The junior enjoyed a breakout season, using her ability to carry the ball at high speed and blow by defenders to get into the circle. The fastest Falcon had 13 goals and 13 assists, and many of her scores came in key games, including the first goal in the state final, a 6-0 victory over Quince Orchard, as No. 1 Severna Park won its 18th state crown. She also scored twice in the 3-1 regular-season win over Anne Arundel County rival Broadneck. Great at anticipating and receiving the pass, Balleza never stopped moving and proved a difficult mark for any defender. The veteran of the U.S. Field Hockey Association's Futures Elite Program showed an uncanny knack for forcing the action to go exactly where she wanted it to go.
Garrison Forest, defense
A repeat first-team All-Metro selection, Blue moved from midfield to center back this season to shore up a defense riddled with injury early on. The change had no effect on her game. Blue, the Baltimore County Player of the Year, was all over the field, involved in just about every aspect of the game. The junior's defensive instincts were exceptional, and she could anticipate and thwart just about any opponent's intentions. The team's quarterback saw the gaps and took the openings, moving the ball quickly and deftly and almost always making the right decision. She was second on the No. 3 Grizzlies' scoring chart with eight goals and 14 assists.
Garrison Forest, goalie
A second-team All-Metro selection last season, Cain allowed only fourgoals all season and posted 18 shutouts. She had a 94 percent save rate. The junior didn't face as many shots as some of her peers, but she was technically sound and made exceptional stops in tight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference games. In addition to her work in goal, Cain proved an important leader for the Grizzlies when injuries hampered many of the team's top defenders. Her steady presence, calm demeanor and patient guidance proved indispensable. A Junior Olympian last summer, Cain was selected to the Futures Elite Program.
North Carroll, forward
A steady, consistent contributor on the forward line, the senior led Carroll County in goals with 21 and also had four assists against a tough schedule. Carl proved a skilled finisher. With deft stick skills from any angle, she was tough to contain inside 16yards. Although she excelled in the circle, Carl was a complete player and could make a difference anywhere on the field. Her terrific vision and field sense allowed her to move the ball expertly through traffic or to find open teammates. Carl is a Futures veteran and plays club field hockey for Hymax. She has committed to play next year at Towson.
The senior dominated the middle for the state Class 3A champion Cougars. Coach Alice Puckett called her a vacuum because of her uncanny ability to emerge from the midfield with the ball. Deceptively fast with stellar stickwork, Fusco could move the ball a long way. She also proved the perfect complement to teammate Lindsey Puckett on offensive penalty corners, where the two showed off several combinations that were tough to stop. Fusco scored some of the biggest goals of the season, including game-winners in a 4-3 victory over Atholton in the state final and a 2-1 win over Perryville in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference final. She finished with 10 goals and two assists. She plans to play in college but is undecided on where.
South River, midfield
The Anne Arundel County Player of the Year, Griffin was a dynamic catalyst for the No. 6 Seahawks. She never let up and was a leader at both ends of the field. Her speed, skill and determination made her the key playmaker in the midfield. The junior set up many scoring opportunities from the top of the circle and had 24assists. Many times, her skill and keen eye for the cutters simply set the play in motion, resulting in a goal several passes down the line. Griffin, a second-team All-Metro selection last season, also scored 15 goals and led the Seahawks in points. One of her best games came in the regional semifinals, in a 4-2 loss to Severna Park in which she scored both goals.
A do-it-all player for the No. 7 Bulls, Haldeman seemed to be everywhere the ball was. The junior, who played in the Futures National Tournament during the summer, had one goal and seven assists, but she had a much more defensive mind-set. Exceptionally poised, Haldeman never relied on a long pass to get the ball out. She was so adept at maintaining possession that she would take it herself, often leading to a short pass farther downfield that put the Bulls in much better position to attack. Her speed and anticipation, along with her ability to maneuver through traffic and make smart connections, made her the key transition catalyst for the Baltimore County champions.
Bryn Mawr, forward
The Baltimore City Player of the Year stood out on one of the area's most balanced and skilled teams. The junior was the catalyst on attack, figuring prominently in most scoring plays for the No. 8 Mawrtians. She often set the play in motion with her exceptional stick skills and quick moves with the ball. She could beat defenders one-on-one, frequently helping the Mawrtians get in good position in the circle. While they looked to her to set things up, she could also be there on the finishing end of goals. Hanson had eight goals and six assists. On offensive penalty corners, she could make the deflection to score or to keep the play alive.
After surgery in March to repair two torn ligaments in her left knee, Matteo wasn't expected back until a few weeks into the season, but she returned in the second game to begin a stellar season for the fourth-ranked Anne Arundel County champion Bruins. In her first game, the senior proved she hadn't lost a step. Fast, skilled and poised, Matteo led a defense that allowed just seven goals and posted 16 shutouts. Steady and focused in the back, she used her strong, accurate drive to set the transition in motion. She was quick to steal the ball and could dodge her way out of trouble before driving the ball downfield. Matteo plans to play in college but is uncommitted.
Garrison Forest, midfield
After missing almost all of last season with a hamstring injury, Murphy made up for lost time with a stellar junior season. She was all over the ball in the midfield and gave opponents fits with her tenacity. She excelled in the IAAM AConference final, as the Grizzlies won their second straight tournament title. Small and quick with exceptional footwork, Murphy could maneuver in tight spaces and take the ball away from just about any opponent. She pestered opponents, and once she got the ball, she made precise passes to keep the Grizzlies moving on attack. Murphy also scored a goal and had six assists.
A four-year starter, Parker broke every school career scoring record, finishing with 50goals and 43 assists. With her speed and tricky stick skills, the Howard County Player of the Year made fast breaks look easy. In a 1-0 victory over Poolesville in the regional final, Parker scored on a break with two defenders chasing her. She relied on drawing enough defensive attention to leave at least one teammate open. Once she got to the circle, Parker had no trouble finding the open player and had 24 assists. She could also make the play herself, scoring 19 goals. After leading the No. 9 Gladiators to the state Class 1A final, she plans to play in college but hasn't committed.
Note: Teams selected by Katherine Dunn after consultation with The Baltimore Sun staff and area coaches.