Montgomery County field hockey: A dynasty in despair -- Gazette.Net


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When the clock at Washington College clicked to all zeroes on Nov. 10, the Poolesville High School field hockey team burst from the sidelines and stormed onto the field to celebrate — atypically and unexpectedly — with the 11 players remaining on the field.

In what has become a growing trend for the county's field hockey teams, they were celebrating second place.

Eight years ago, when Montgomery County was in the midst of an 11-year run in which at least one team took home a state title — there were 14 total, although five were ties — that type of reaction to a loss would seem unthinkable.

“We were the Severna Park's,” longtime Bethesda-Chevy Chase coach Amy Wood said. “We were the name everyone outside the county worried about.”

But since Quince Orchard won the 2006 4A title under current Academy of the Holy Cross coach Jenna Ries, a new order has been established.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase, which captured a record nine consecutive state titles, has been shut out since it last won under Wood in 2004. Prior to that, in a stretch from 1988-2002, the Barons took ownership of the Maryland championship 12 times.

Poolesville since has taken on the role of the county's brightest hope. It has advanced to the state finals each of the past two years, but has been swept by Glenelg by a combined score of 8-1.

“I just wanted to play with them and give them our best shot,” Poolesville coach Regina Grubb said. “I told the girls, 'They're the defending state champions [and] go in and give them everything you have and leave it all on the field.'”

There may have been a few outliers on the Glenelg team that didn't play club field hockey, but according to Falcon senior Kelsey Carnahan, “All their girls play club. We don't have one girl that plays club. We're all just girls that are athletic coming together.”

Montgomery County, which now pales in comparison to counties such as Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard, appears to be behind on the times.

“A good percentage of players in our county do not play club,” said B-CC coach Ralph Goodwin, who took over for Wood this season. “You see South River, Severna Park [and] those teams in Anne Arundel, all of their players play club field hockey. That's the difference right there.”

Club and youth field hockey has exploded in the aforementioned counties while it has been slow to catch on in Montgomery. Part of this is due to the fact that in 1998, girls soccer in Montgomery became a fall sport. The sport since has competed with field hockey for athletes. When it came time to choose between the two sports, a large majority opted for soccer.

“You drive 20 minutes to Carroll County and they don't give a crap about soccer,” Goodwin said. “It's field hockey and lacrosse. They're all field hockey driven.

“Soccer?” he added with a laugh. “That's a communist sport over there.”

Soccer, meanwhile, is thriving in Montgomery. Since field hockey began its tailspin in 2004, the boys and girls soccer teams in the county have combined for 15 state titles — not including 2012 results.

“When I started coaching, 80 percent of my starting field hockey team was starting on the soccer team,” Wood said. “In my last state championship team, my core kids grew up playing soccer together.”

Now, she said, “look at our soccer team. They're a dynasty.”

It sounded weird for Wood, the manufacturer of possibly the greatest dynasty in Maryland public school history, to label another team as one.

With the possible exception of Thomas S. Wootton, which was widely regarded as the deepest team in the county, the effort to sway girls from the soccer field to the field hockey turf has been in vain.

“Walter Johnson has two club players,” Goodwin said. “That's going to kill them against teams like Catonsville and South River. A lot of teams don't even have one club player.”Walter Johnson coach Erika Murray says the Wildcats actually have nine club players.

To anyone in attendance at the James H. Blake vs. South River state semifinal game Nov. 7, the disparity between the team that carried club players and the team that just had athletes who happened to play field hockey was quite clear.

The Bengals hung tough for about 25 minutes, but there was little arguing that South River was on an entirely different tier.

“We've never experienced a team like that,” said Victoria Walsh, Blake's lone goal scorer.

That's what other counties used to say about B-CC.

But things may yet be on the rise for Montgomery.

Goodwin, alongside Ries, coaches a club team called the Jackals. B-CC has 30 current and future players in the club circuit and Wootton, under second year coach Kearney Blandamer, already has been active on the club scene.

Wood prefers a recreational system to be put in place first that would mirror that of Severna Park's, where “every single one of their sports teams is in the rec department,” she said. From there, she said, club teams can begin to develop for those seeking a higher level of play.

Blandamer, who headed the 2003 state champion Springbrook team — which beat South River in the process — may have summed up the county's woes better than anybody.

“There's a saying, 'Champions are made in the offseason,'” she said. “Especially these days.”

tmewhirter@gazette.net