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2000 All-Howard County soccer teams

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The girls

Player of the Year

Shannon Jackson, River Hill: Jackson is the complete package. She is a skilled, determined competitor who understands the game as well as anyone, and is a tremendous role model off the field. "She's just a good all-around player," said River Hill coach Joan Kelso Smedley. "The younger players look up to her because she is a good example on and off the field." Jackson, a senior forward who has verbally committed to a soccer scholarship from Towson, finished with a team-high 16 goals and 10 assists as the unbeaten Hawks earned their second straight Class 3A state title. She had 11 goals and 11 assists last year. "She can score and can also distribute the ball very well," Smedley said. "She also has speed and excellent ball control, but her ability to score is probably her biggest asset." Jackson, an All-County softball pitcher, has a 3.96 GPA, having received one B during her sophomore year.

Co-Coaches of the Year

Joan Kelso Smedley, River Hill: "Every player on our team is a good soccer player," Smedley said. "The challenge is to put the best team on the field." And Smedley did that, directing the top-ranked Hawks to a perfect season (18-0) and second straight Class 3A state title. "What's nice is that I had many options on the starting lineup. It was easy for me to change the lineup around and still be successful." Smedley played soccer at Wilde Lake before graduating in 1985, and later played at Maryland. When River Hill opened in 1996, she coached the JV for two years. The Hawks are 49-4-1 in her three years as varsity coach. "This has been a great year," Smedley said. "We had a group of girls that got along on and off the field. And when they get along, that makes my job 10 times easier." Mike Williams, Glenelg: In his eighth season, Williams directed the seventh-ranked Gladiators (14-3-2) to their second straight state title (Class 1A) and third in four years. "It's been a great year," said Williams, whose team set a number of school records. "It was the first year we were ranked in the Sun poll from the get-go and stayed there all year." Williams said this year's team was "probably the most talented team we've ever had." Williams, who also serves as the school's athletic director, said assistant coach Dean Sheridan deserves much of the credit. "It's always fun for me to coach because I get to work with Dean," Williams said. "There's a lot of things I trust him to." Sheridan has assisted Williams all eight seasons.

First Team

Megan Buescher, River Hill: The 6-foot sophomore marking back has the longest throw-in in the county, and eight of her 12 assists came that way. But sometimes overlooked is her strong defensive ability. "She's improved a lot this year," said Smedley, the River Hill coach. "She's a smart player and thinks about what she needs to do." Smedley added that Buescher is "able to win balls in the air and on the ground. She has quick reflexes and saved us a couple of time in the playoffs."

Kelsey Cronin, River Hill: A repeat first-team selection, Cronin played forward, midfield and defense this season. "She played any position we asked her to play," said Smedley, the River Hill coach. Cronin started the season at sweeper before getting hurt. She returned at midfield, and occasionally played up top. Cronin finished with five goals and two assists. An aggressive player with solid skills, Cronin could spark the offensive as well as be a dominant force on defense.

Jen Fields, Glenelg: The senior midfielder, a three-year varsity player, set a school record for career points with 74 (23 goals, 28 assists). This season, Fields, who topped Jen Ryan's career mark of 71 points, had 12 goals and nine assists. "She has great vision and was our quarterback in the middle," said Williams, the Glenelg coach. "You could count on her to create or finish a goal for us." Injured much of last season, Fields rebounded to have "a great year," Williams said.

Sarah Hobart, Wilde Lake: Sidelined by injuries much of her first three years, the senior goalkeeper played the entire season, and not surprisingly, the 15th-ranked Wildecats enjoyed their best record (10-4-3) in years. "She's an amazingly strong technical player," Wilde Lake coach Marcy Leonard said. "She covers the entire goal and directed our defense." Hobart had 125 saves. "She kept us in games," Leonard added.

Katie Kirley, Glenelg: A senior forward, Kirley recorded 16 goals this season to tie the school record (Jen Ryan had 16 in 1981), and she finished her career with 71 points (28 goals, 15 assists), tying Ryan for second place. Her 41 points this season (16 goals, nine assists) was a school record. "Finishing is an art, and more than any other player, she had it," Williams said. Kirley had seven game-winning goals, including the lone goal that gave the Gladiators their second straight Class 1A state title over Williamsport. Williams made Kirley a captain midway through the season at the urging of her teammates.

Lindsay Lewis, Glenelg: "She's a fierce competitor who hates to lose," said Williams of his junior stopper whose nickname is "The Boss." Lewis used her quickness, skill and determination to become one of the county's top defenders. But she also used those same qualities to help the Gladiators on offense. "She was like our fifth midfielder," Williams said. "She is a tremendous player who could play in different spots." Lewis had a game-winning goal against Oakland Mills.

Maria Masciantonio, River Hill: A repeat first-team pick and the only four-year varsity player on River Hill, Masciantonio solidified the midfield. "There is a calmness that she has when she plays that the other players around her pick up," said Smedley, the River Hill coach. Masciantonio, who often played through injuries, has solid skills and is excellent with her head. "She's very steady," Smedley said. Masciantonio finished with four goals and eight assists.

Julie Napolitano, Mount Hebron: Despite missing five games because of an ankle sprain, the junior midfielder tied for team highs in goals (eight) and assists (three). Napolitano, a repeat first-team selection, is a member of the 16-under U.S. national team. "She is a competitive, hard-nosed player that plays aggressively but in the restraints of the game," Mount Hebron coach Jonathan Davis said.

Erica Niemann, Centennial: A repeat first-team selection, Niemann is "a strong presence in the goal and solidifies our defense," Centennial coach Mike Senisi said. A senior, Niemann used her height (5-11), agility and smarts to record 110 saves and help the Eagles (10-4-1) tally eight shutouts. "She makes the tough saves when she has to," Senisi added.

Carolyn Schmid, Centennial: A hard-working, smart player who plays through pain, Schmid led the Eagles' defense from her sweeper position. "She's a very versatile player," said Senisi, the Centennial coach. "She starts our transition, runs down loose balls and is great in the air." A senior, Schmid is a two-time first-team selection.

Jackie Taubman, Wilde Lake: The senior forward led the Wildecats with 13 goals and 11 assists. "She has the best field vision of any kid I've coached," Wilde Lake coach Marcy Leonard said. Taubman's skills and speed made her a threat to score. And she always was trying to get the Wildecats to play their best.

Kelly Thomas, Wilde Lake: "She knows how to put the ball in the back of the net when it counts," said Leonard, the Wilde Lake's coach, about the 5-11 Thomas, who had eight goals and six assists. Thomas, a junior midfielder, had game-winning goals against Hammond, Centennial and Oakland Mills and a tying goal against Glenelg. Thomas, who assisted on a game-winning goal against Howard, has a strong foot and anchored the Wilde Lake middle.

Fana Walcott, River Hill: A forward last season, Walcott played some midfield and defense this season before finding a home at sweeper. A sophomore, Walcott has excellent speed, solid skills and a good sense of the game. "She is very graceful and makes anything look pretty easy," said Smedley, the River Hill coach. "She has the ability to get to the ball wherever it is, and distributes it well."

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