Wednesday, April 2, 2008

With JV, will county’s girls look state-ly?

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Holy Cross’ Hayley Katzenberger (24) and Good Counsel’s Rachel Forman (17) did battle last fall in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference field hockey play. They’ll go at it again this spring in girls lacrosse.
Junior-varsity lacrosse has arrived in Montgomery County, and the girls varsity coaches are rejoicing.

‘‘It’s amazing,” Gaithersburg High coach Michelle Lewis said. ‘‘I’m still refining basics with the varsity players, but I am not teaching the basic skills anymore. We kept only 20 kids [on varsity, as opposed to 30 last year], but now we have more depth. All these players have the fundamentals.”

In fact, at many programs across Montgomery County, the advent of the junior-varsity program has encouraged more players to come out for lacrosse. The intimidation factor of trying out a new sport on the varsity level has disappeared.

‘‘This is going to help us in the long term,” Blair’s Mike Horne said. ‘‘We’ll get a lot more kids involved in the program. We already saw a good turnout among the sophomore class this year.”

The goal is that the junior varsity will feed and replenish the varsity ranks, not only at the stronger programs in the county, but in the traditionally weaker ones as well. And, while the advent of JV may help Montgomery County compete on a state level — no team has won a state semifinal game, let alone a state title — it may also bring parity to county competition as a whole.

‘‘The girls now have time to learn,” Wheaton coach Lauren Mincher said. ‘‘We have a chance to make JV a stepping stone to develop skilled players. There is still a gap, but this might help us close it.”

Quince Orchard is looking to close the gap between itself and the Frederick County schools that it will eventually face in the 4A-3A North Region playoffs. In the last few years, the Cougars have been among the elite in Montgomery County, but have not made it out of the regional playoffs. First-year coach Skye Saltsman, who played college lacrosse at Penn State, hopes to get a team that lost the bulk of its scoring to graduation, over the hump.

‘‘We’re still building the attitude of the team,” Saltsman said. ‘‘They know how to win games, but we need to start over in some areas, especially in the midfield transition.”

Senior midfielder Alicia Vicenty returns to add some stability to that area, as does senior Melissa Goleb. Alissa Peterson returns to lead the scoring attack and Bethany Scanlan will head up the defense. They have lofty goals.

‘‘We want to take it one game at a time, but the girls are already talking about going undefeated,” Saltsman said. ‘‘They want to go up against the tougher teams.”

Gaithersburg also seems poised to take a step forward this season. Last year saw the Trojans notch some big wins, and they return a solid core looking to go deeper into the playoffs. Helping their cause is the infusion of talent from feeder programs in Gaithersburg, like MVSA.

‘‘It’s exciting,” Lewis said. ‘‘I can plug them right in there and they have the skills.”

Seniors Liz Krauss and Allison Baisey will head up the attack, while goalie Liz Schaeffer returns for one more year. Senior defender Lauren Steis will anchor the back line, and is representative of the team’s ethos.

‘‘She is great with the stick and she’s a great checker,” Lewis said. ‘‘We have a great core with depth. We have a very good shot at doing well.”

Another team hoping to take a step forward is Magruder, which is in its third year with coach Kate Hilton at the helm. She feels like the process of molding the team to her style has taken a leap forward.

‘‘I’ve had most of these girls since they were sophomores,” Hilton said. ‘‘And, this year, we have added some freshmen that can get out on the field and play.”

Three seniors, attacker Kiki Sackett, midfielder Ashley Boyle and defender Elise Ruland, are captains, and their presence on the field should help the mix of youth and experience. Everyone is expected to chip in.

‘‘We’re keeping a small roster,” Hilton said. ‘‘They’re all going to play.”

At Northwest, the watchword is experience. Many of the starters are seniors, and with their experience, they have coach Corinne Noren excited.

‘‘This is the strongest group that I have had in the last four years,” she said. ‘‘Our goal is to be competitive with the better teams in the county.”

Senior Jaime Thompson will be in the midfield, and classmates Maureen McAllister and Erin Borg will head up the attack and defense, respectively.

‘‘Our deep defense is our lynchpin,” Noren said. ‘‘It is going to keep us in games throughout all 50 minutes.”

