When Oakland Mills and Centennial line up to do battle in girls soccer next fall, I'll be watching with a wistful sense of loss.
I imagine the girls on both teams will feel the same way.
The two people who have coached those teams so successfully for many years won't be on the sidelines stirring up the sense of competitive fervor that makes playing and watching sports so much fun.
Oakland Mills Coach Cynthia Odell, 46, the winningest girls soccer coachin county history, announced last week she is retiring from coachingafter 12 years and 123 victories. Her teams lost 29 and tied nine.
Last January, Centennial's Ray Mayrovitz, 68, died unexpectedly from a blood clot. He left behind a 73-20-4 coaching record.
It feelslike a couple of faces suddenly fell off Mount Rushmore. You kind ofjust expected them to be around forever.
Coaches who exhibit character are usually good leaders. Odell
and Mayrovitz fit the bill. They not only had character, they were characters. The combination iswonderful. Never boring.
Odell's feisty, yet feminine. She uses her emotion to fight for what she believes in and to protect those sheloves. Sometimes she allows emotion to rule her reason. But sports does that to a lot of people.
And she's bubbly. During a game she was like a bottle of soda pop shaken up, ready to explode if the cap were removed. Sometimes it was.
Mayrovitz was as feisty a coach as I've ever watched. He'd roam the sidelines like a bantam rooster, every inch of his 5-foot-5 frame devoted to squeezing the best effort from his team.
His voice crowed incessantly during big games and sometimes gave out by halftime.
What terrific fun it was to watch those two coaches go at one another during a game. The Centennial-Oakland Mills matchup was one I tried never to miss.
They were two of the most enthusiastic coaches you'll ever meet. They loved to talk about their teams.
Mayrovitz called me at home at night more than onceto find out scores of other games because he couldn't wait until themorning paper came out with them.
He used to call his girls "buckaroos." He truly cared about them as though they were his family. Andin a way they were.
He was retired, and coaching the team was a big thing in his life. He'd come up to the school hours before game-time just to be around the girls.
Odell also treated her players as family.
She coached many of the best players from around the county on a club team called the Princeton Blast.
She probably spent more time with the girls who played for both the Blast and for Oakland Mills than many people spend with their real family members.
Odellcoached her daughter, Kit Carson, who was Howard County Sun Player of the Year in 1989 and who now plays at the University of Arkansas.
Kit is one reason Odell retired after 12 years at Oakland Mills. She wants some time to watch her daughter play college ball without feeling guilty about neglecting the Oakland Mills team.
She also wants some time to spend with her mother, who is moving to the county from Florida.
Both coaches had auspicious final years at their helms.
Odell's team lost its first two games, but won 13 straight beforelosing to Severna Park in the state final, 2-1.
Two stars from that team, Mia Dammen and Stefanie Magro, played four years of varsity soccer, and every year the team won the county title.
In fact, Oakland Mills has won five straight county titles. Odell's teams won seven in 12 years plus six postseason titles, including the Bi-County in1982 and 1983, the Central Maryland Region in 1986 and 1987, and thestate/region in 1989.
Last year was the first time the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association held an official state girls soccer title because it was the first year enough counties played the sport.
Centennial went 10-3 in Mayrovitz's last year and challenged Oakland Mills for the county title but lost.
Mayrovitz coached seven years at Centennial, and his teams usually came out second-best to Oakland Mills.
But for the past two years he was rebuilding, and I know he was looking forward to getting the best of the Scorpions next year. Centennial should be one of the teams to beat.
But two new coaches, not yet named, will have to fill the shoes of Mayrovitz and Odell.
It will be a tough fit.