Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Girls soccer: Cougars have unfinished business

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Clarksburg senior midfielder Ashley Layton (11) is one reason the Coyotes have high expectations in only their second season.
Late August, early September is about more than just raiding the mall for new school supplies and wardrobe. It also signifies the start of the fall sports season and every Montgomery County girls soccer team’s mission, whether a realistic goal or not, is to win a season-ending state tournament or conference title.

Choosing a favorite from the lot is always tough, the county is loaded with soccer talent. This year is no different. There are the usual suspects: Quince Orchard (15-4-0 in 2006), Poolesville and Wootton. But Clarksburg, Damascus, Gaithersburg and Watkins Mill could also be the teams to talk about by season’s end.

One last-minute goal separated Quince Orchard last year from its first state title since 2002 and second overall. The memory of Leonardtown forward Emily Gehrig’s shot bending into the net with two minutes remaining in regulation of the Class 4A title game has haunted the Cougars since last November. And they’re on a mission to reverse that heart-wrenching result in 2007.

And though Quince Orchard did bid farewell to several irreplaceable players, including stalwart midfielder Emilia Odenkirchen (10 assists in 2006) and defender Chelsea Prentice, it’s certainly possible the Cougars will have a chance to do that.

Quince Orchard returns 13 players and eight starters, including last year’s two leading scorers, senior forward Ariel Nehemiah (8 goals, 7 assists) and sophomore forward Ele Margelos (7 goals, 5 assists), senior midfielder⁄forward Christie Shell (6 goals), junior goalkeeper Amanda Whitney and sophomore Kayla Clarke.

The Cougars struggled to capitalize on scoring chances early last year, but rectified that problem in the latter half of the season. And they hope that trend continues in 2007. With an incredibly speedy and balanced offense, they’re a strong contender for the county’s 4A West Division, the 4A West Region and 4A state titles.

‘‘States is always our goal,” Shell said. ‘‘But I think losing last year in the state final will be an even stronger impetus for us to win to prove that we deserve to be there and that we shouldn’t be underestimated.”

In 2002, Poolesville first-year coach Christina Mann was a senior on the Falcons’ first and only state-championship team. After a successful four-year career at North Carolina State she’s come back home, hoping to lead the program back to the state tournament.

Poolesville (12-3-0) lost a lot of scoring power when its three-year forward tandem of Kirsten Schuster and Meghan Rose, who both averaged more than 10 goals the last two years, graduated this past spring. But the Falcons have several players capable of stepping into more prominent scoring roles. They’ll look to junior midfielder Sarah Ferrari and senior forward Faith Clauser to pick up some of that scoring slack.

As always, Poolesville will rely on its speed throughout to open up and keep its opponents’ scrambling. But another strongpoint this year will be its backfield, led by experienced seniors Stephanie Holton and Jennifer Fink.

All coaches want the best for their team, but to Mann, coming back to Poolesville, where her soccer career really exploded, adds more motivation to keep the program successful.

‘‘There’s definitely more meaning coming back here,” Mann said. ‘‘It was only four years ago that I was on this team. It’s not been too long and I know a lot of these players because they’re younger siblings of people I played with. I want to do a good job, it means a lot to be back here.”

Under former Watkins Mill coach Troy Bowers’ tutelage, Clarksburg (9-7-0) proved in its first year of existence last season that it’s certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with. Never having played together — most of the team had just met at the beginning of the season — it was able to produce a winning record.

And, with basically the entire roster returning, the Coyotes will look to use their added year of experience together to their advantage in improving on last year’s milestones.

Clarksburg is defense-oriented and stalwart senior defender Daria Borowski will reassume her position at the helm of the team’s back line. Speedy and technically sound, she’s also capable of moving forward when the opportunity presents itself. She’s helped in the back by senior Lisa Brown and junior goalkeeper Kelly Gafner. Scoring was a struggle last year but Bowers has high expectations for this year’s potential, with senior midfielder Ashley Layton and senior forward Mary Dillon up top as the Coyotes try and compete for the school’s first-ever division title in the county’s 3A⁄2A⁄1A West.

