Chesapeake's formula for success is rebuilding with a winner

It wasn't supposed to happen this way, though no one in Pasadena is complaining.

They may be a bit mystified by it all, but they're not complaining.


When you subtract an All-County defender, a couple of quality midfielders and a center-forward who possesses your single-season and career-scoring records, logic says you aren't supposed to improve.

Apparently, logic isn't a good judge of field hockey talent.


Chesapeake coach Jerry Raab said before the season began that this could be a rebuilding year for her Cougars, who lost to Queen Anne's in the region semifinals last year -- then lost 10 players to graduation.

So what are the Cougars doing with a 5-0 record and a 12-0 edge in scoring over their opponents? Raab, in her 17th season, smiles, shrugs her shoulders and begins talking about team chemistry and how Chesapeake hasn't gotten into the "meat" of its schedule.

Her newest assistant coach, former Cougars All-County defender Carver Ports, gives some of the credit to more balanced scoring. Senior Natalie Schmitz mentions the close friendships. Senior Jaimie Schlick says the Cougars have "heart."

Whatever the reasons, Chesapeake has been one of the area's biggest surprises -- in any sport.

Broadneck, which regularly shows up in the playoffs -- though it slipped to 4-7-2 last year -- found out how good Chesapeake was NTC last week, when the Cougars posted a 4-0 win.

The Bruins had begun the season ranked No. 11 in The Baltimore Sun's poll with 20 returning players. Chesapeake still hadn't cracked the top 15 when the two teams met. No one expected Chesapeake to wind up a 4-0 winner.

"We knew we had the talent to be competitive, but . . " Raab said. "They're really amazing us, every day."

"There are no stars," Ports said. "They're gelling as a team."


Monica Gibson was a certified star last season, when she scored 14 goals and had five assists in being named second-team All-State and The Baltimore Sun's Player of the Year in Anne Arundel County. She left with 26 career goals, but she hasn't left much of a void.

"When someone was playing Chesapeake last year, they might have covered Monica, shut her down and there goes the team," said Ports, who coaches the defense. "Now, they can't do that. Everyone can score."

Chesapeake opened with a 2-0 win over Howard. The Cougars edged Archbishop Spalding, 1-0, and routed South River, 4-0. Then came Broadneck and more respect for a team that was supposed to be starting over. "I have 21 players, and I could play any group. I've never had a team like that," Raab said.

Goalkeepers Holly Colajezzi, a junior, and Courtney Mills, a sophomore, have split the playing time. "I couldn't tell you which goalie is better," Raab said.

Schlick and Schmitz have been exceptional on defense -- more than making up for the loss of standout Nicole Merzendorf to graduation. Schlick also has one goal and two assists.

Eight players have scored, led by junior Emily Plenge with four goals and two assists. Senior Jen Lewis has three goals and two assists, senior Tonya Buckmaster has two goals and an assist, juniors Jena Sullivan and Cammie Owens have a goal and an assist, and seniors Mandy Hart and Tara Morgan have a goal. Senior Angie Hudgins and juniors Jamie Suski and Laura Hemmings have one assist.


Owens hadn't scored until Friday's 3-0 win over North County, but Raab says her stickwork, speed and hustle have gotten the ball downfield and led to numerous goals.

"They're the nicest group of kids," Raab said. "One of them who scored came back and said, 'You know, so-and-so had her stick on the ball with me. Can I share it with her?' They're a neat group of kids."

Raab's best season was in 1983, when Chesapeake went 10-2 and reached the state semifinals. She won't speculate if the Cougars can do better this year. Or if they stand a chance against No. 1 Severna Park on Thursday.

Raab said, "As long as they continue to work hard and play competitively, I'll be happy with them."