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Baltimore Sun girls soccer preview: Storylines, players to watch and top 15 teams heading into the 2021 season

Here’s what you need to know for the 2021 high school girls soccer season in the Baltimore area:

Storylines to watch

McDonogh and Archbishop Spalding have ruled the IAAM A Conference for a decade. Can another team break through?

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While the perennial powers remain highly formidable, McDonogh’s lost season and Spalding’s partial one in 2020 might be a disruption to their typical cohesion. It might present an opportunity for another team to break through. Mercy, which has 10 starters back from its condensed 10-1 season and a handful of promising freshmen, is best equipped to end the string in a bid to bring home the program’s first crown. St. Vincent Pallotti was the last team other than McDonogh and Spalding to win the league title, back in 2007.

What are we likely to see plenty of this season?

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Goals. Proven finishers can be found almost everywhere, and they are no doubt champing at the bit after playing a partial season or none at all last year. Century’s Haley Greenwade, Mercy’s Alex Jankowski, Broadneck’s Eva Mowery, McDonogh’s Kelsey Smith and Reservoir’s Karis Turner highlight the forward position with others, most notably Perry Hall’s two-time leading scorer Kamryn Williams, primed to put the ball into the net. The limited playing time high school teams have had in the past year favors offenses and dynamic goal scorers, who will be able to impose their will on less cohesive defensive units.

Southern's Marley Blundell and Broadneck's Eva Mowery fight for the ball during a game March 25, 2021.
Southern's Marley Blundell and Broadneck's Eva Mowery fight for the ball during a game March 25, 2021. (Paul W. Gillespie)

Which county league among the public schools has the most top-to-bottom talent?

No question, it’s Howard County. Four Howard County teams are ranked in The Baltimore Sun’s preseason Top 15 poll with No. 8 Reservoir, No. 10 Marriotts Ridge, No. 12 River Hill and No. 14 Mt. Hebron making the cut and last year’s tournament champion, Glenelg, also considered. Star power will be all over the field with Reservoir forward Karis Turner, Marriotts Ridge midfielder Megan Wagner and River Hill goalkeeper Caroline Duffy among the top returning talent.

Which region jumps out when the state playoffs begin?

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Year after year, the Class 4A East Region II is survival of the fittest among Anne Arundel rivals Broadneck, Severna Park and South River. The same can be said in the 3A East Region, both I and II, with Howard County powers River Hill, Reservoir, Wilde Lake, Mt. Hebron and Marriotts Ridge all capable of earning state berths. Perry Hall has mostly owned the 4A North Region I, but upstart Dulaney might have a say this year. 2A West Region II power Century had a 16-0 mark reaching the state semifinals in 2019 and then went 8-0 in Carroll County play last year. Can neighborhood rival Liberty get in the Knights’ way this year?

Which public school teams return as defending champions from 2019?

In Class 4A, Perry Hall won its second straight title with a win over Severn Park in penalty kicks. Patterson Mill was the only other area team to bring home a state title, claiming the 1A crown with a 1-0 win over Loch Raven. Northern-Calvert dominated Wilde Lake, 5-0, for the 3A title and Calvert edged Frederick County’s Middletown, 2-1, in the 2A ranks.

Players to watch

Caroline Duffy, River Hill, goalkeeper, senior

A natural leader the minute she stepped in goal as a freshman, the Duke commit has all the tools: composure, sure hands, fine distribution and a take-charge manner that exudes confidence. Taking a 31-8-3 career mark into her senior year, Duffy gives the Hawks a chance to win every game.

Elise Graf, C. Milton Wright, defender/forward, senior

An outside back who locks down opposing forwards and makes dangerous runs in club ball, Graf is likely to play all over the field for the Mustangs this season. With fine field sense that helps everybody around her, she handles the ball well, has an impeccable first touch and works equally hard with and without the ball.

Century's Haley Greenwade was the 2021 Carroll County Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Century's Haley Greenwade was the 2021 Carroll County Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Haley Greenwade, Century, forward, senior

As Greenwade goes, so go the Knights, and it’s always at full speed. With speed, skills and the desire to be the difference-maker, the Eastern Kentucky recruit enters her fourth varsity season as Carroll County’s two-time leading scorer with 34 goals and nine assists.

