Reservoir's girls soccer team will play in the Class 3A state final today for the first time in the school's eight-year history. At midfield will be Katlyn Axenfeld, a 16-year-old junior who is the team's Most Valuable Player.
"We're really talented in a lot of spots," said Reservoir coach Josh Sullivan, whose team is 15-3-1 going into its 5 p.m. game against Tuscarora at UMBC. "But we'd be really searching for answers if we took Katlyn out of the lineup."
Axenfeld is a team leader, with poise and confidence, and she is the player others look to "as a calming influence" when games start heating up, Sullivan said. The knowledge Axenfeld brings to the field has been taught to her by her father, Kevin, who coaches her Laurel Premier traveling club team.
Sullivan said Axenfeld does "all the small things" that set up her teammates for good plays. Her four goals and five assists are considered strong statistics for the style of game the Gators play. Instead of sending his midfielders forward as extra attackers or moving them back to play a more packed-in defense, Sullivan aligns them across the field to work the transition game.
Axenfeld has a 3.3 grade point average and is interested in pursuing a soccer scholarship at Towson, Salisbury or Maryland and working on a degree in business management.
Question: : How long have you been playing soccer?
Answer: : Ever since I was little. About age 4. My dad coached my older sister and everyone in my family plays soccer. During the holidays, we even play a family game with all my cousins joining in. It's girls against the boys. The boys always win, but the games are getting closer as the girls get older. It's a lot of fun.
Q:: You're 16 now so you've been playing the game for 12 years. That's a long time. What is it that keeps you interested?
A:: I like it because compared to other girls' sports you're allowed to be a little bit rough, physical and because unlike other sports, there is no maximum achievement level. In some sports like basketball and lacrosse, both of which I've played, after you reach a peak of skill level there is nothing more to improve on. Because those sports aren't contact sports, there are only so many ways to change it up. But in soccer I've played for 12 years and I've never had a day when I haven't learned something new about the game.
Q:: Like what?
A:: I have a good understanding of what I'm supposed to do in a game. But I'm learning what others are supposed to do. I'm learning body movement and what someone else is going to do with the ball even before they actually do it.
Q:: How long have you been on the Reservoir varsity?
A: : Since my freshman year. We didn't have a winning record that year, but it was fun - though it is always more fun when you're winning.
Q:: What do you think has been the difference between winning this year and not winning in other years?
A:: This year, especially this year, is the year we started playing as a team. We're playing less as individuals and more as one. It's not one person doing all the work. Everyone is contributing and instead of players stepping on the field and saying, 'What can I do?' We're asking, 'What can we do?' And our defense has really improved this year. Our defense, it's like they're a whole new team; they're playing so hard.
Q:: You've been named MVP. You must be doing something special. What is it?
A:: I think it is my intensity. I want to win this state title. I've stepped it up and tried harder because I want it so bad. I'm getting the ball up the field and setting up other people.
Q:: What do you think your strength is on the field?
A: : Taking people on, one-on-one. I think I can beat almost anyone one-on-one. And when I can do that, it gives us ball possession and a chance to transition up the field with possession. My club coach told me when people first look at me they don't think I'm fast, but when I get the ball I can make the move around the opposing player before they even know I'm doing it.
Q:: Do you believe your team is going to win the championship? And what will you have to do to win?
A:: We played Tuscarora in a preseason tournament and we beat them. But at this point in the season, we're both completely different teams. We don't really know what to expect from each other. To win we have to be quick with the ball, do what we've been doing - keeping possession and finishing our opportunities when we have them.