Fifth in row charm for Reds Roland Park seeks AIS title this week

November 08, 1993|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Just enough space remains on Roland Park's field hockey jackets for one more embroidered line -- one more tournament championship.

For the No. 4 Reds, however, pinning down a fifth straight title may be tougher than ever in this week's Association of Independent Schools A Division Tournament. If they can win, it surely would be one of the Reds' most rewarding titles.

Instead of going unbeaten as they did the last two seasons, the Reds (8-3) have had to rebound from an early-season slump that cost them two games. Keeping in mind that today's team blends the veterans with some youngsters, the Reds try to avoid comparisons with the past.

"Sure, it would be disappointing if we didn't win," says senior link Brent McCallister. "But I don't think there's that much pressure on us either. This is a new season and a new team so we're not looking back over our shoulders at all. [The tradition] gives us the extra fire to get there, but we're not going to win it based on what we did the last three years."

The Reds know that, despite their six straight appearances in the title game, anyone can win this tournament. Look at some of the Reds' regular-season outcomes: They beat eighth-seeded Garrison Forest by one goal, lost to seventh-seeded McDonogh and beat sixth-seeded Maryvale by one goal.

Every team hopes to topple the dynasty, including No. 6 Notre Dame Prep (the top seed), No. 2 Bryn Mawr (second seed) and unranked McDonogh, all of whom beat the Reds during the regular season. No. 12 Friends (fifth seed) also has some incentive, having lost to the Reds in last year's championship game after tying for the title in 1991.

The Reds know they are vulnerable, but coach Debbie Bloodsworth says thatis not such a bad realization.

"I don't really like unbeaten seasons," says Bloodsworth, whose team opens its title defense tomorrow as host to Maryvale. "It's good for kids to learn to lose, to learn that they're not invincible and that they have to work for things, they don't just happen.

"One of my best seasons was the year we were seeded 12th of 16 teams and came in second in the tournament," says Bloodsworth, of a year before the league was divided in two. "That's one reason why we open the tournament to everyone. There's a real value in having a second season."

This year, it seems the Reds already have had two seasons. Early on, they struggled with problems on defense and the line, but a change in formation tightened those spots. Since then, the Reds have dropped only a 1-0 contest to Bryn Mawr.

The change in formation put four Reds on the line -- Catherine Passano, Hedy Born, Lizzy Bennett and Cathy Maulsby or Genevieve Polk -- and boosted the scoring.

"With that change, our whole team has become more aggressive," said senior link Peggy Boutilier, who leads the team in scoring with nine goals and three assists. "We have more teamwork and more passing. Before, we would hit the ball down field, and because there were only three forwards, nobody would be there."

Boutilier and McCallister ably handle the midfield chores now that Elizabeth Rodgers has moved back to defense. Sweeper Virginia Hodges and backs Rodgers, Ridgely Bennett and Jen Murray have bolstered the defense in front of keeper Meredith Shuey or her backup, Eleanor Cordi.

Along with the improvements on the field came a boost in confidence. Now, the Reds think they are ready to make another run at the title.

"We'll give it our best shot, and if our best is a championship, so be it. If not, we haven't had a flop of a season by any stretch," said McCallister.

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