Centennial enters the 3A East playoffs riding a nine-game winning streak, the latest a 3-0 victory over Reservoir on Monday to end the season 9-5 overall and 8-2 in Howard County.
After losing their first two league games to eventual county champion Mount Hebron and Long Reach, the Eagles ran off eight straight county wins, including a 1-0 overtime triumph over River Hill last week. Those two teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs today at Centennial. River Hill is also riding high courtesy of a victory last week over Mount Hebron, the Vikings' only county loss this year.
"Whatever we do in the postseason will be the result of what our seniors decide to do with it," said Coach Gail Purcell, who guided Centennial 10 years ago to its only state championship. Since then, the Eagles have made the 3A state semifinals three times (1996, 2001, 2002) but have failed to reach the title game on each occasion.
The X-factor for the Eagles could be standout goalie Chelsea Farley. Farley, a senior, is being recruited by Division I schools and earlier this season made 33 saves in the Mount Hebron loss. Farley didn't start playing goalie until her sophomore season; she was a field player as a freshman.
Purcell also has several players who are multi-sport athletes, including midfielder Jessica Oleinik. The junior is also an all-county third baseman for the softball team and runs track in the winter. Oleinik is tied with Molly Vorek for most goals this season with eight.
"She gives you 110 percent for 60 minutes, no ifs, ands or buts about it," Purcell. "She's up and down the field [and] plays with so much heart."
Trying to Avoid Final Loss
Long Reach hopes that the playoffs are the beginning of a late-season turnaround. The Lightning began the year 7-0 in county play but lost its last three to Glenelg, River Hill and Mount Hebron.
"The girls are aware [that one more loss ends the season]," said third-year coach Melissa Lennon. "We've come together, and our focus is [now] the playoffs. During county play, your focus is to keep on growing. We obviously want to make it to states, that's the main goal. Even though we have those losses . . . it doesn't necessarily predict our future."
Standout defender Kim Baker, a three-year starter, has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury and has had an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Long Reach opens the 3A East playoffs at home today against Annapolis, with Baker's status uncertain.
If Long Reach (10-4) is to advance to a second-round game (probably against Mount Hebron), it will need continued scoring punch from all-county forward Kelly Filipowicz. The four-year varsity player and most prolific scorer in Long Reach history has 23 goals and eight assists this season. Long Reach will need a big game from talented midfielders Carly Nethken and Melissa Chen.
"I still believe that they have the fires inside of them," said Lennon. "I don't think they're ready for the season to be over quite yet."
Dragons Show Improvement
Glenelg Country played arguably its best game of the season Monday -- taking IAAM B Conference foe Maryvale to overtime before falling, 1-0. Maryvale entered the game undefeated in conference play.
On a scuffle in front of the goal, junior defenseman Greer Huffman stopped a Maryvale shot at the goal line, but the referee said it had crossed for the game-winner.
"They were very frustrated at the end," said Coach Jessica McAdams. "It [the winning goal] happened so quickly. . . . It could have gone either way, you have to take what the official says."
Glenelg Country, which won four straight IAAM B championships from 2000 to 2003, is 2-11-1 in conference play heading into Tuesday's first-round playoff game against either McDonogh or Park. McAdams, though, stressed that the team has shown terrific improvement in the second half of the season. The Dragons lost to Seton Keough and Mount De Sales in their first meeting, then rebounded to beat each squad, 1-0, the second time around. Friends won the teams' initial meeting, 3-1, but the Dragons forged a 0-0 tie in the rematch.
Glenelg Country is led by IAAM All-Conference defenseman Jamie Perez, who has orally committed to play at Towson, and junior Elyka Anvari (4 goals, 1 assist), whom McAdams called "one of the fastest players in our conference. She's had a breakout year this season."