Only 16 girls showed up to the first day of tryouts in the Clarksburg High School’s field hockey team’s 2006 inaugural season. That would have been barely enough for a varsity roster, let alone a junior varsity squad, so the coach, Sissy Natoli, recruited athletes from wherever she could find them; physical education class, the hallways. By the time the season started, there was enough girls to field two teams.
The Coyotes’ numbers have grown since then, and this summer — eight years later — there were so many players, 49, that Clarksburg had to make JV cuts.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Natoli, entering her ninth season at Clarksburg. “... We’re excited. We’re proud of the kids for taking the initiative.”
The timing of the record-high turnout — up from 38 last summer — is no coincidence. The Coyotes had their second-best season last fall, finishing with a 10-5 record after a red-hot 7-0 start. Their success caught the community’s attention with 200-plus people attending some of their games, and that led more girls to try out this summer, senior Ashley Wong said.
“A lot of people stepped up to the plate,” said Wong, an All-Gazette midfield/forward last season. “A lot of last year’s seniors really surprised. It just came out of nowhere. It definitely did surprise me but I was grateful for that.”
Eleven players graduated, including Wong’s older sister, Alexis Wong (All-Gazette second team), but the Coyotes have the depth and athleticism to make up for the loss of last year’s talent, Natoli said. That’s in large part thanks to a player-led offseason recruiting effort, Natoli said.
Wong said she and some of her teammates were volunteer coaches at a Clarksburg Sports Association camp (sixth through 10th grade). Many of the participants would end up making Clarksburg’s junior varsity team.
As for the varsity squad, Wong said she has noticed improvements, from the seniors to the underclassmen.
“At practice I already see it, they’re not afraid to challenge me,” said Wong, a fourth-year varsity player. “I’m really happy to see it, a lot of people are stepping up. I’m excited.”
Rockville’s Thomas S. Wootton went 17-1 last season, reaching the 4A state championship for the first time in more than three decades. Though there will be some new faces — about half of its starting lineup graduated — coach Kearney Blandamer said the Patriots have a talented returning core that includes senior Julia Lee (All-Gazette honorable mention), junior Rachel Maizel (second team) and junior Lacey Rubin.
“Different teams and different players are going to emerge,” coach Kearney Blandamer said. “... Hopefully we’re going to be able to adjust to what our opponents throw at us and just bring our best game every week.”
Poolesville, coming off a 7-5 season, returns much of its core, including seniors Anna Murgia (All-Gazette second team) and Amanda Chasin (honorable mention).
Olney’s Our Lady of Good Counsel is looking to defend its Washington Catholic Athletic Conference crown after defeating rival Academy of the Holy Cross (Kensington) in last year’s finals.
Look for Bethesda’s Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart to make a run at an Independent School League championship after reaching the reaching the finals and losing to St. Stephens/St. Agnes (Va.) last year. Holton-Arms School (Bethesda) and Bullis (Potomac) appeared in the ISL semifinals.