Maybe it was the kayaking, the rock climbing or possibly hours of swim training. Bearing the brunt of diving saves as the Albert Einstein High School girls soccer team’s goalie for two years likely didn’t help matters. Whatever the exact cause, somewhere along the way during her sophomore year, current Titans senior central midfielder Jenna Pastel endured a labrum tear in her right shoulder.
The pain was there for more than a year, she said, until finally it was so excruciating it kept her up at night. So, after much contemplation, she underwent surgery to repair the ligament last August, just before the 2013 high school soccer season. For four months Pastel was not even allowed to run, she was out of all sports for sixth months.
A year later, a similar operation to Pastel’s left shoulder looms ahead. But closing out her high school tenure with her Titans’ teammates, she said, is more important. Einstein struggled to a 1-11 campaign last fall that came on the heels of a successful 2012. But with Pastel, who is still sifting through college soccer options, back, the Titans are poised for a better 2014.
Pastel will not return to goal but she could possibly be even more influential in the central midfield. Her presence on the field, alone, makes Einstein a better team, Rackey said.
“She’s very fast and she has great field vision,” Rackey said of Pastel. “She probably has one of the strongest left feet I’ve ever seen. She’s a team leader, she’s got a lot of energy. And because she played goalie for us for two years, I think she will help us defensively because she thinks defensively. She keeps the girls moving, she definitely leads by example.”
In addition to Pastel’s return Einstein will be bolstered this fall by possibly the best incoming freshman class, Rackey said, an exciting prospect for the future of Titans soccer as well. Helping Pastel out in the midfield will likely be Natia Raytselis, Melati Torrent and Emma Flannary.
“It’s such a relief to be back out on the field again, it’s nice to be able to play with my schoolmates,” Pastel said. “I’d rather be out here doing what I can [for the team]. For me injuries come second, which is not always good. I think I have a high pain tolerance, at least that’s what people tell me.”
This list could go at least six teams deep but Walt Whitman and Winston Churchill will likely remain the teams to beat. The Vikings graduated some major playmakers but have the tools necessary to move on. Churchill returns a core of talented athletes with several years of experience playing together. Our Lady of Good Counsel has some questions to answer but the Falcons annually reload and return veteran defense and dynamic scoring duo.
Last fall marked the first time in six years that six-time state champion Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s season ended before the state final. Scoring has been an issue for the Barons in recent years but the movement of stalwart defenders Rachel Cady and Denali Minnick up top will give B-CC increased physicality in the offensive third. Two-time state champion Quince Orchard has been on the cusp of its first return to states since 2008 and is poised to remain a major factor. With nine returning starters, including its leading scorer, this could be the Walter Johnson’s year to break out of the region. Thomas S. Wootton looks to be in position to build on a resurgent 2013. Sherwood followed up its first-ever state semifinal appearance in 2012 with a region final run a year ago. This is fast and feisty team that has the potential to beat anyone on any given day.
The Academy of the Holy Cross has certainly become a major factor, perennially, in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
Gaithersburg and Northwest are in the same boat, just below the county’s top tier. Both have proven to be competitive with the perennial powers but are still searching for that signature win. With only three returning starters to last year’s 3A West Region final team and a new coach, Damascus is in a bit of a transitional period but it would be dangerous to overlook the Swarmin’ Hornets. Other teams it would be unwise to underestimate include, James H. Blake, Montgomery Blair, Poolesville and Clarksburg.