When players on the River Hill girls’ soccer team split up by position during the first few practices of the season, senior Colleen McKenna often joined the offense, doing her best to blend in with the forwards and midfielders. Inevitably, Coach Brian Song would catch on to McKenna’s scheme and send her off to drill with the defenders.
For McKenna, the switch from forward to sweeper didn’t come naturally, but the move has paid dividends for the sixth-ranked Hawks so far. The defending Howard County champion has outscored its opponents, 27-2, in five games and not allowed a goal with McKenna anchoring the backline.
“At first, I was just so disappointed,” McKenna said. “I’ve been playing forward my whole life. I obviously would prefer to be the one scoring the goals, but I want to do whatever it takes for the team to win.”
McKenna continues to play forward for her club team, but she has long been a versatile piece in Song’s lineup. She logged time at forward, midfield and occasionally on defense last fall as River Hill finished the regular season unbeaten in county play and knocked off eventual Maryland 4A runner-up Severna Park for the District V title.
Instead of making a serious run at their eighth state title, the Hawks closed their season abruptly with a 3-2 upset loss to Atholton in their first Maryland 3A East playoff game and gained a valuable lesson in perspective.
“We just expected to go out and win,” said McKenna, who moved up top and scored a goal late in last week’s 7-0 win over Long Reach. “We were so focused on what’s next instead of what was right in front of us.”
McKenna would have been hard-pressed to crack the starting lineup at her favorite position this season. The Hawks boast one of the area’s top forward tandems in sophomore Alex Hamer and junior Sheridan Street (Syracuse). The duo has combined for 10 goals and seven assists this season.
Song is comfortable converting offensive players to the backline because he believes they have an advantage in being able to think like the players they are marking. The eighth-year coach also anointed freshman Rebecca Higgins his starting left fullback before the season even though she had never played the position.
Song said he knew McKenna had the tools to lead a defense, and all things considered, he was pleased with how quickly and completely she embraced the move.
“She’s been my savior in the back,” Song said. “She has the speed to keep up with anybody, and she controls everything back there. ... She’s definitely taking this one for the team.”
All of the area’s ranked teams went unbeaten last week. Spalding avoided its first loss of the season when East Carolina commit Gracyn Bryant scored in the second half of a 1-1 tie against Notre Dame Prep last Friday. Bethesda-Chevy Chase shook off its loss to Bishop Ireton with two wins by a combined score of 14-0.
(Records through Tuesday)
1. Good Counsel (3-0) LW: 1
2. Spalding (3-0-2) LW: 2
3. O’Connell (4-0-1) LW: 3
4. National Cathedral (2-0-1) LW: 4
5. Sidwell Friends (3-0) LW: 5
6. River Hill (5-0) LW: 6
7. Bishop Ireton (3-0-1) LW: 7
8. Bethesda-Chevy Chase (3-1) LW: 8
9. Broadneck (2-0) LW: 9
10. Holy Cross (4-0) LW: 10