For Oakland Mills senior Kelly Naylor, an All-America field hockey goalie with an athletic scholarship to Stanford University, her senior ice hockey season finally might fulfill one of her last high school goals.
"I've never won a county championship in any sport and with the exception of last spring's lacrosse team, never played for any other [varsity] team that finished with a record better than .500," said Naylor, the only senior on the Oakland Mills club ice hockey team that finished 7-3 a year ago.
The Scorpions' four-year starting defenseman and her younger teammates clinched a winning record Tuesday night with a crucial 7-3 win over rival Atholton (3-3-2) at Columbia Ice Rink.
Oakland Mills' victory over the Raiders, who tied the Scorpions earlier this season, all but wrapped up the Scorpions' first Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Central Division title.
Oakland Mills (5-2-1) moved into a first-place tie with perennial division winner Centennial (5-2-1), but the Scorpions hold the playoff-berth advantage with a 5-4 win over the Eagles in mid-December.
Centennial has games left against defending MSHL champion and co-Southern Division leader DeMatha White (7-0-1) and Atholton, and Oakland Mills faces off against Hammond (4-4) and Wilde Lake (0-8) in the MSHL's final two weeks.
The league's playoff semifinals are Feb. 23-24 at Piney Orchard.
"It really has been a neck-and-neck race this year with either us, Centennial or Atholton in position to take the division," Oakland Mills coach Bill Campbell said. "Our success may be attributed to a few teams getting a little weaker and us getting physically bigger."
Campbell's son Jon, a junior defenseman with eight goals and eight assists in eight games, is a perfect example, having grown from 6 feet 2, 180 pounds to 6-4, 210 since last winter.
"We started a lot of sophomores last year and I think we finally physically matured," said the younger Campbell. "Last year we missed the playoffs by one game and that was because of our loss to Centennial. This year that game was our No. 1 concern."
Since the win over Centennial, Oakland Mills' only setbacks have been to DeMatha Blue (5-3) and Northern Division leader Mount St. Joseph (7-0).
"We lost to DeMatha Blue, 4-3, but even their coach said after the game that if you saw the highlights you would have thought we won easily," said Bill Campbell, who credited Stags goalie Phil Roache (Ellicott City) for thwarting the Scorpions' potent attack.
Oakland Mills' offense is led by junior center forward Tim Williamson, the team's leading scorer (10 goals, 10 assists) with two hat tricks and who also can be a playmaker (three assists in one game).
Junior forward John Wylie (one goal, eight assists), sophomore forward Matt Rawlay (five goals, two assists), sophomore forward Barry Parker (five goals, one assist) and sophomore defenseman Ron Olson provide the nucleus for an MSHL championship challenge that might be a year away from fruition.
Sophomore Tony Uccelini (10 goals, 10 assists) leads the Scorpions' second-line assault on opposing goalies and, together with Campbell and Williamson, plays for the Capital Beltway League's Tri-City Eagles (Midget A).
"Our Tri-City team has already played in tournaments in Detroit, Lake Placid [N.Y.] and Sweden this winter that have really helped step our game up to another level," said Campbell, who along with Williamson was invited last July to try out for the Junior A League Saginaw (Mich.) Gears.
Oakland Mills senior goalie Iggy Levelev also has grown into one of the area's best (248 shots, 85.5 save percentage) since being talked into playing the sport his freshman year.
"Iggy's been incredible," said Bill Campbell. "He stopped 42 shots in our loss to Mount St. Joseph. In this league, a solid goalie is often the difference between wins and losses."
Levelev, whose family emigrated from Odessa in the Ukraine to Baltimore when he was 2 months old, had played only street hockey before joining the Scorpions and considers lacrosse to be his ticket to college.
"The team really needed a goalie my freshman year so I volunteered," he said. "I do it to stay in shape, keep my reflexes sharp for lacrosse. With guys like John, Tim and Tony shooting so hard in practice, it makes me that much quicker in reacting."
Naylor, who carries a 4.0 GPA (1,370 SAT) and turned down field hockey offers from Harvard and Michigan, said the team's success has been more than just physical growth spurts.
"We've got more juniors taking on leadership roles on the ice and everybody, from parents to players, providing a lot of support for each other," Naylor said. "It's made this season really enjoyable for me as the only senior."