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Lazris of Wilde Lake earns Howard County girls soccer Player of the Year honors

When Rachel Lazris came in as a freshman to the Wilde Lake girls soccer program she made an immediate impact on the field. But she, along with her fellow senior class, had an even bigger influence off the field, as they helped change a culture of the program.

"I think that as freshmen when they came in they really changed the culture of the team so that as they got older, every year that they came back, they were empowering female athletes and athletes at Wilde Lake to be proud of the soccer team and want to be apart of this family that they all helped to create," said Wildecats' coach Davia Procida. "Especially Rachel helped create, ever since they were in ninth grade."

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In Lazris' final season this fall, she led the Wildecats to a county championship, a 2A North regional title and a spot in the 2A state championship game — only the third trip in program history and first since 2007.

Girls Soccer Final Standings

"I've been playing for a really long time and I feel like as the years have gone by I've improved. My freshman year I didn't try to stand out, I just tried to support other players and I got confident enough to take initiative myself if I needed to," said Lazris, who was named this year's Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls soccer Player of the Year. "We are never the team people think are going to go far, but in the past couple years we thought we had the capabilities to do that. This year we had a really good freshmen class come in and all six of the seniors were playing together for a long time, so everything just connected. From the beginning of the season we said our goal was to win states and a county championship."

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Lazris always played a vital role for Wilde Lake, but this season the midfielder led her team with 27 points (12 goals, three assists), which ranked third in the county. Her 12 goals were tied for first in the league with Centennial's Reese Western.

Girls Soccer final stats

"I think I had a lot of confidence this year, more than I've ever had playing soccer," Lazris said. "I had always played defense before high school started, so I never had an offensive mindset. So I think this year I really hit the idea of trying to score goals, because normally I'm not the person who does that. The young players also needed to have leadership, so I needed to set a good example for the younger people. I guess I wanted to lead by example so everyone would follow along."

In 2015, she helped the Wildecats have one of the most successful seasons in program history, finishing with a 16-2-1 overall mark and succumbing just one loss in county play. After suffering an early-season defeat, Wilde Lake went on a 14-game winning streak heading into the state championship game against Fallston. However, as hard as the Wildecats played, they eventually lost in devastating fashion — on a penalty kick midway through the second half.

All-County girls soccer

"We still all talk about it," Lazris said of the 1-0 loss. "It was definitely a frustrating game. It didn't go how we wanted it to go. But we also reflect on it — and we also had an amazing season, so we kind of focused on that and we don't let that one game ruin it. And it's not like one team was dominating another team. It was a good game and the outcome wasn't in our favor."

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Through Wilde Lake's remarkable run, maybe its biggest and most thrilling win came against Atholton late in the season with the county title on the line. The Wildecats walked away as county champs thanks to Sydney McNamara's overtime-winner.

A questionable call in the box, resulted in a Fallston penalty kick early in the second half. The Cougars buried the shot and the goal ended up being the decider Saturday, as Wilde Lake fell in the 2A state championship 1-0

"I think playing at states was a great experience, (but) my highlight would probably be winning counties," Lazris said. "I remember once we got the goal in overtime, everyone was just so happy. I just remember jumping up in the air and screaming. We did a huge dog-pile and I guess it was just surreal almost, because all the seniors have been wanting that since our freshmen year and the fact that we were finally able to get it our senior year was just such an amazing feeling."

Lazris and fellow seniors Brynn Drury, Kate Glaros and Annie Hudec were all on varsity since they entered high school. Their freshmen year, was the first year Procida took the reigns of the program, which struggled to win games before she took over in 2011. The addition of Kristen Edwards, Amy Radcliffe and Gabrielle Swain the following year set up a strong core of six seniors entering 2015, which helped acclimate the talented freshmen class the Wildecats fielded this year.

Wilde Lake methodically worked the ball up the right side to earn a corner kick, freshman Lily Dunbar sent a low ball through to the far post for junior Sydney McNamara, who put home the game-winner just 2:11 into the first overtime period to give the Wildecats a thrilling 2-1 overtime win over the No. 12 Raiders.

"I was so glad I got the team I did for my last year, because I'm just going to look back and remember this team. It was just the greatest team I've ever been on," Lazris said. "We're all best friends on the field and off the field, in soccer and out of soccer, so just to experience all of that with them just made it so much better because I was with all my favorite people. And coach Pro, I think her first year was my first year in high school, so we kind of got to grow together. We all love her and I think she loves us. So it was great to do it with the people that we really love."

Lazris finishes a decorated campaign with the Wildecats, leading her team in points and goals for two straight seasons. She was also named Wilde Lake's most outstanding player and a received first-team all-state recognition in 2015.

"She's definitely always been a leader," Procida said. "When she was a freshman, we had some really good vocal leaders and I think she inherited that. We're huge on also leading by example, and I think she was a big part of leading by example in that aspect. Her confidence is really what has grown since the time she was in ninth grade. She makes sure she doesn't get down on herself, and if she misses a shot or something she doesn't hang her head. She's the first one to get back to get the ball back."

But what may be the most impressive aspect of Lazris' game is how she has managed to stay on the field. Through being a four-year starter, she has played nearly every minute of every contest since coming on her freshman year.

Wilde Lake knock off Marriotts Ridge, 2-0, during the 2A North girls soccer regional semifinal match Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Because she was so physically fit and held herself accountable for that, she never missed a game I don't think," Procida said. "She never was hurt, which is huge because she is extremely aggressive. And you know, injuries happen, but at the same time she took the time to make sure she was ready for the season so that she didn't have to put her team in the position to not have her on the field."

As her Wildecats career comes to an end, Lazris is looking forward to playing soccer at the collegiate level, as she is committed to Dickinson College.

"I think she'll be extremely successful," Procida added. "She takes pride in her academics and she plays soccer because she loves to. I can't wait to see what she does. She has the whole world ahead of her and I know she's going to be great."

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