With a lackluster practice session dragging on Monday, Huntingtown girls’ soccer Coach Jill Twetten halted play and gathered her team. Twetten asked the players to discuss their goals for the season, her demeanor changing from perturbed to excited as the defending Maryland 3A champs spent several minutes discussing the hard work and focus it would take for another deep playoff run.
Huntingtown graduated 10 seniors off the squad that became the first Calvert County team — boys or girls — to capture a state soccer title. The Hurricanes (8-0) don’t have as much experience this time around, but the team, which has outscored its opponents 43-2 through eight games, continues to build the confidence needed to launch a serious repeat bid.
“Last year it was a palpable goal — ‘Let’s get back [to the state final] and win,’” said Twetten, whose team fell to Reservoir in the 2010 3A final. “This year it was different. I’m not sure they had that goal for themselves right away, and [Monday] was the first time I’d heard them verbalize it as a group.”
Huntingtown built its run to the title last fall on defense, recording shutouts in all five playoff games. The team’s entire back line graduated, and junior goalie Emily Chapman and sophomore center back Paige Fallin have stepped in to anchor the unit.
Twetten, the 2011 fall soccer All-Met Coach of the Year, thinks the Hurricanes have improved offensively. Junior Victoria Bellucci — who scored the only goal in last season’s 3A final against Urbana — moved from forward to midfield, joined in the center by sophomore Erin Shamleffer, another new starter. Freshman forward Sarah Osborne currently leads the team with eight goals.
“There were so many good girls here last year, we knew we couldn’t all be starters,” said Shamleffer, who has five goals and four assists. “Once [the graduating seniors] left, we all knew we had to step it up a notch and show what we have.”
Twetten knows what it takes to be successful in the state tournament after guiding Huntingtown to the 3A final in each of her first two seasons. Though the Hurricanes don’t always face top-level competition in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, she tries to keep practices fast-paced and isn’t afraid to get creative.
In early wins against McDonough and Lackey, Huntingtown played with just eight players against 11 for stretches, testing the team’s fitness level. Sometimes when the Hurricanes build large leads, Twetten requires her players to perform a move with the ball before they pass in the final third of the field.
“We want to play the same way every time we take the field,” Twetten said. “Speed of play is really key for us, and we feel like if we play the way we are capable of, we should be able to compete with anybody.”
Spalding ruined Good Counsel’s bid for a perfect season, playing the top-ranked squad to a scoreless tie last Wednesday in Olney. With the draw, the Falcons fell from the top spot in the NSCAA national poll to No. 8. The Cavaliers suffered their first loss two days later to IAAM rival McDonogh. Holy Cross makes the biggest jump this week after knocking off then-No. 4 Sidwell Friends, 1-0, last Thursday on a goal by sophomore Delaney Muldoon.
(Records through Tuesday)
1. Good Counsel (6-0-1) LW: 1
2. Spalding (5-1-3) LW: 2
3. O’Connell (7-1-2) LW: 3
4. Holy Cross (8-0) LW: 6
5. River Hill (8-0) LW: 5
6. Sidwell Friends (6-2) LW: 4
7. National Cathedral (6-1-2) LW: 7
8. South River (8-1) LW: 9
9. Bethesda-Chevy Chase (5-1) LW: 8
10. Whitman (5-1) LW: 10