PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Severna Park, midfield
Since she got serious about field hockey in the ninth grade, Himmelheber has always aimed high. Her goal is to play on the national team, and her superb all-around game has earned her a big step in that direction - a scholarship offer from national champion Maryland. The Anne Arundel County Player of the Year committed to the Terrapins after considering offers from 20 Division I programs. Her smooth stickwork, powerful drive, good speed and game smarts along with a team-oriented approach set her above the rest. "Her stickwork is phenomenal," South River coach Katie Corcoran said, "but I think one of her best qualities is working extremely well with all of her teammates. She's a leader on the field. You always hear her." Himmelheber stood out on the offensive and defensive ends of the field as well as in transition, where she could control a game. She scored nine goals and had five assists in leading the No. 1 Falcons to Anne Arundel County and state Class 3A championships. Falcons coach Lil Shelton called Himmelheber the quarterback of her midfield. She excelled at distributing the ball, sending her passes straight to a teammate's stick or into space where they could run onto the ball. "She was the heart and soul of our team," Shelton said. "I couldn't take her off the field in the big games. She had a lot to do with both the explosiveness and the smoothness of the team." Himmelheber, who first tried field hockey in Shelton's juniors program at 8, has played in the U.S. Field Hockey Association's Futures Program for three years. She was a Junior Olympian in 2004 and was selected to the Futures Elite level last summer. She has played with the SPark field hockey club for the past four years. A second-team high school All-American last season, Himmelheber is a two-time first-team All-State selection.
COACH OF THE YEAR
In her 17th season as Vikings head coach, Ireland faced a daunting task. With only one healthy returning starter, her team lost its first two games by a combined 8-0. "At that point, I could not focus on winning as much as on improving and correcting mistakes," Ireland said. "As long as we did that, I knew we could turn it around." The Vikings lost their next two games, too, 2-1 in overtime to Fallston and Centennial. Ireland said the Centennial game was the turning point, because the players felt they had let it "slip away." After that, the Vikings won seven straight. They didn't lose again until meeting No. 1 Severna Park in the Class 3A East regional semifinal. They came close, but fell 1-0, finishing 10-5-1. "This is the most rewarding season I've ever coached, because we have come so far," said Ireland, who wasn't even sure she would return to the team after her husband, Dick Ireland, suffered a stroke in May, but he is recovering well. Ireland, the Howard County Coach of the Year for a third straight season, has a career record of 167-68-17.
South River, defense
A leader through her skill and intensity, the junior guided a defense that allowed only six goals during the regular season. She led the No. 5 Seahawks to the Anne Arundel County final, a 4-2 loss to No. 1 Severna Park, and to the state Class 4A final, a 1-0 loss to Quince Orchard that ended a two-year reign as state champions. The Seahawks' defense revolved around their speedy center back, and she directed it well. With fine stick skills, Battista excelled at clearing the ball out of the circle. She was a goalie's best friend, making five stick saves. Battista had a powerful drive and used it to set transition in motion for the Seahawks (16-4).
Bryn Mawr, midfield
The senior saved her best performance for last, scoring two goals to give the No. 3 Mawrtians a 2-1 upset of Garrison Forest for the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship. Known for her highly competitive streak, the Baltimore City Player of the Year scored three of her 11 goals in the postseason. A powerful and intimidating presence in the midfield, Emala sparked the transition game with skill and powerful hits. She was confident in her ability to do whatever the Mawrtians (16-3-1) needed, and that spread throughout the team. A first-team All-State field hockey selection, Emala signed early to play lacrosse at Virginia Tech.
Garrison Forest, forward
Hall may have been the toughest assignment for a defensive player this season. Skilled and unflappable, the senior excelled at moving the ball downfield and creating scoring chances for herself and teammates. She scored the only goal for the No. 4 Grizzlies (18-3) in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final, a 2-1 loss to Bryn Mawr. The Baltimore County Player of the Year finished with 14 goals and 12 assists. She demonstrated a fine blend of finesse, game smarts and poise. Hall gave most defenders fits with her ability to move the ball quickly and with her finely timed decisions on whether to go to goal or dish off. Named first-team All-State, she plans to play field hockey and lacrosse at the Division III level.
