Year in and year out, some of Anne Arundel County’s fiercest fall competition comes from the ladies on the pitch.
This season figures to see another intense battle for county supremacy—and the region’s entry into the state tournament—between perennial contenders Severna Park, Broandeck, South River and Arundel.
With Chesapeake dropping into 3A classification this year, none of the top programs will have to confront an upset risk posed by the always-pesky Cougars come region-tournament time. In the new, geography-based, predetermined sectional alignment of the 4A East region tournament, Arundel has a theoretically easier path to the region final as the presumptive top program in Section II, while Severna Park, Broadneck and South River will have to contend with one another to claim Section I and reach the region final.
The county will be strong as always with the aforementioned programs all capable of beating one another. Even much-improved Northeast will be a sharp thorn in the county thicket.
With September here already and the county schedule set to begin, the Falcons and Bruins both have high hopes in 2015.
The Falcons are regular participators in the Anne Arundel Community College tournament at the beginning of the season, and the chance to face strong competition from the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference in the form of Archbishop Spalding and Severn can never hurt the long-term progress of the team, regardless of results.
Severna Park took a 4-2 loss to the Cavaliers in the tournament’s opener on September 4 and rebounded to top the Lady Admirals, 1-0, on September 5 on the strength of a second-half goal by Sarah Gellert and four saves by Jessica Wieber.
The Falcons, who went 6-3-4 last season but have gotten bounced in the region final by South River in each of the last two seasons, have a mix of senior leadership and up-and-coming talent. Senior captains Lily Streaker, Maeve Murphy and Beth Wilson will lead as the team’s formidable back line along with sophomore Abbie McGuire, while first-team all-county and honorable mention all-state senior Molly Derlink is the team’s holding midfielder. Senior Janidy Madera returns as a target striker along with junior forward Lindsay Prugh, while Gellert, a sophomore, and senior Ryan Hussey will complement the offense as midfielders. Sophomore forward Jenna Farrell will provide a shot in the arm upon return from injury, while freshmen Samantha Cremmins (midfielder) and Kailyn McCulloch (back) cracked the roster and will fill supporting roles.
Head coach Todd Clark is excited by his group, taking a defense first, offense second approach.
“Main thing I’m looking for is, ‘How are we playing as a team? And, do we understand our responsibilities when we’re defending?’” said Clark at a late-August practice. “We haven’t even touched on the attacking side. Teach them how to defend [first], then you have the rest of the season to teach them the attacking.”
Clark knows full well there is strength and depth over at Broadneck and South River, the Falcons’ main competitors for the region.
“Broadneck always gets up for us,” he said. “South River has athletes and talent, and John Sis is a good coach. Arundel, they’ve got a lot of returning players … We just have to get to the regional championship game.”
The Lady Bruins went 11-4 in 2015, but with a strong senior class, four freshman phenoms and a good mix in between, coach John Camm didn’t hold back when describing the talent level of this year’s squad.
“It’s by far the best group we’ve had,” said Camm, entering his 12th year coaching the program, at a late-August practice.
Junior back Hailey Small is one of the county’s top players and will anchor the defense along with seniors Kayla Harris and Taylor Sullivan and sophomore Emily York. Senior forward Bri Harris has a proven knack for goal-scoring and will get midfield support from junior Maddie Bragaw and seniors Julia Tingle, Amanda Schweitzer and Lauren Fisher. Sophomore Maura Dawson is strong in goal, while freshmen Mia Camm and Talia Gabarra give the Bruins added depth.
The Bruins played in the Middletown tournament over Labor Day weekend, notching a 3-1 win over the hosts on the strength of a hat-trick by Bri Harris, who scored twice off assists by MaKenna Dean and once off an assist by Fisher. Dean scored and Gabarra assisted to help the Bruins to a 1-1 tie with Urbana in the Saturday game as Dawson made six saves.
John Camm says the best part of this year’s group is not just the skill or the depth, but the mentality.
“The great thing is, this group is very focused,” he said. “Before they even start training, they huddle together and figure things out. They’re concentrated, they’re focused. It’s a really good group…“[The expectation] is to compete to go deep [in the playoffs].”