Experienced as they may be, there are some things even senior starters don’t know how to handle.
Such as game-tying goals against a team that’s made five straight state finals that no player on the roster had ever beaten, for example.
Ask Damascus senior midfielder Steph Cox, who buried a shot from 20 yards out to bring her team back from a 1-0 deficit late in the first half of its eventual 2-1 win over No. 7 Bethesda-Chevy Chase Monday night.
“Right when I made it, I turned around and my whole team was laughing at me because of the look on my face,” Cox said. “I was just so happy that it went in. . . I was like tearing up!”
You’ll forgive Cox for not — as the pros say — ‘acting like she’d been there before.’ After all, she and her Damascus (4-0) teammates hadn’t registered a win as big as Monday night’s in their careers. In fact, though they knew they had talent, they weren’t even sure they could.
“It was honestly incredible, it was surreal. I was just waiting to wake up,” said senior captain Danielle Fernandez, a four-year varsity player. “I know that we worked really hard, and I knew we were pretty good, but beating BCC — that just shows we can play with the top teams in the county.”
Damascus’s Monday night win pushes them a step closer to a spot among those Montgomery County elite. Far from cellar dwellers in past seasons (10-4 in 2012), the Hornets are displaying particular promise so far in 2013, outscoring opponents 15-2 in four games, led by six goals from Katie Kirschenmann and five from Cox.
Outcomes aside, coaches and players agree this season has a special feel because of an emphasis on off-field friendship as much as on-field tactics.
“I know that I have a special group of seniors that have focused a lot on team-building this year. They’ve done a lot on their own outside of practice to make underclassmen feel welcome on the team,” Coach Katie Chapman said.
“We’re all really good friends this year. In past years, we were always really friendly, but this year, we hang out as friends, not just like teammates,” Cox said. “It feels different when you play with your friends.”
Cox and her friends will try to turn in another telling result Wednesday night when they host No. 9 Walter Johnson (2-0) at 7 p.m., one of just three 4A schools remaining on the 3A Hornets’ schedule.
In Howard County, Centennial (4-0), annually strong, is emerging as a darkhorse to elevate itself to the county’s elite this season. The Eagles, who rotate two freshman at the crucial-for-creation center midfield position, have outscored opponents 13-5 in those four games.
“I’m surprised at how much offense we’re creating,” said Coach Steven Baxter Tuesday morning before his team’s showdown with Atholton — a team Centennial had gone to overtime with and tied in each of the previous four years of his tenure. “I’m starting to think we might be for real, but tonight will tell a lot.”
What it told Baxter was that the Eagles — young in several crucial positions — have the grit of a more experienced side. Down a goal with fewer than three minute left in regulation, freshman forward Jasmine McCree scored on a feed from sophomore forward Reese Western to tie the game. Then Western found the back of the net in the last minute of the first overtime to seal the win.
“I know Atholton played their hearts out. I think our two freshman and our sophomore center mids had a tough time dealing with the athleticism and strength of Atholton’s midfielders and lost a lot of tackles tonight,” Baxter said. “ Regardless, they are still working hard and making a big impact on our team. I think we have a good chance to be a top three or four team in our county.”
River Hill (2-2) takes a tough-luck drop out of the rankings even after bouncing back to beat Reservoir and Old Mill after two season-opening losses to No. 1 Good Counsel and No. 2 O’Connell. . . . Walter Johnson also drops out after an idle week, though the Wildcats remain a major threat in the ultra-competitive Montgomery County 4A South division. . . . Holy Cross returns to the top ten at No. 5 after a 4-0 win over Elizabeth Seton pushed the Tartans to 3-0 this season. . . . Good Counsel won and tied and O’Connell won and lost as each played two games at a tournament against Tennessee teams in Nashville last week…
1. Good Counsel (2-0-3) LW:1
2. O’Connell (4-1) LW: 3
3. Churchill (3-0-1) LW: 6
4. Spalding (2-1-1) LW: 2
5. Holy Cross (3-0) LW: NR
6. South River (3-2) LW: 4
7. Bethesda-Chevy Chase (2-1-1) LW: 5
8. National Cathedral (3-0) LW: NR
9. Bishop Ireton (3-1-2) LW: 8
10. St. John’s (3-2) LW: 10
On the bubble: Walter Johnson (2-0), Damascus (4-0), Whitman (1-0-1), Quince Orchard (0-0-1), River Hill (2-2), Centennial (4-0)
(Records through Tuesday)