At Oakland Mills, sports fans are enjoying a busy homecoming week.
On Saturday, the school's No. 6-ranked football team (7-0) clashes with Howard at 1:30, followed by the homecoming dance that night. But leading up to that, Scorpions followers have plenty to keep them occupied. The girls soccer team (9-2) clinched its fourth straight Howard County title yesterday, and the undefeated boys cross country team runs for its seventh straight county championship today at Howard Community College.
The girls soccer team visits Glenelg tomorrow (3:45), aiming to improve its seeding for the upcoming regional tournament. Then the No. 2-ranked boys soccer team (9-2) faces Glenelg Saturday morning (10:30).
Yesterday, the Oakland Mills girls downed Mount Hebron, 4-1. The major constant throughout the past four seasons -- other than Cindy O'Dell, who is in her 11th year as coach -- has been a trio of four-year varsity performers: Mia Dammen, Stephanie Magro and Alice Iskra.
"They are my tri-captains and have been invaluable with their leadership," said O'Dell.
The Scorpions needed all the leadership they could muster in early September after losing a non-league match to Howard and an overtime decision to undefeated Severna Park of Anne Arundel County.
"We dug ourselves a deep hole, down 0-2," said Dammen. "That, plus having the pressure of defending our title again, we were dealing with a lot of mental and physical pressure."
"We have not peaked yet," said Magro. "We'll keep working very hard."
Few know both girls as well as O'Dell, who also coaches their summer team, Princeton Sports Blast. O'Dell's daughter Kit, now a starting freshman striker for the University of Arkansas, also played on that summer team.
While both Dammen and Magro devote the winter to the Scorpions' basketball program, they intend to pursue soccer and academics as far as both can take them.
Each has shown sufficient skill to be invited to regional camp several times. "Last summer was the first time I was able to attend," said Dammen.
"We didn't get selected for the regional team, but it was a good learning experience," said Magro.
At the under-19 level, that's a highly competitive situation and both girls will be able to attend the regional camp again before graduating to the women's division.
"It's from this regional camp that a regional pool and eventually the U.S. national team is picked," said O'Dell.
Both Dammen and Magro could have their pick of colleges, based on their National Honor Society standing -- both are among the top 30 in their class of 282 students -- and the high Scholastic Aptitude Test scores already in their academic resume.
"Mia is the perfectionist and inspires others to perfection," said O'Dell. "Stephanie is less demonstrative, but leads by her example. Alice is a very hard worker, dependable and the creative one. She has a knack for helping boost morale."
O'Dell's squad hasn't needed much boosting since avenging its loss to Howard when it counted in the league standings.
"Our next goal is beating Glenelg [tomorrow in the regular-season finale]," said Magro.
"Then we'll go for the regionals," said Dammen.
That positive attitude is based on tradition: With Dammen, Magro and Iskra in the lineup, Oakland Mills has gone 48-3-2 in the last four seasons and that puts this year's 0-2 start in its proper perspective.