The Gaithersburg girls’ soccer team figured to be improved in its second season under Greg Kenel, with a large cast of returning players and several promising newcomers. In the preseason, the longtime Montgomery County club coach put a number on it, asking his squad to win seven games this fall for a two-victory bump over 2011.
At 7-0 entering Wednesday’s game against Clarksburg (3-5-1), the Trojans have already had to recalibrate their expectations. With two weeks left in the regular season, they are one of three remaining area public school teams boasting a perfect record along with No. 5 River Hill (11-0), Arundel (11-0) and Huntingtown (9-0).
“I knew we could get there” to seven wins, Kenel said. “It just happened a whole lot faster than I thought.”
When Kenel took over the team prior to last season, he only knew junior goalkeeper Michaela Colon. He’d co-coached Colon’s club team with his brother Steve since the players were 8 years old, and the 5-foot-2 netminder convinced the Clarksburg resident who she calls “tough but fair” to try his hand at the high school level.
The Trojans pushed through a losing campaign in 2011 but have blossomed this season using a lineup that features six underclassmen, including sophomore Jaime Montgomery. The forward transferred from Covenant Life and now leads her public school team with seven goals.
Gaithersburg’s breakthrough performance came on Sept. 13 against Blair. The perennially strong Blazers had blasted the Trojans 5-0 last fall, but this time, Kenel’s squad scored four goals in the first 20 minutes and kept attacking in a 7-3 victory.
“It was really exciting because we couldn’t even score against them last year,” said sophomore Jordan Menge, a second-year captain. “I knew right from that first goal that we were a different team.”
Gaithersburg has never appeared in the state tournament, and a deep postseason run this season is no sure thing playing in a region that has been traditionally dominated by teams from the southern part of Montgomery County. But as of Wednesday, the Trojans were tied atop the Maryland 4A West standings with four-time defending state champ Bethesda-Chevy Chase, while Churchill, which beat Gaithersburg 6-1 in last season’s playoffs, was slotted fifth.
“Now that we’ve played together for a year, I expected to be better,” senior defender Alexandria Roth said. “But I’m shocked that we’re the only undefeated [public school] team in the county. I’m just proud of us.”
Midge Purce, the 2011 All-Met Player of the Year, returned to action for top-ranked Good Counsel earlier than expected after the U.S. team failed to advance past the group stage in the U-17 Women’s World Cup. The senior forward missed four games while playing in Azerbaijan and rejoined the Falcons with two goals in a 4-0 win over Elizabeth Seton on Oct. 3. Arundel — which enters the rankings this week — has outscored its opponents 40-2 in 11 victories. The Wildcats host No. 8 South River on Monday with the Anne Arundel County title likely on the line.
(Records through Tuesday)
1. Good Counsel (8-0-1) LW: 1
2. Spalding (6-2-3) LW: 2
3. O’Connell (8-1-2) LW: 3
4. Holy Cross (8-0) LW: 4
5. River Hill (11-0) LW: 5
6. Sidwell Friends (7-2) LW: 6
7. National Cathedral (6-1-2) LW: 7
8. South River (10-1) LW: 9
9. Bethesda-Chevy Chase (7-1) LW: 8
10. Arundel (11-0) LW: NR