Osbourn Park field hockey emerges; Foxcroft thrives through familiarity; Arundel looks to break through


Osbourn Park senior Corinne Wessels, a lacrosse standout, is one of a number of Yellow Jackets who have translated skills in other sports to field hockey this fall. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)
October 23, 2013

Osbourn Park senior Corinne Wessels and her teammates arrived for practice on Monday expecting a light workout, a tune-up leading into Tuesday’s Conference 8 semifinal match against Stonewall Jackson.

But when Coach Kate Thomas prescribed bleacher miles – a form of conditioning about as simple and grueling as it sounds – the Yellow Jackets just took off running.

“We didn’t complain, because we knew sometimes you have to do something you’ve never done before to get something you’ve never had,” Wessels said.

Osbourn Park (14-2) accomplished the former on Oct. 4 with its 2-1 overtime victory over North Stafford. To the best knowledge of everyone associated with the program, the win marks the first time the Yellow Jackets have ever overtaken a Stafford-area squad in field hockey.

“We went in knowing that there was a very low chance that we’d win that game,” said Wessels, a 2013 second team All-Met pick in lacrosse.

The latter – something they’ve never had – is a fighter’s chance to make some noise outside the confines of the re-jiggered Cardinal and now-defunct Cedar Run Districts. In 2012, Osbourn Park’s season ended with an 8-0 loss to Mountain View in the Northwest Region tournament first round.

But with their undefeated regular season run through Conference 8, the Yellow Jackets have secured a top seed and will host a first-round matchup in next week’s 6A North Region tournament.

Inevitably, the Yellow Jackets will match up with more established teams in the postseason, and Thomas hopes her collection of other-sport studs can continue to win with God-given talent.

“This team is reliant on lacrosse players and soccer players bringing their athleticism to the game of hockey,” Thomas said. “But the skills are coming.”

Wessels is example number one. She didn’t join the field hockey squad until her sophomore season (choosing volleyball for her fall sport freshman year), and originally saw her calling between the posts as a goalie.

It didn’t take long for Thomas and the Yellow Jackets coaches to realize Wessels had the type of speed that’s indispensable on the offense end.

“At first, I wanted to play goalie because I’d never done it before in lacrosse,” said Wessels, a Northwestern lacrosse recruit. “I just wanted to try something new.”

“But I got in the goal, and sure enough, all I wanted to do was score. I kept trying to run the ball up the field. Coach [Thomas] said, ‘Okay, goalie is not going to work for you.’”

The team that lives together, plays together at Foxcroft

Tucked away on a hilly piece of Piedmont midway between Leesburg and Gainesville, Foxcroft School and its athletic programs might not get their due exposure.

But the on-field exploits of its field hockey team – which sports a 9-1-2 record — are becoming difficult to ignore.

In the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association’s most recent poll, Foxcroft sits atop Division II.

“We’ve had some success over the past couple years, and now we’re starting to get the phone calls, so that’s nice,” said Coach Michelle Woodruff, who’s also the athletic director of the all-girls boarding school.

Attending a boarding school means teammates double as roommates, and chats about hockey strategy can carry over to the dinner table.

“We’re all a lot closer because we all live together,” said sophomore Alex Grace, the team’s leading scorer and a Virginia lacrosse recruit. “We can practice a bit longer than other teams can. We all know each other because it’s such a smaller school.”

Foxcroft’s enrollment of about 150 students nurtures a commonality that doesn’t exist outside the boarding school setting.

“We can take in account if someone’s stressed because maybe they have a test coming up or something,” Grace said. “It’s nice because we talk about field hockey all the time. We can do team parties, team dinners, and it’s definitely a special dynamic we have because we all live together.”

Arundel looks to navigate ‘Big Three’

Usually, it’s Severna Park that makes it to the championship. Most recently it was South River. Broadneck tends to get taken down sometime before the regional final.

If the rest of the Maryland public school tournament is up for grabs, the region in the bottom right corner of the bracket — 4A East — is devastatingly predictable.

Three of the Post’s Top 10 teams are in the area. Whoever makes it out alive usually advances, and wins, the 4A title.

But while No. 8 Severna Park (10-3-1) or No. 2 South River (13-2) typically just have to deal with each other or No. 7 Broadneck (10-4) during a run to the final, upstart Arundel could pose a significant threat this year.

The Wildcats are 10-4, but three of those losses were to South River, Severna Park and Broadneck, each by one goal. Only one 4A team scored on Arundel all season. Sophomore Ally Pollack has 17 goals this season.

The Wildcats’ playoff run begins Thursday against Meade. If they beat the Mustangs, they’ll travel to Severna Park on Oct. 28 for a chance to avenge a 2-1 regular season loss.

“Since all of our games were so close, it really motivates us to just take them down, because on any given day, any of us can win,” senior midfielder and co-captain Megan Moore said. “We just need to take it out there and leave it all out on the field.”

Arundel’s largest deficit to a “Big Three” team in 2012 was five goals to South River.

Before that they were “getting killed,” second-year Coach Carrie Vosburg said. They’re on the brink now, she adds, but that doesn’t mean much when your regional competitors hold the national record for high school state titles (Severna Park with 20).

“Unfortunately, our region just has some of the big dogs,” Vosburg said.

“As successful as we’ve been this year, we can still have an amazing game against Severna Park, but we still won’t advance that far.”

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association divided the field hockey regions into “sections” this year that rank teams from 1-8 in each section of a region, instead of 1-16 like years past. The alterations could even the playing field in less competitive regions.

It doesn’t change much in 4A East, where Vosburg said the region final is often more exciting than the state final —“it’s good hockey.”

For comparison, the 2012 region final between South River and Severna Park was decided in overtime. The Seahawks went on to win the state semifinals 8-1 and the finals 6-0.

“At the end of the day, the state champion is supposed to be the better program, and getting there in its own right,” Vosburg said. “Unfortunately, if a school like one of those three gets knocked out early, it’s not an true representation.”

The Post Top 10

South River won a third consecutive Anne Arundel county championship with a 5-0 win against Old Mill. . . . Broadneck fell to Century in overtime before rebounding with a 1-0 win against Arundel. . . . Westfield, South County, and Fairfax all play for their respective conference titles later this week.

1. Glenelg (12-2) LW: 1

2. South River (13-2) LW: 2

3. Westfield (15-2) LW 3

4. South County (15-2) LW 4

5. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (14-2-1) LW 5

6. Atholton (9-2) LW 7

7. Broadneck (10-4) LW 6

8. Severna Park (11-3-1) LW 8

9. Wootton (12-2) LW 9

10. Fairfax (14-3) LW 10

Bubble: Mount Hebron (13-1), Foxcroft School (9-1-2)

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