Gaithersburg High School junior Jaime Montgomery said her mind was racing on the first day of girls’ soccer tryouts last August. Homeschooled since second grade, she played soccer for Covenant Life School in the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference in 2011 and led the Cougars to the conference championship game, becoming the first freshman to earn Player of the Year honors in league history.
But Montgomery County Public Schools is a much bigger, more competitive league than the 14-team PVAC, Montgomery said, and despite knowing some of the Trojans’ players from club soccer, she wasn’t sure where she would fit in at Gaithersburg.
“[Tryouts] were definitely intimidating. I didn’t know if I’d make junior varsity or varsity. It was really scary,” Montgomery said. “I just gave it my all. I didn’t know how I’d square up.”
Not only did Montgomery make coach Greg Kenel’s varsity squad, but she became the Trojans’ best scoring options last fall with 11 goals, and Gaithersburg enjoyed its best season in 15 years. On the starting end of many of those scoring runs was classmate and Maryland Rush Montgomery teammate Jordan Menge, who Kenel said has a sense of where her teammates are going to be before they even know themselves.
Though Gaithersburg only graduated three starters a year ago, the holes they left behind were filled by freshmen in 2013, which left some question marks early. But Gaithersburg (4-2-1), which boosted its schedule this fall with games against four-time defending Class 4A West Region champion Bethesda-Chevy Chase and undefeated Walt Whitman, has picked up where it left off in 2012 and the Menge/Montgomery tandem is a major reason why, Kenel said.
Their different skill sets complement each other well on the pitch, he said, and raise the level of those around them. Just seven games into the season Montgomery has 10 goals, one short of last year’s total, and Menge has 10 assists (and four goals).
“You put those two players on the field, and when they connect, there’s some good stuff happening,” Kenel said. “Jordan has tremendous control. She is our mastermind in the middle. That complements Jaime because she is a workhorse. She’s fast and quick and will do anything to score a goal. The two of them help bridge the two different levels of play. We have one person we can count on to score and attack and one to hold, control and distribute, and the girls follow their lead.”
While it’s easy to look past some of the opponents on Gaithersburg’s schedule early — the Trojans scored 24 goals in four-consecutive shutouts to start the year — Kenel said he is more concerned with the way in which his players tally goals rather than the number on the scoreboard. Gaithersburg prides itself on a possession-oriented offense propelled by quick passes to move the ball upfield. Though Montgomery and Menge lead the team in scoring and assists, Kenel praised them for being extremely unselfish players who involve everyone around them. Led by senior goalkeeper Michaela Colon, Gaithersburg has shut out all but two opponents: B-CC (1-0 loss) and Whitman (2-0 loss).
The need for a team to work together in order to be successful, Montgomery said, is what she likes most about soccer.
“You can put one really good player on a team, but the team that works well together will win over a team with really good players who don’t work together,” Montgomery said.
Added Menge: “I definitely don’t think stats show [everything]. Even though me and Jaime work well together and get stats, there are defenders who support us, and just because other people aren’t the ones scoring doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of it.”
Menge and Montgomery both said they hope to play in college one day. Montgomery said that played a role in her transfer to Gaithersburg a year ago. But fortunately for the Trojans, the two, who Kenel said have taken on more leadership responsibilities as juniors, will be back for another season of high school ball as Gaithersburg looks to solidify its place as a legitimate postseason contender.
“My freshman year we did OK, but there was not much enthusiasm [for the program]. Last year the support was amazing,” Menge said. “People are starting to pay more attention to [our team]. Everyone is excited to play. We have a new school and a new spirit and morale.”