When North Carroll sagged to a 3-9 record in field hockey last season, there was talk that girls soccer had taken over at the school and the Panthers never would be a strong field hockey force again.
But Denean Powelson had other ideas when she decided to give up officiating the game to accept the headaches of a head coach this season.
Powelson said she would try to put North Carroll back on a level where it could compete with the likes of Westminster and South Carroll.
There was no timetable mentioned, but most people thought it might take a couple of years.
Powelson, 24, had a dream season for a first-year coach, knocking off three defending state champion teams on the way to an 8-4-2 record and the Class 2A, Region I final.
Those accomplishments enabled Powelson to be named The Baltimore Sun's 1992 Field Hockey Coach of the Year in Carroll County.
In a county that has won more field hockey championships (14) than any other county in the state and has some of the top DTC coaches in the state, it was quite an achievement for Powelson.
She had stiff competition from South Carroll's Stacy Stem, who lost eight starters but took the Cavaliers back to the state 3A championship game, and from Westminster co-coaches Sue Hooper and Brenda Baker, who guided the Owls to a second straight state 4A title game.
The three defending champions who fell to Powelson's Panthers were 4A Westminster, 3A South Carroll and 2A Middletown.
The 2A champion Knights were beaten by North Carroll in the opening round of the Class 2A, Region I tournament.
When asked how she pulled off such a surprising season, Powelson said: "We went back to basics, playing a more traditional game of aggressiveness and being the first to the ball. I saw we had the speed to play that way, and the kids gave me 100 percent from Aug. 24 to Nov. 6. We worked harder every day."
Powelson said she looked at herself as part of the team but her players "knew there was a line they could never cross. I was the coach and they accepted and adapted to what I wanted to do."
She said she got her toughness from her father, Ed Powelson, who has been coaching soccer at North Carroll for 34 years.
"He's tough and I'm the same way," she said. "The kids came in with a positive attitude and wanted to win. I think they were a little surprised at how well we did."
The season went so well and a 2-1 loss to Glenelg in the final 39 seconds of the Class 2A, Region I final was so hard for Powelson to take that she "wanted to start the 1993 season the next day."