Perhaps a chilly March afternoon on the sunny turf at Broadneck High School wasn’t the time to draw conclusions about Anne Arundel County standings or eventual Maryland State Champion contenders, anyway. Broadneck, the defending state champion was hosting Severna Park — a perennial contender for the top spot in Anne Arundel County — in both teams’ season openers, a matchup that could separate the top team this year in a county prone to producing state champions.
But if you sat in the wind-rattled bleachers looking for a hint of what sweltering late May and early June days might bring, you didn’t find it Monday. Because as Broadneck’s potential game-tying shot clanged off the stick of Severna Park goalie extraordinaire Rachel Vander Kolk in the final moments, the only thing it clarified was that Anne Arundel County will be wide open this season.
Broadneck, Severna Park and South River are the traditional big three in Anne Arundel County, and look to be as evenly matched as ever this season. Broadneck won out in the end last season, taking out Severna Park and narrowly edging South River on its way to the state title. The Bruins lost all but three starters, though midfielder-defender Emily Barton, midfielder-attack Natalie Hendricks, and talented midfielder Ellie McNulty remain as anchors. McNulty was at the center of the Bruins’ late rally against Severna Park Monday, a loss she and her teammates will have the chance to avenge given a conference realignment that means each of the big three will play each other twice this season. Previously, they’d only matched up once.
Among the elite teams in Anne Arundel, one team’s regular season victory does not necessarily beget the same team’s postseason success. Last year, Broadneck lost to South River by one goal in its season opener. The Bruins then beat the Seahawks 14-13 in the playoffs. So while Severna Park Coach Carin Peterson acknowledges that beating the defending champions is a good way to start the season, she’s not putting too much stock in an early one-goal victory.
“When you beat a top team like this — Broadneck, South River, Severn, teams like that — it’s always a nice win,” Peterson said. “But I think at this point we’re all just trying to see what we have.”
Still, Peterson looks as loaded as anybody, with steady stalwart Vander Kolk in goal and veteran field players like Kelsey Kirk — who scored three goals in the Falcons’ win — helping to incorporate underclassmen forced to fill in after the departure of several talented seniors, a problem facing all three of Anne Arundel’s top squads.
“Our young players have a lot of potential to help us out this year and in coming years,” Kirk said. “This (win) gives them a lot of confidence heading into the season. Last year we had a lot of good individual players, this year we work together better as a team, so teamwork and our defense are the keys.”
South River lost 12 seniors, but will fill in around a still-loaded roster that features Maryland commit Kacie Longo (34 goals, 29 assists as a junior). She and the Seahawks will try to achieve something they never have in her career this season: edge Severna Park and Broadneck for the Maryland 4A/3A state championship. South River’s last state title came in 2010. Since then, the Falcons won in back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012, while the Bruins narrowly edged the Seahawks on the way to last year’s title.
Last year, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes put together a 29-1 season, winning against some of the nation’s best teams and beating up on local squads — all except Georgetown Visitation, which pushed the Saints to the brink of defeat in an eventual 14-12 St. Stephen’s victory late in the season.
This year’s team looks a little different than last year’s juggernaut: gone are two-time All-Met player of the year Carly Reed (North Carolina) and her 131 goals from 2013, Besser Dyson (Virginia) and her 52 goals and 149 assists, and Margaret Tucker Fogarty (James Madison) and her 91 goals.
But Saints Coach Kathy Jenkins, who started the team in 1976, knows “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “worse” when it comes to the look of the D.C. area’s perennial top team.
“We have some kids coming up that we’re surprised about and some players that have made some big improvement coming into this year,” Jenkins said. “We feel like they’re coming on and doing what we ask them and having to learn the system. It just takes a little time. It’s hard to tell now, but I feel like we stack up pretty well. I’m hopeful.”
Jenkins still has major talent up and down her roster, in particular in goalie Gussie Johns, who recorded 170 saves in 27 games last year. She also returns senior midfielders Sophie Davidson (40 goals) and Olivia Mikkelson (47), as well as junior attack Ellie Majure (40 goals) and stalwart defender Sarah Goode — all of them headed to Division I programs.
So far, the talent has come together nicely for Jenkins and the Saints, who are 4-0 behind 10 goals and five assists so far from junior attack Abby Bailey. St. Stephen’s — led by Southern Cal commit Johns in goal — has held opponents to five goals or fewer in each of those games.
Defending 3A/2A champions Marriotts Ridge began their season in style with an 18-1 win over Atholton thanks to three goals apiece from Marissa Davey, Taylor Hensch and Alexis Zadjura. . . . 16 different players scored for Bishop Ireton in 20-2 season-opening win over Elizabeth Seton. . . . Good Counsel won its first two games by identical 21-1 scores. . . . Led by new coach Eva Shea, Visitation dropped its first two games, one to national powerhouse McDonogh, before winning its next two games to start at 2-2.
1. St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes (29-1)
2. Georgetown Visitation (21-2)
3. Good Counsel (17-3)
4. Bishop Ireton (17-6)
5. Marriotts Ridge (18-1)
6. Severna Park (11-4)
7. South River (15-3)
8. Madison (20-1)
9. Mount Hebron (14-3)
10. Broadneck (18-3)
(Final 2013 records)