Quotable: “Hammond is a young team looking to rebuild and develop. We're looking for leadership in the back from freshmen goalkeepers Caroline Schreier and Brooke Kohlheim, and center back, Camryn Johnson. Up front on the attack, we're hoping for scoring opportunities from midfielder and forward, Laura Keister and Ana Comen, respectively. We are working on developing and furthering foundational skills to improve the players technically and tactically, while building a cohesive team.” - coach April Motaung
Coach: Laine Angle
2017 record: 4-6-1, 6-7-1
Top players: Seniors Nicole Carney (D), Lauren Maynor (MF), Mya McConnell (GK) and Sam Metzger (F/MF); juniors Kelly Schluderberg (D/MF) and Isabella Kushner (D/MF); sophomore Danielle Campbell (MF).
Quotable: “Last year was a rebuilding year for our program. We’re coming into this season with a lot of potential and strong leadership in our returning players. The groundwork has been laid for the team to be very successful in county and in the postseason.” - coach Laine Angle
Coach: Kudzai Dzimiri
2017 record: 5-6, 7-8
Top players: Senior Gaby Cabrera (MF/F); junior ^Paige Rosenfeld (MF/F); sophomore Payton Holmes (D); freshman Hannah Williams (MF).
Quotable: “Seniors Riley Holmes, Julia Bonner, Karis Owens, Kaitlyn Carino, Sarah Justice, and Gaby Cabrera have all been members of Long Reach girls varsity soccer since their freshman year. With one season left, these girls — along with the rest of the seniors — are focused on taking this team to the next level through experience and guidance from one another. Under our senior captains’ leadership, there is no question that this team will test the boundaries of every school we encounter across Howard County. We can proudly admit that we have a fairly young team, but you cannot mistake that for our toughness and strong work ethic.” - coach Kudzai Dzimiri.
Coach: Darius Qualls
2017 record: 5-6, 8-7-1
Top players: Seniors Tyler Colburn (GK), Ashley Fisher (D), Victoria Hensh (MF), Jenna Kohler (F), Isabella McConnell (D) and Alyssa Wagner (MF); sophomores Jordyn Choe (MF) and Morgan Choe (D).
Quotable: “It is certainly an honor to have the opportunity to take over the Marriott's Ridge girls soccer program The players have embraced the challenge that it is time to move our program in a new direction. To reach our team objectives, notable senior captains Alyssa Wagner, Victoria Hensh, Jenna Kolher and Tyler Colburn and their teammates have devoted an incredible amount of hard work, commitment and dedication in preparation for league play. We are looking forward to getting the season underway.” - coach Darius Qualls.
Coach: Tim Deppen
2017 record: 7-3-1, 10-4-1
Top players: Senior Erin Halper (MF); sophomore ^Alex Masse (MF).
Quotable: “We have a large senior class this year (eight seniors) who are set to lead our team in maturity, motivation and talent. In addition, we have an extremely strong group of underclassmen who are hungry to perform and contribute to making our team successful. This season should be defined by our ability to work together as a team and play for each other.” - coach Tim Deppen
Coach: Hassan Mostafa
2017 record: 0-11, 0-15
Top players: Seniors ^Kerry Browne (F), Sumaya Elkashif (D), Madison Greenberg (MF), Liz Negrea (MF/D) and Jordan Navarro (GK); junior Haley Barham (D).
Quotable: “Our team this year has a nice blend of strong younger girls as well as experienced older players in the program. After a rough couple of years, the attitude around the team is very good, and having a strong core group of girls this year is what will make our team go. I truly believe this team can be very dangerous come October, and we are going to focus on the little things this year as well as taking things game by game. We will have a larger team than last year with girls who are going to be stepping up into new roles. Should be a fun year as we look to get Oakland Mills back on track.” - coach Hassan Mostafa
Coach: Phil Ranker
2017 record: 5-5-1, 9-6-1
Top players: Seniors Maya Budzinski (MF/D), Emily Dorn (D), Clara Janush (D), Kate Hyde (MF/D), Kennedy Hawkins (MF/F) and Blair Vant Hoff (MF/F); sophomores Kat Parris (F) and Monica Prince (MF).
Quotable: “I am excited to see the kind of team we can become. While we have a lot of senior leadership on the team, we are still extremely young and will be counting on roughly eight to 10 underclassmen to contribute heavily to our season. Once everyone gels together, I am looking forward to the product we put on the field this year and seeing what kind of noise we can make in the county.” - coach Phil Ranker
Coach: Brian Song
2017 record: 11-0, 17-2 (county champions; 2A state champions)
Top players: Seniors Jules Grasso (F/GK), *Danielle Poindexter (D) and *Brigette Wang (F); freshman Caroline Duffy (GK).
Quotable: “The team chemistry will be very critical this year on and off the field, as we lost some key players and their leadership. The returning players need to step up in order to have a successful season.” - coach Brian Song
Coach: Megan Shea
2017 record: 8-2-1, 12-3-1
Top players: Seniors *Julianna Bonner (F), *Lily Dunbar (MF) and *Jenna Hutchison (GK); juniors *Angie Geralis (D) and Nicole Wright (D); sophomore Jillian Ingram (MF).
Quotable: “Wilde Lake is returning a lot of experience from last season, as well as adding some great new talent. We possess the ability to push the pace of the game, and with the added depth this year, we will hopefully maintain that pressure throughout each game and the entire season. The team had a very successful season last year, but I know they will be pushing themselves to be even better this year.” - coach Megan Shea
Coach: Jen Yahiro
2017 record: 0-10 IAAM C Conference, 0-13
Top players: Seniors Halle Houck (GK/MF) and Abby Morsberger (D/MF); junior Sage Christianson (D/MF).
Quotable: “We have a lot of returning players this season, as well as a few talented transfers. I anticipate having a strong defensive unit this year.” - Jen Yahiro
Coach: Christy Cole
2017 record: 10-2 IAAM B Conference, 11-3
Top players: Seniors Brianna Chun (D), Taylor Denny (MF) and Addie Schmidt (MF); sophomore Ava Swartz (F).
Quotable: “Moving to the A Conference this fall will provide challenges, but we are excited at the prospect of competing at the very highest level in the league. We will look to our six seniors to provide the necessary leadership and work ethic as we enter the season with a very young but talented team.”