Field hockey title up for grabs

September 13, 1992|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

No coach ever wants to be saddled with a preseason No. 1 label. Most will do just about anything they can to avoid it.

But this fall, coaches of the county's perennial field hockey favorites really don't have much to stake a title claim on.

Last year's Big Three -- Bel Air, Fallston and C. Milton Wright -- have lost players to graduation.

That doesn't mean they should be counted out. It just means the title race could be a little crowded down the homestretch.

Six of the county's eight teams seem to have a shot at the championship. Joppatowne and Edgewood have the potential to break out of the middle of the pack. North Harford is a bit of a long shot. But in a close race, the Hawks have as good a chance as anyone else of emerging on top.

"I think it's wide open this year," said Fallston coach Alice Puckett. "Everybody lost some strong kids. I don't expect the level of play to be as high as it was last year. A lot of games could come down to overtime."

Defending county champion Bel Air and 1990 champ Fallston have dominated the county in recent years, but neither Puckett nor Bobcats' coach Phyllis Hemmes expects that to happen this time.

"I think Alice and I are gonna eat our lunch a couple times," said Hemmes. "I think it's parity in the county this year."

Bel Air (12-1-1 last year) returns only three starters from the team that was ranked No. 4 in The Sun's field hockey poll.

Hemmes hopes to avoid her first losing season in 24 years at Bel Air. "I consider this a rebuilding year, which I haven't said in a long time. I'd be happy with a .500 season," she said.

Fallston (12-2-1), ranked No. 6 at the end of last season, lost almost everything at midfield and defense.

At C. M. Wright (11-4), ranked No. 8, predictions are just as guarded. The Mustangs mounted an incredible stretch run last fall, knocking off Fallston and Bel Air in the final weeks of the season.

Their first-ever win over Bel Air, in the Class 3A regional final,sent the Mustangs to the state final four for the first time in school history. They played well in the state semifinal but lost, 1-0, to Bethesda-Chevy Chase.

The Mustangs have lost 11 seniors from last fall. A lot of new faces will start, and they also have a new coach, Maria Wehage. Just out of the Air Force, Wehage is taking on her first high school coaching job. She hasn't seen the competition, so she said she can't make any predictions.

Joppatowne coach Pam Reich threw her youngsters into the fire last year, and the experience should pay off.

At Edgewood, Coach Renda Respess has been grooming a talented squad to peak this season, and they could surprise everybody.

North Harford coach Fran Norman has some holes to fill at midfield if the Hawks are to contend.

Aberdeen might struggle with an all-new forward line, but it could finish close to .500.

Havre de Grace has new coach Kathy Graybeal but still has a lot of inexperience.

In the Association of Independent Schools, John Carroll should make another run at the B Division championship after finishing second last year. The Patriots fell to Park, 3-1, in their first appearance in the title game in eight years. With seven starters back, Karen Bonsack's squad already has set the goal to win it all for the first time since 1983.

Harford Christian plays an independent schedule that includes no county teams. Cathleen Reese's squad returns eight starters and should move toward a .500 season.

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