Spalding midfielder Sarah Martin took a risk when she committed to play soccer at the University of Vermont earlier this month. For a girl who’d never been further north than Boston until she visited the school last spring, then 10-hour drive to Burlington was a trek that would take her far from her family and deep into the unknown territory of Northern New England.

“It was really far away, and that was a big factor in my decision,” Martin said. “But once I got there, I felt like I was still at home there.”

So Martin decided to join the Catamounts, who were 6-9-3 in 2013 and finished fifth in the America East conference. University of Maryland-Baltimore County won the conference, in which each team plays the other once each season, meaning Martin will be playing in Catonsville at least twice over the next four years.

But even without the promise of a relative home game every year or two, Martin said distance didn’t outweigh the potential payoff of a Division I option that felt like the right fit.

“I immediately fell in love with the campus,” Martin said. “The coaches were so nice and welcoming, they made me feel like a part of it already, even though that was my first time there. That was my number one option, and I felt if I didn’t go there I probably would’ve regretted it. I really just felt like I needed to go there.”

In Martin, the Catamounts get a first-team all-conference and second-team all-state midfielder who crafted 11 goals and eight assists for the IAAM-A runners up this season.

That her Cavaliers got that far was no small achievement. Spalding lost 12 seniors from its 2012 IAAM-A championship team and had a new coach, Ashly Kennedy, coming into this year. Martin had started games in the past, but said her role in the midfield grew as a part of an almost entirely overhauled starting lineup. She, U-Mass.-bound and all-state goalkeeper Cassidy Babin, and fellow senior midfielder Maria Boretti helped stabilize the side and engineer a return to the league championship game despite the turnover.

“Before tryouts, I was a little nervous,” Martin said. “I wasn’t sure how the whole team was going to come together. But after preseason, I had a feeling we would be in it until the end. It was just a matter of beating McDonogh or not beating McDonogh.”

Ultimately, the Cavaliers didn’t have enough to knock off the Eagles in a 2-1 championship loss, a strong showing considering McDonogh had outscored IAAM-A opponents 68-3 in 13 games and had beaten Spalding 5-0 earlier in the season. Martin scored Spalding’s goal in the title game.

“Earlier in the season, we had a rough game against them,” Martin said. “I thought it was a pretty good game. I thought it was close. It could have gone either way.”


In their IAAM-A championship season last year, Spalding went 15-3-3. Despite the loss of 12 seniors and a new head coach, the Cavaliers lost the same number of games this year and had a 13-3-1 record overall.


— Want to see where Spalding ended up in The Post’s final girls’ soccer rankings? Check them out here.

— After years of games affected by sloppy fields, Prince George’s County may finally have hope for better field conditions in the near future.

— With a 31-0 season, Loudoun County volleyball went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in The Post’s rankings.

— Severna Park boys’ soccer closed out the season strong, winning the Maryland 4A title and earning the top spot in The Post’s final rankings.

— Westfield field hockey did something no Virginia public school team has done in at least 13 years.

— It may be his first season of football, but Carroll senior lineman Cory Jones has offers flowing in anyway

— Paint Branch quarterback Gaston Cooper may be the most high-profile player on the Panthers’ 4A state semifinal team, but his center’s drawing interest from colleges coaches, too.


The Turkey Bowl, 11 a.m., Thursday

A year after being disqualified from the game, Wilson returns to to face H.D. Woodson in the DCIAA Stars Division championship game with a spot in the DCSAA final on the line.


Check out the most recent episode of First and 17, the story of the day Da’Shawn Hand finally made his commitment.

Commitment day arrives for Da'Shawn Hand as he celebrates his 18th birthday by making his college announcement. The next day, the Vikings travel south to face top-seed Varina in the playoffs. (Brad Horn and Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)