Alex Jankowski, Mercy, forward, senior

In her fourth year on varsity, Jankowski has dominant size and skills as one of the area’s top game-changing players on offense. Finishing with eight goals and three assists in last year’s limited season, she can score herself or set up her teammates for success.

Reagan Mallia, Archbishop Spalding, midfielder, senior

One of the area’s most technical two-way players, Mallia uses her athleticism and physicality to shut down opposing scoring threats and has the skill and vision to get the ball moving forward. A four-year varsity player, Mallia (six goals, five assists in the past two seasons) is a proven leader.

Eva Mowery, Broadneck, forward, senior

A four-year starter, Mowery is the prime example of the Bruins’ longtime philosophy of playing fast, aggressive and precise. Despite playing only 33 career games, the South Florida commit has produced 31 goals and 21 assists for 52 points, putting her in range of program leader Makenna Dean’s all-time scoring mark of 75.

Ella Shannon, Chesapeake-AA, midfielder, junior

The Cougars’ attacking center midfielder relies on her high soccer IQ and technical skills as the catalyst in the final third of the field. Coming into her junior season with 14 goals and 18 assists in her first two seasons, Shannon has a heavy shot with both feet and has proved to be an effective passer.

Kelsey Smith, McDonogh, forward, senior

Combining speed, quickness and decisive skills, the Maryland-bound Smith is one of the area’s most dangerous one-on-one scoring threats. In addition to scoring goals, she’ll be asked to lead a largely inexperienced group as she takes aim at being part of a third IAAM A championship team.

Reservoir's Karis Turner (1) sprints after the ball in the Gators' game against Long Reach on March 10, 2021.
Reservoir's Karis Turner (1) sprints after the ball in the Gators' game against Long Reach on March 10, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Karis Turner, Reservoir, forward, senior

One of the area’s most imposing forces on offense, Turner (17 goals, six assists in 22 career games) is powerful and explosive with the ball at her feet or when she’s playing in space. With the slightest opening, she delivers a heavy and precise shot, and the Gators will be banking on her goal-scoring prowess.

Allie Wysong, Patterson Mill, defender, senior

An immediate starter as a freshman, Wysong began her career in the midfield and brought her gifted skills and composed play to the center back position, where she emerged as the team’s field general. A key member of the 2019 state championship team, she reads the field well, dominates in one-on-one situations and brings a heavy shot when she jumps up on attack.

Preseason top 15 teams

1. Mercy

Coach: Doug Pryor

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Last season: 10-1

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Outlook: Could this be the year Mercy takes hold of its first IAAM A crown? The Magic appear primed. Senior forward Alex Jankowski and junior midfielder Sydney Feiler are a dangerous one-two punch among 10 returning starters to go with a sensational freshman class set to contribute immediately.

2. McDonogh

Coach: Harry Canellakis

Last season: DNP

Outlook: The Eagles, who claimed the past three IAAM A titles before skipping last year because of COVID-19, are working on reestablishing the program’s identity with only five varsity players back from when they last stepped onto the field. The three returning senior starters — forward Kelsey Smith, center midfielder Olivia Ozbolt and goalie Maddie Lowney — provide a strong foundation.

3. Archbishop Spalding

Coach: Ashly Kennedy

Last season: 2-1

Outlook: The Cavaliers have long prided themselves on playing possession-based, tactical soccer that blends each players’ strengths to produce consistent success. This year’s team, which returns 14 players on varsity, has experienced, standout talent in important positions with Reagan Mallia and Sophie Thibeault holding down the midfield and goalie Emma Murray the glue in back.

4. Broadneck

Coach: John Camm

Last season: 4-0-1

Outlook: An opportunity to bring home the program’s third state title is there for the Bruins with an aggressive and athletic group returning led by game-changing senior forward Eva Mowery. The addition of forward Sadie Wilkinson, a transfer from Walter Johnson, wreaks more havoc on opposing defenses.

5. Severna Park

Coach: Rick Stimpson

Last season: 3-1-1

Outlook: The Falcons have a quality mix of experienced talent and promising newcomers to make plenty of noise in Anne Arundel and beyond. The team’s depth should wear down opponents, with Sofia Espinoza and Ava Schultz the primary sources on offense set up by a possession-based midfield led by Joi Fleming and Hanna Verreault.

