Montgomery County’s 25 public high school girls’ soccer teams have collectively scored an average of 27 goals apiece in 2013. Up until recently, that likely would’ve been the handy work of just one player.
In the fall of 1998, a Watkins Mill freshman by the name of Noelle Keselica scored an unprecedented 35 goals and averaged 25 a year over a four-year tenure. Walter Johnson’s all-time leading scorer, Caroline Miller, graduated in 2009 with a 22-per-year goal scoring average and Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s recent string of four consecutive state titles was propelled by go-to scorers such as Hannah Cooper (Class of 2009, four straight 18-plus goal seasons) and Vic Gersh (20 goals scored in 2009-10).
Gone are the days, for the most part it seems, of such dominant scorers. But the trend is in no way a sign of trouble for the county’s soccer teams. In fact, coaches agree it’s symptomatic of increased talent county-wide. As more and more elite level clubs have popped up all over the region and attracted younger and younger athletes, experienced players are filling out teams’ depth charts in all areas of the county, not just the traditionally strong Bethesda and Potomac areas, Walt Whitman coach Greg Herbert said. Case in point, Gaithersburg’s recent ascent into the county’s upper echelon.
Thirteen different players have scored for both Winston Churchill and Whitman in 2013 but none have exceeded eight goals. B-CC has 19 players with at least one goal and no one with more than six. Damascus senior midfielder Steph Cox is currently the county’s leading scorer with 18 goals but the Swarmin’ Hornets have outscored their opponents 64-5 and still have 15 players with at least one goal. Even defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion Our Lady of Good Counsel lacks one particular scorer with 12 contributors and none with more than 12 goals — in 2011 two Falcons scored 22-plus goals.
“The trend [of more balanced scoring] is definitely there,” said Churchill coach Haroot Hakopian, who has been coaching in the county for two decades. In those times you had solid players and one outstanding player take it upon themselves to score. Now you have several teams across the county with girls with six to 10 scorers. That means when they get the opportunity to finish, they’re finishing.”
The county is in no shortage of star power capable of peppering the stat sheet. If Whitman midfielder Aliza Wolfe played in the front field and put more emphasis just on scoring, Herbert and Hakopian agreed, her numbers could sky rocket. Though more comfortable in the set-up role, Hakopian said B-CC senior and Colgate University recruit Eliza Doll has the ability to take over games in a similar manner.
The recent trend has also been boosted by the type of player being developed at a young age, Hakopian said, and the brand of soccer it enables high school teams to employ. Players are more versatile these days than they were 10 to 15 years ago, Hakopian said, and can play various roles on the field depending on where they’re needed. So teams are generally able to efficiently execute a prettier, more possession style of soccer that lends itself to more balance among scoring options, coaches agreed.
Kurtz joked after the Barons’ 2-1 win over Whitman earlier this month that he would pay to have the high-scoring numbers he was accustomed to in the mid-2000s — one-goal decisions can be stressful — but the recent lack of dominant scoring signifies a new level of competition in Montgomery County girls’ soccer.
“You don’t see those players anymore who are ripping home 25 goals,” Kurtz said. “Hannah Cooper scored 18 goals for us four years in a row, I’d be paying her if she did that for us now. But the good thing is we’re getting it from a lot of different players.”