By halftime of most of the Raiders' Prince George's County games, it's usually safe for Eleanor Roosevelt girls' soccer coach Bill Heiser to pull his starters.
After all, there is seldom drama left for the second half when the team takes the field against county foes.
Through their first five county games (entering Tuesday's match at Oxon Hill, which ended too late to be included in this edition), Eleanor Roosevelt was 5-0 with an astonishing goal margin of 52-0, scoring as few as eight goals in their closest game and accumulating 14 in their most lopsided win. Through seven games overall, their leading scorer, midfielder Katie Greenwood, has netted 14 goals and handed out 10 assists.
In fact, the only significant challenge that would seem to face the Raiders (7-0 overall, 5-0 Prince George's 4A) as they move into the second half of their season will be their annual showdown with Bowie -- set for Oct. 14. The Bulldogs, the county's other soccer power, beat Roosevelt, 2-1, in overtime last year.
Their county dominance made the Raiders' trip to play in the one-day River Hill tournament just over a week ago that much more important -- it would afford the Raiders the opportunity to find out just how they stand with teams outside the area. They left no doubt.
The Raiders beat Atholton, 2-0, and then defeated host River Hill in the championship game, 4-2. The Hawks are four-time 3A state champions.
"We were pleased to get the good result in Atholton," first-year coach Heiser said. "But to go into River Hill, play there and win there is really big for us."
The Raiders, who captured the 4A state title in 2003, are a deep team that has a dominating defense led by junior goalkeeper Wendy Balogun, a member of the U.S. Olympic Development Program. She has been in the nets for Eleanor Roosevelt since its state title run. Also playing a key role is junior sweeper Mary Raffael, who has moved back from the central midfield position she played last season to stabilize the defense.
The Raiders are trying not to look too far ahead. But having won the title in 2003, they know the path ahead.
"As long as we stay healthy and things go right for us, we should be able to win our region and then compete for a state title," Heiser said.
A Complete Team
There aren't many differences between this year's Bowie team and last year's. Except one, and it's big -- Amanda Poach no longer plays for the Bulldogs. Poach, an All-Met in 2004 and now a freshman at Santa Clara, was the focal point of the Bowie offense, guiding them to a Prince George's and region title last season.
Without her presence up front, Coach Joe Ogunsanya believes he might actually have a more complete team. In her place, players like sweeper Julie Jacobs, midfielders Ashley Morse and Nikki Delfino and forward Megan Gunzelman have bonded together to form a team full of capable athletes that doesn't rely on any single player for success.
"Maybe it's the coaches and maybe it's the players, but they're coming together so fast," said Ogunsanya. "Last year all eyes were on this team because of Amanda. This year there are no superstars. Every player wants to play and show they are a good player."
What has been identical for the Bulldogs (6-0-2, 4-0) to this point of the season has been their results. Along with their usual domination of their Prince George's portion of their schedule, Bowie took part in the Anne Arundel Community College tournament, earning a tie against five-time state champion Severna Park and defeating perennial power South River, 2-0.
"We are right where we are supposed to be right now," Ogunsanya said.