The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association moved the girls soccer state finals to the same site as the boys finals this season, which means the girls also will play their matches on artificial turf.
The boys and girls state finals begin today with the Class 4A title games at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. While soccer purists have few kind words for games played on artificial turf, state soccer coaches give it mixed reviews.
"I'm not worried about my team adjusting, but I'm worried about people twisting an ankle or knee," said River Hill girls coach Joan Smedley, whose team practiced at Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday to prepare for Friday's Class 3A final.
The Maryland girls soccer committee--composed of coaches and administrators from the MPSSAA's nine districts--voted unanimously this past February to move the games to UMBC. Last season, the tournament was held on a grass field at North County High School in Glen Burnie.
"We have been contemplating combining the boys and girls soccer state tournaments now for several years," said Vivienne Dailey, girls soccer committee chairwoman. "Cost is a factor, location is a factor, and most people who play on [turf] decide that they like it."
The husband-wife tandem of Bowie's Gavin Casey and Eleanor Roosevelt's Diane Casey resigned from their respective girls soccer coaching positions last week.
Gavin Casey led the Bulldogs to a 11-4-1 record this season and their fifth regional title in his five-year tenure. His teams have won four Prince George's County titles but have lost in the state semifinals in five straight trips.
"I decided at the beginning of the season that my last game [this season] would be my last game at Bowie," Gavin Casey said. Diane Casey led the Raiders to six county titles in her nine-year tenure at the Beltsville school. Her team was eliminated from the past five regional tournaments by Bowie.
"It was pretty much in the middle of [this season's] nine-game winning streak I thought I had had enough," said Diane Casey, whose team was 9-6-1 this past season.
Howard County Trifecta?
Three Howard County boys teams--top-ranked River Hill, No. 6 Mount Hebron and No. 3 Oakland Mills--will be playing for state titles this weekend at UMBC.
River Hill (16-1) has played soccer for four seasons, and this will be the Hawks' fourth state title game. The Hawks have won two consecutive state titles after losing in their first season.
River Hill is ranked 21st in the most recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings, the only team from the District or Maryland to be included in the poll.
Oakland Mills (16-1-1) has not given up a goal in 400 minutes of play in the playoffs. . . .
Churchill is the last Montgomery County team in the playoffs. The fourth-ranked Bulldogs (14-2-1) face Dulaney (15-1) of Baltimore County at UMBC tonight at 7:30 for the 4A state title.
Bulldogs Coach Dave Kelley said the team has been motivated by last year's final, in which the then-No. 1 Bulldogs lost to Chesapeake of Anne Arundel County, 1-0.
"With each playoff game, the kids get more determined to win the title this time," Kelley said.