Watkins Mill is in a different place, trying to develop experience on a young roster. The JV team caused more girls to come out and put a stick in their hands, and has helped the development of the overall program.

‘‘It’s going to help for the future,” coach Vince Naylor said. ‘‘I don’t know if we will see an immediate benefit, though.”

Watkins Mill does have some strong returnees to make up its core. Leading scorer Jane Habel will return for her junior year, and if defenses pay too much attention to her, junior Hannah Parra can score too. Senior Sarah Klein is a four-year player, and will anchor the defense.

Poolesville suffered just one loss last year, but it came in the 2A-1A West Region final. If the Falcons are going to make it to the state playoffs, they will have to do it without stalwarts Meghan Rose and Jacqueline Orona, who have graduated, along with eight other players.

‘‘This group hasn’t played together all that long,” coach May Shlash said. ‘‘I’m hoping that as the season progresses they will learn to play with each other.”

The Falcons are not totally devoid of experience, as senior Stephanie Hilton, who will play at Mount St. Mary’s next year, comes back to anchor the defense. Senior Cori Rosenberg will lead the attack.

‘‘We have an athletic group of girls but it’s a rebuilding year at this point,” Shlash said. ‘‘We have some new challenges.”

Damascus and Clarksburg are rival schools in different situations. The Hornets are an established power, and after a regional semifinal exit a year ago coach Jodi Hathaway will try to get them back to the final with an offense led by the senior trio of Hannah Henningsgaard, Joanna McIntyre and Poppy Latos. The Coyotes will look to build on their inaugural varsity campaign a year ago, when they won three games. First-year coach Lauren Borst takes over for Lauren McCabe.

At Wootton, coach Anne-Marie Ritzell will try to get her team past the regional semifinal round. A year ago, the Patriots won 10 games, and earned the second seed in the 4A-3A West Region playoffs, before getting upset at home by Sherwood. The loss of scorer Courtney Saunders to graduation will make that difficult, but and experienced squad that includes senior Julie Klatzkin may pick up some of that slack. The Patriots also have an experienced and accomplished goalie in Amelia Titus, to anchor the defense.

Fast Facts

Damascus Swarmin’ Hornets

Head coach: Jodi Hathaway, 10th year

Last year’s record: 8-5

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A North

Players to watch: Hannah Henningsgaard (Sr., M), Poppy Latos (Sr., A), Joanna McIntyre (Sr., A)

Gaithersburg Trojans

Head coach: Michelle Lewis, 5th year

Last year’s record: 7-6

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A North

Players to watch: Liz Schaeffer (Sr., GK), Allison Baisey (Sr., A), Liz Krauss (Sr., A), Lauren Steis (Sr., D)

Magruder Colonels

Head coach: Kate Hilton, 3rd year

Last year’s record: 6-6

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A West

Players to watch: Kiki Sackett (Sr., A), Ashley Boyle (Sr., M), Elise Ruland (Sr., D)

Northwest Jaguars

Head coach: Corrine Noren, 5th year

Last year’s record: 4-8

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A North

Players to watch: Jaime Thompson (Sr., D), Maureen McAllister (Sr., A), Erin Borg (Sr., A)

Poolesville Falcons

Head coach: May Shlash, 3rd year

Last year’s record: 14-1

League affiliation: Montgomery 3A⁄2A⁄1A

Players to watch: Stephanie Hilton (Sr., D⁄M), Cori Rosenberg (Sr., A), Erika Gonzalez (Sr., GK), Grace Jackson (Jr., C)

Quince Orchard Cougars

Head coach: Skye Saltsman, 1st year

Last year’s record: 11-3

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A North

Players to watch: Alissa Peterson (Jr., A), Alicia Vicenty (Sr., M), Bethany Scanlan (Sr., D), Melissa Goleb (Sr., M)

Watkins Mill Wolverines

Head coach: Vince Naylor

Last year’s record: 3-9

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A North

Players to watch: Jane Habel (Jr., A), Sarah Klein (Sr., D), Hannah Parra (Jr., A)

Wootton Patriots

Head coach: Anne-Marie Ritzell, 3rd year

Last year’s record: 10-3

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A West

Players to watch: Amelia Titus (Sr., GK), Julie Klatzkin (Sr., M)