Wootton (13-4-0) consistently ranks among the top teams in the county but graduation casualties may make it hard for the Patriots to compete for their first Class 4A West Region title and state tournament appearance since 2000.

Nevertheless, Wootton can never be taken lightly. And, though it lost several of its go-to scorers, it returns senior forward Melissa Cohen, who tallied 11 goals and four assists last year, and sophomore Allison Yeager (5 goals, 4 assists) to its formidable front line.

The Patriots’ backfield took a huge hit with the loss of goalie Kira Maker, who boasted a mere 0.31-goals-against average last year and is now playing at Stanford. But Wootton will rely on strong performances from senior defenders Katie Duncan and Schuyler Cosby to keep them competitive in their push for a 4A East Division title.

Watkins Mill (5-10-0) has suffered through three consecutive years of big graduation casualties. But, with nine players returning to the field this year, hopes to steady its play and compete for a division title — with Clarksburg claiming some of its students, Watkins Mills moved down to the 3A⁄2A⁄1A West Division this season.

The Wolverines, traditionally feisty and courageous, will lean on strong performances from junior midfielder Dyanna Cuevas up top.

Damascus (5-10-1) came on strong at the end of last year and though it graduated five seniors, returns four starting players to a team eager and capable of competing for a 3A⁄2A⁄1A West Division title in 2007.

The Swarmin’ Hornets struggled to finish early in the year in 2006 but should get more offensive production from senior Christine Reges and juniors Ryann Brickley and Tina Arellano up top this fall. Junior goalie Courtney Haines will anchor the team’s defense.

Northwest had its best year in more than three years last year and will look to compete for a 4A West Division title this year. It’ll rely on strong offensive performances from juniors Elizabeth Gray and Erika Martin, as well as stalwart senior goalkeeper Moriah Van Vlerah, who verbally committed to play at NCAA Division I University of Maryland-Baltimore County next year.

Seneca Valley (3-6-1) lost four seniors, including its leading scorer, from last year’s squad. It’ll lean on senior Allison Diaz and freshman Jasmine Sampson to produce big scoring numbers in the county’s 3A⁄2A⁄1A East Division.

This season is a new season, a chance for team’s to start fresh, but for some teams, like Quince Orchard, there’s unfinished business from 2006.

‘‘Every year we try to win our division, our goal is to win the region and go to states, that’s the same goal every year,” Quince Orchard nine-year coach Peg Keiller said. ‘‘This year we’re thinking more about it though because of that huge disappointment last year.”


Clarksburg Coyotes

Head coach: Troy Bowers, 2nd year

Last year’s record: 9-7-0

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Daria Borowski (Jr., D), Ashley Layton (Sr., M)

Damascus Swarmin’ Hornets

Head coach: Howard Putterman, 2nd year

Last year’s record: 5-10-1

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Tina Arellano (Jr., M), Christine Reges (Sr., M)

Northwest Jaguars

Head coach: Katie Johnson, 6th year

Last year’s record: N⁄A

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Moriah Van Vlerah (Sr., G), Elizabeth Gray (Jr., F), Erika Martin (Jr., F)

Poolesville Falcons

Head coach: Christina Mann, 1st year

Last year’s record: 12-3-0

Last state title: 2002 (1st)

Players to watch: Sarah Ferrari (Jr., M), Faith Clauser (Sr., F)

Quince Orchard Cougars

Head coach: Peg Keiller, 9th year

Last year’s record: 15-4-0

Last state title: 2002 (1st)

Players to watch: Christie Shell (Sr., M⁄F), Ariel Nehemiah (Sr., F), Ele Margelos (Soph., F)

Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles

Head coach: Claude Sayag, 2nd year

Last year’s record: 3-6-1

Last state title: None

Players to watch: Allison Diaz (Sr., F), Jasmine Sampson (Fr., F)

Watkins Mill Wolverines

Head coach: Josh Kinnetz, 2nd year

Last year’s record: 5-10-0

Last state title: None

Player to watch: Dayanna Cuevas (Jr., M)

Wootton Patriots

Head coach: Chris Thompson, 4th year

Last year’s record:13-4-0

Last state title: 1998 (1st)

Players to watch: Katie Duncan (Sr., D), Melissa Cohen (Sr., F)