6. Notre Dame Prep

Coach: Val Teixeira

Last season: 3-1

Outlook: Another team capable of rocking the IAAM A boat, Notre Dame Prep has quality players at every position with a speedy possession game in mind. With Finley Barger anchoring the back line, Natalie O’Brocki and Sarah Goodison the midfield glue, and Olivia Rockstroh and Tricia Kohler producing goals, the Blazers can’t be overlooked.

7. Perry Hall

Coach: Matt Smoot

Last season: 3-3

Outlook: Always fundamentally sound as a perennial Baltimore County power, the Gators might be in store for a special season based on their experience all over the field. Jacksonville-bound goalkeeper Delaney Forrester anchors a tidy defense, center midfielder Kyleigh Gough keeps the middle in order with consistent play and leadership, and Kamryn Williams, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, sets the tone on a speedy front line.

8. Reservoir

Coach: Phil Ranker

Last season: 9-2

Outlook: Despite the graduation of four-year star forward Kat Parris, the Gators remain among the favorites in Howard County with a deep and talented roster. Senior forward Karis Turner (eight goals, four assists last season) is primed for the go-to role, and senior defenders Margot Laughner, Sophie Davidson and Gabbie Chapman will make scoring a major chore for opponents.

9. Century

Coach: Chris Little

Last season: 8-0

Outlook: Little takes over for longtime coach Sara Figuly with the same high expectations. With bookend talents in forward Haley Greenwade and goalie Mia Graff, plus a confident surrounding cast, Century is primed to make another formidable state title run. The Knights are 24-1 the past two years, their only loss coming to Calvert in the 2019 2A state semifinals.

10. Marriotts Ridge

Coach: Darius Qualls

Last season: 8-1-1

Outlook: With eight starters back from a team that surrendered only two goals in 10 games, the Mustangs have an ideal opportunity to make some noise. Center midfielder Megan Wagner (six goals, seven assists last season) is a gifted playmaker who has an abundance of talent around her, including a proven goal scorer in forward Giavana Liberto. Center back Anna Page and goalkeeper Caroline Alber return to anchor the back line.

11. Dulaney

Coach: Maurice Boylan Jr.

Last season: 3-4-1

Outlook: While Sparrows Point, Perry Hall and Hereford have recently been the consistent powers in Baltimore County, the Lions appear ready to push them aside. They are a hungry and skilled group led by defenders Brianna Alvarez and Brooke Knabe, midfielder Maddie Wise and forward Soraya Ramirez.

12. River Hill

Coach: Brian Song

Last season: 5-4-1

Outlook: The perennial Howard County power looks to return to top form with a quality nucleus returning. Duke-bound goalie Caroline Duffy, a four-year starter, is the team’s heartbeat with sweeper Kaitlyn Heitzman adding composed play in back. Forward Ara Omitowoju is the catalyst up front with Atholton transfer Allie Lubitz a welcome addition to bolster the midfield.

13. C. Milton Wright

Coach: Andrew Harrell

Last season: DNP

Outlook: Harrell, who previously guided the Manchester Valley boys team, has plenty to work with in his first season as the Mustangs appear to be the favorite in the UCBAC and Harford County. Senior newcomer Elise Graf, who previously played academy ball, can be used all over the field and joins a strong junior class highlighted by forward Katie Roszko, midfielder Lydia Sherly and defender Cailin Hetrick.

14. Mt. Hebron

Coach: Tim Deppen

Record: 7-2

Outlook: With an experienced group in back and some exuberant youth on attack, the Vikings might have an ideal mix to contend in formidable Howard County. Seven starters are back, with Ana Hoover anchoring a defense that returns all but one starter, midfielder Kate Hanks bringing experience in the middle and sophomore midfielder Olivia Hoover and sophomore forward Sinclaire Green shoring up the final third.

15. Eastern Tech

Coach: Kim Williams

Last season: 3-3-1

Outlook: Eastern Tech has experience and chemistry on its side with forward Emma Koller, defender Alexis Keller-Posen and midfielder/forward Brooke Vanschoorisse leading nine returning starters. The Mavericks should be in the mix for a Baltimore County championship and an extended playoff run.

Others considered: Glenelg (8-3-1), Hereford (7-0), Patterson Mill (DNP), South River (3-3), Towson (DNP)

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