Glenelg girls' soccer coach Dean Sheridan was anxious as his team prepared for its first opponent in eight months at River Hill's Preseason Tournament on Saturday. River Hill Coach Willie Ibarra felt the same.
"Last year was last year -- this is almost a completely new team," Ibarra said. "We have very few girls back who played a lot for us last year, and now is the time for our team to start building our identity. And the only way you do that in the preseason is going against the best teams you can."
Ten of the region's most competitive teams took the field for scrimmages at River Hill's Preseason Tournament. Five had advanced to the state tournament and two others to a region final last season. Most of them are considered serious contenders to return to the state tournament this season.
The day of scrimmages gave coaches and players an early look at their competition this season and a chance to see how their new players work together.
"We're not trying to beat teams out there. We're trying to develop ours and learn to play together," said River Hill sophomore midfielder Sara Tankard, whose team lost in the state semifinals last year. "There are a lot of good teams here, and they all want to show they're going to be good this season, too."
The tournament included defending 4A champion Eleanor Roosevelt, the first Prince George's County team to win a state title. River Hill, Glenelg, Urbana and Damascus all advanced to the 2003 state tournament. Wilde Lake and Bowie ended their seasons in the region finals. One of the private schools at the tournament, Good Counsel, won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and finished last season ranked No. 2. Howard and Pallotti also participated in the tournament.
"It's always nice to win, but right now we wanted to make a good first impression and show that we belong on the field with the best teams," said Glenelg sophomore defender Meghan Braun. "But we held our own out there, and that's good for us because it would have been devastating if we would have lost by a lot."
Saturday was also an integral in building teams, which began practices just a week earlier. "This is the time for learning and teaching," Sheridan said. "This is a time to try to find the best combinations out there for your team and which girls play the best together, and that's something you can't do in practice. There's a lot of good teams here, and their coaches have gotten them to that point because they see this as an opportunity for learning."
Scrimmages were played under game conditions, except coaches were free to substitute at any time. Several coaches ended each half a few minutes early to work on set plays and corner kicks. Glenelg and Urbana even played a 10-minute overtime after finishing in a 2-2 tie. Glenelg won that game, 3-2, but lost to Urbana earlier, 1-0.
"The most important thing was that we got to see a picture of where we stack up right now against the best teams," said Wilde Lake Coach Dave Procida, whose team lost to Urbana, 3-0, and played to a scoreless tie against Eleanor Roosevelt. "We also know what we need to do to get better and what level we need to play on to get where we want to be."
River Hill posted a 4-0 victory over Eleanor Roosevelt, but lost 5-0 to Good Counsel.
"I really wasn't concerned with the score, because a lot of us got to play different positions, and I thought we started clicking out there even though we are pretty inexperienced," River Hill senior defender Whitney Rhodes said. "We know that even though we had a great senior class graduate and a lot of people don't think we're going to be good this year, we still have some good players, and we can prove them wrong."