Severna Park, goalie
The only player returning from last year's All-Metro first team, Manuel continued to excel as the area's top keeper. The senior had a .911 save percentage and 13 shutouts while allowing only six goals as the No. 1 Falcons (18-0-1) won Anne Arundel and Class 3A state championships. She didn't see much action in the state final, but made 15 saves against No. 2 Fallston in the semifinal, a 1-0 overtime victory. Tough under pressure and the inspirational leader of the Falcons, Manuel was technically strong and exceptionally quick, but perhaps scrappier this season. She showed a fearless streak in getting low to try to stop the ball. She was named to the All-State first team.
Garrison Forest, midfield
Versatile enough to play anywhere on the field, Markowitz carved a niche in the Grizzlies' midfield, but she was all over the place. High on energy and quick on the ball, the skilled senior could start the play or finish it. She played on offensive and defensive corners and could play on the right or left side of the midfield. Markowitz scored four goals and had three assists as the No. 4 Grizzlies lost only one regular-season conference game and reached the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final. She was effective on the defensive end, where her rush at the player with the ball forced many hurried passes that Grizzlies teammates picked off. Markowitz plans to play lacrosse in college.
Bryn Mawr, defense
The No. 3 Mawrtians could not have won 11 one-goal games this season without a superb defense, and Mathews led the way. The senior played back or sweeper and showed uncanny timing in her ability to swipe the ball from opponents. With her leadership in the back, the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champions posted nine shutouts, including 1-0 victories over No. 2 Fallston and No. 5 South River. The team allowed only 15 goals in 20 games. Versatile, quick and excellent at recovery if the ball did get by her, Mathews is a veteran of the Futures program and plans to play field hockey in college.
The senior center midfielder controlled the flow of the game for the No. 6 Bruins (12-2-1) and was their playmaker. Dynamic and driven, she didn't even come out of the game when she suffered a broken finger in the Severna Park game, a 1-1 tie. A pivotal transition player, McElwee also played key roles at both ends of the field. She was instrumental in offensive and defensive penalty corners. She scored three goals and had eight assists, but she also marked the opposition's top midfielders, holding some of the biggest names scoreless. That helped the Bruins allow only five goals all season. Named honorable mention All-State, she plans to play field hockey in college.
The Eagles' scoring record of 22 goals in a season held up for almost a quarter of a century - until Parks came along this fall and scored 28. Although Debbie Hoff's mark, set in 1982, was tied once, it took a steady player with a sharp eye for redirecting balls in the circle to finally break the record. The Howard County Player of the Year scored in every league game as the Eagles went 10-0 in the county during the regular season. Able to keep the ball on her stick and deftly maneuver past opponents in the open field, the junior was also adept at beating goalies one-on-one. She scored many of her goals by redirecting the ball off the goalie's pads.
Young but already experienced, the Cougars sophomore excelled in her ability to move the ball quickly down field, taking it herself or hitting teammates with her precise quick-release passes. Playing a through forward position ready to receive the long pass, she scored seven goals and had six assists as the No. 2 Cougars (16-2) reached the Class 3A state semifinals. Puckett, a first-team All-State selection, worked especially well in tandem with senior forward Kathleen Tress as they led the Cougars to the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Association title. A Futures Elite selection last summer, a Junior Olympian and a Strikers club player, Puckett is the daughter of Cougars coach Alice Puckett.
Severna Park, defense
The defensive stopper for the No. 1 Falcons, Stearns drew the toughest marking assignment and nearly always succeeded. She excelled on the tougher right side of the defense, facing the opposition's strong-side attack. Her ability to shut off the opposition played a key role in the Falcons allowing only six goals all season and recording 13 shutouts. A second-team All-Metro pick last season, Stearns handled most of the free hits out of the defensive end. No matter how hard she hit them, they almost always went right to a teammate's stick. That drive also earned her a spot on offensive corners, where she scored a goal and had two assists.
C. Milton Wright, forward
The Harford County Player of the Year and a second-team All-Metro selection last season, Waller made everything look easy. A Futures Elite selection last summer, the senior showed off deft stickwork, good speed and a knack for sensing where her teammates would be. Her knowledge of the game gleaned from five years in the Futures program and six with the Strikers club team proved invaluable to the No. 8 Mustangs (13-3-1). Waller, a first-team All-State selection who plans to play in college, moved from the midfield to the wing and opened up the field for the attack. Orchestrating many of the penalty corners, she finished with nine goals and five assists, the team's third-highest scorer.