The James H. Blake High School field hockey team relied on its defense last fall, regularly shutting down opponents en route to a 9-7 season. But the problem, said coach Patrick Howley, was the offense. The Bengals were held scoreless four times last season and managed only three total goals in their seven losses.
The good news for Blake: scoring help could be on the way. Blake returns five senior starters and adds several impact freshmen — an unusual occurrence at the Silver Spring school, Howley said.
“They’re going to have to learn the varsity game and everything but I think they’re going to make a potential impact right away.”
Though he doesn’t expect major improvements overnight, the busy preseason schedule — eight scheduled scrimmages in 10 days — could speed up the process and help the younger players mesh into the offense.
“Really, the type of team I have this year, we’re going to be developing this whole month of August and really coming together,” Howley said.
Senior defender Amanda Long said she has already seen signs of improvement on offense.
“I see a lot more communication and ball movement. Not everyone is just crowded together,” Long said.
While the offense may take time to develop, Howley said he expects the experienced defense to continue leading the team.
“It’s just going to take time for the whole team to gel and develop chemistry but once it does I think we’re going to be [ready] late in the season,” Howley said.
Blake defeated Springbrook (Silver Spring) last postseason before falling to Sherwood (Sandy Spring). The Bengals went 12-4 the previous year, reaching the state semifinals.
“There’s no number goal,” Long said. “... We just would rather put together our best effort and win as many games as we can.”
It’s out of the ordinary for Burtonsville’s Paint Branch to have even one freshman with club field hockey experience. This summer they had four, which has coach Dan Feher feeling good about the Panthers’ chances after a 5-10 season.
“I think this year that with the group that we have, it’s really just going to be about capitalizing on opportunities and making sure we do our job defensively,” Feher said.
Rockville’s Thomas S. Wootton went 17-1 last season and reached the 4A state championship, and 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,” 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.”
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. The Falcons graduate 12 seniors but return several key players, including fourth-year varsity goalie Caroline Campbell.
“We have a solid core,” Theda Bagdon said. “... The girls have a better idea of fitness and where the game is going.”
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.