Purcell, Centennial aim for championship repeat Mount Hebron could offer challenge for the Eagles; LOCAL SPORTS: HIGH SCHOOL FIELD HOCKEY PREVIEW


Twelve years ago, Jodi Stone viewed Gail Purcell and Ginger Kincaid as nothing more than opposing coaches. They coached the field hockey teams at Centennial and Glenelg, respectively. Stone was a senior at rival Mount Hebron, and on her way to becoming a first-team all-county sweeper.

A dozen years later, Stone no longer looks at Purcell and Kincaid just as coaches.

She calls them legends.

"I hope I can last as long as they do," said Stone, who will coach River Hill this season after five years as the junior varsity coach at Atholton. "The programs they keep developing are excellent. I have a lot of respect for them -- a lot. They're great role models."

Purcell and Kincaid are in their 20th seasons coaching field hockey. Kincaid, who still plays the sport for a Baltimore club team, first coached at Glenelg in 1975. After a two-year absence, she returned in 1978. Purcell began at Centennial in 1977.

"It means I'm getting old," said Purcell, whose teams have won six county, three region and, last year, Howard County's first state field hockey title. "I guess it says that I absolutely love the girls that play field hockey. This has never been a chore. I do it because I love it, then they give me a paycheck on top of it."

Said Kincaid, whose teams have won eight county and three region championships: "It's the highlight of my day. It's the reason I get up in the morning. Fall is my favorite time, going back to school and having hockey."

And this fall is a little special for Kincaid because she is reunited with former Glenelg coach Liz Brigham.

Kincaid began coaching at Glenelg in 1975 when then-coach Brigham needed surgery and asked Kincaid to take over. Brigham returned to coach the 1976 and 1977 seasons, then quit when she adopted her daughter, Barbara. She recommended that Kincaid replace her.

Kincaid and Brigham have remained friends, and with Barbara now a freshman at Bridgewater (Va.) College, Kincaid knew Brigham had some free time. Kincaid asked Brigham, a 1964 graduate of Glenelg, to return to her alma mater as a volunteer assistant.

"It's fun to go back and help out and not be in charge," said Brigham, a physical education teacher at Dunloggin Middle School. "I hope to assist the kids in basic skills and to help them understand the concepts of the game."

Brigham also will work with junior varsity coach Anna Spring.

"She's [Brigham] a real motivator," said Kincaid. "She's the kind of person that will bring a lot of excitement and enthusiasm to the program."

Purcell was named Howard County and All-Metro Coach of the Year last season after directing the Eagles to the Class 3A state title. The Eagles, getting 26 saves from goalie Becca Armiger, defeated previously undefeated Fallston, 1-0, in double overtime the final.

The Eagles graduated a lot of talent from last year's team, including county Player of the Year Liz Sturm. Still, Centennial, which has gone 19-1-1 against county opposition the past three seasons, is the team most coaches pick as the one to beat.

"I really don't believe there is a so-called favorite," said Purcell, whose team began last season 2-3-1 before finishing 11-4-2. "Any team can beat the other. Hockey is one of those sports where the best team always doesn't win."

Christine Davies, one of five returning starters for Centennial, said that even though this year's team doesn't have individual stars like the past, the Eagles will be formidable.

"We definitely see a lot of good things," said Davies.

Mount Hebron could give Centennial its toughest challenge. The teams play each other on the final day of the regular season.

The Vikings were 10 minutes away from winning the county title on the final day of the regular season last year when they led Glenelg, 3-0. But the Vikings collapsed as Glenelg scored three goals to tie the game in regulation, then win it in overtime. The Vikings finished 5-2 in the county and in third place.

"We all know that it slipped out of our hands," said Mount Hebron coach Jeannette Ireland, whose team will play its home games on campus rather than at Patapsco Middle School as in the past. "We've talked about it, and about mental toughness. To be a good as last year we have to work harder. But there is no reason we can't be better."

The county's newest teams -- River Hill and Long Reach -- won't have seniors. River Hill, thanks to some good talent from Atholton and Glenelg, could surprise some teams. Long Reach, with no players having varsity experience, will build for the future.

Pub Date: 8/29/96

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