Player of the Year
Meghann Bush, Chesapeake: As stout as the Cougars' defense was this season, a significant contribution to that success was the play of Bush. The senior registered 138 saves and allowed just eight goals in 15 games, powering Chesapeake to its first Class 4A East Regional championships since 1995. Bush's ability to move from post to post with surprising quickness frequently led to her making some eye-opening stops, including a couple butterfly-style saves in the state semifinal against Quince Orchard. A team captain who led off the field, too, Bush credited her defense with helping her record an enjoyable senior season. "You have to be on edge for all 60 minutes and communicate with your defense," she said. "If you do those things, you're doing something right." Cougars coach Jerry Taylor called Bush "the backbone of the team." This is her second straight selection to the All-County team, and Bush was selected to the All-State first team last year.
Coach of the Year
Jerry Taylor, Chesapeake: Taylor was able to do what many coaches dream of: ride out their career on a high note. Taylor guided the Cougars to an 11-3-2 record and their fourth regional title since she founded the field hockey program in 1977. Taylor, who played field hockey at Archbishop Spalding and Towson, finished her 25-year career just one victory shy of the 200 mark (199-109-23), but she's not depressed about falling short of that goal. Supporters of the field hockey program surprised Taylor with a retirement banquet two weeks ago that included 250 guests, some of whom were former players and assistant coaches. "I cried the whole night," Taylor said, adding that she and her husband stayed up until 2 a.m. to read cards from her supporters. "I'm really proud to see that we pulled off a regional championship. It meant a lot to me to end my career like that."
Mandy Bathras, Chesapeake: One of the first things observers notice about Bathras is her hard, low shot off free hits and penalty corners. But the junior midfielder -- who posted five goals and four assists -- also honed her stickwork to the point where she could easily weave through traffic in the midfield and send a pass to an open teammate in the circle. Without Bathras -- a two-year varsity starter -- the Cougars dropped a 2-1 decision to Broadneck. With her, Chesapeake ousted the Bruins by the same score in the regional final.
Kelli Bowerman, Severna Park: If there was a "hardest shot" contest like the one at the NHL All-Star Weekend, Bowerman might be a favorite to reach the final. The senior defender could crank it with the best of them and was the Falcons' favorite on penalty corners. She registered nine goals and seven assists and anchored a defensive unit that recorded 10 shutouts. Said Severna Park coach Lil Shelton of Bowerman's shots: "When she gets hold of it and gets a good drive, it's indefensible."This is Bowerman's third straight appearance on the All-County team, and she was an All-Metro choice last season.
Erin Brady, Archbishop Spalding: Like a traffic cop in the middle of the busiest urban intersection, Brady could control the pace on the field. The senior sweeper frequently represented the last line of defense between the opponent and Cavaliers goalkeeper Kristin Schwartzmeyer. Brady was credited with three stick saves and thrilled fans with her ability to stop the ball in the circle and dribble it out of harm's way. Brady is leaning toward playing at Sacred Heart in Connecticut.
Erin Burns, Broadneck: It didn't happen often, but if the Bruins were caught napping on the defensive end, Burns stepped forward to prevent catastrophe. The senior defender proved exceptional at reading plays as they developed and moving into position to make the interception. Burns, who had a knack for clearing the ball to a teammate, registered two assists and was a team captain who started on the varsity team for the past three years. Said Broadneck coach Phoebe Kelly of Burns: "I wish I had 10 of her."
Kristin Cousin, South River: Opposing players knew they were in trouble when they saw No. 13 charging out of the cage. Cousin was a fiery blend of flexibility and aggressiveness who recorded 86 saves and allowed just seven goals in 13 games. The senior goalkeeper had two memorable outings, turning away 29 shots in a scoreless tie against Severna Park and blocking 17 attempts in a 2-1 win against Broadneck. Towson and Appalachian State are interested in the two-year varsity starter.
Brooke Dieringer, St. Mary's: The "SM" on Dieringer's jersey could've stood for "scoring machine." The senior attack led all county players in goals scored (18) this fall. A hard-nosed player who didn't mind mixing it up to gain possession, Dieringer demonstrated a delicate finesse to dodge opposing defenders and move into position to score. A two-year varsity starter who began playing field hockey during her sophomore season, Dieringer plans to play lacrosse at North Carolina.
Jen Gens, Severn: "Versatile" was the adjective Admirals coach Carolyn Abruzzo used to describe Gens. The senior defender was adept at anticipating an opponent's move and maintaining possession until a teammate became open. But Gens also showed off good passing skills, especially when crossing the ball from the left sideline to the middle of the field. Abruzzo would often move Gens, who scored a goal, to the midfield to take advantage of her crisp passes. Gens was a four-year varsity starter and a team captain for the past two seasons.
Tara Grinnage-Pulley, Broadneck: Grinnage-Pulley earned perhaps her coach's best compliment when Kelly called her "my most consistent player." The senior midfielder was as tenacious as she was strong. She balanced an ability to strip the ball from opposing attack players with a field vision to find a teammate in the circle. Grinnage-Pulley, a two-year varsity starter who owns a 4.0 grade-point average and is a National Merit Scholar, recorded two goals and three assists for the Bruins.
Erin Kelly, Archbishop Spalding: It's hard to believe that Kelly is just a sophomore, but she played past her physical age this fall. In the attack role, Kelly posted a team-leading 17 goals and 13 assists -- good enough to lead all county players in total points this season. Blessed with an innate sense of finding gaps in the opposing defense, Kelly also used her speed to out-race three or four defenders to the ball. Kelly was named to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland All-Star Team.
Jen King, Chesapeake: If Bush didn't see many dangerous situations, King played a large role in that. The junior sweeper settled in the defensive zone with Bush and tended to clean up any mistakes her teammates made. King's stickwork and consistency were a bonus for the Cougars, and her role grew in significance when Bathras missed a few games. King, a two-year varsity starter, should be a solid presence for Chesapeake again next fall.
Natalie Kopack, Broadneck: Kopack made her final season of high school field hockey a memorable one. The senior attack recorded a team-best 16 goals and four assists for the Bruins. A two-year varsity player, Kopack refined her stickwork and became proficient at carrying the ball down the right sideline before any opponents could catch her. Broadneck coach Phoebe Kelly compared Kopack to a "choo-choo train that couldn't stop."
Evelyn Long, South River: An All-County lacrosse player last spring, Long made the transition to field hockey and excelled. The senior midfielder recorded four goals and five assists, but her value to the Seahawks increased as she provided stability in their transition game. With her foot speed, Long could catch an opposing attack player or start a fast break on the other end. The three-year varsity player and team captain will likely focus on lacrosse in college.
Emily Swartz, Severna Park: The Falcons had a bevy of goal scorers in their system, but their most potent was Swartz. The senior attack registered 16 goals and 12 assists and had a hand in 40 percent of the 70 goals scored by Severna Park. Swartz, who earned her second straight appearance on the All-County team, was the team's primary stopper on penalty corners, but also could take the shot if she desired. "In the circle, she's unbeatable," said Falcons coach Lil Shelton.