Severna Park is again the team to beat

September 14, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Four coaches are new, but little else is in Anne Arundel County girls soccer.

In fact, it appears to be the same old story. Severna Park, which lost to Baltimore County's Dulaney in last year's Class 4A state final, again is acknowledged as the county's best team.

The corps of coaches remains relatively stable. The only changes are Dave Griffith for Rick King at Annapolis, Leann Shuck for Dave Lord at Broadneck, Cara Hergan for Marianne Shultz at North County and Will Pharr for Mel Koehler at South River.

When coach Joyce Stefancik says that this will be a typical Severna Park team, citing hustle, speed, determination and pride, she does not mean to be menacing when she says, "That means we'll do OK."

OK last year was a tour to the state final. Severna Park went 14-2 and finished No. 5 in The Baltimore Sun poll, ahead of county rivals Chesapeake (No. 8), Old Mill (No. 9) and Arundel (No. 13). The Baltimore Sun's top four were McDonogh, Loch Raven, Dulaney and Hammond.

"Severna Park is always on top," said Paul Yannuzzi, The Baltimore Sun's county Coach of the Year, who directed Arundel to an 11-3 record in his second season. "They lost a lot of people, but when Severna Park loses five, they replace them with seven. The water must be good there. They'll be on top again."

The traditional county powers in addition to Severna Park are Chesapeake, Old Mill and Broadneck. But it seems, says Old Mill's Bruce Sponsler, that there is always another team trying to muscle into the elite.

"Now it's Arundel," Sponsler said. "South River is tough for us, so they might be next, if not this year, then next year. Annapolis has a new coach, so their kids are ready to respond. There are always teams ready to move up."

Said Chesapeake's Lin Sullivan: "Arundel came out of the pack last year under Yannuzzi. They were at the top of the group that hadn't made it. They were the best of the rest."

Yannuzzi doesn't shrink from the high assessment of Arundel. He says "we'll be there, hopefully in one of the top two spots," with a chance to play for the county championship.

South River's Pharr knows that Chesapeake is strong after losing to the Cougars in a scrimmage, but he is not sure about the county's other traditionally strong teams.

"Old Mill and Severna Park aren't the powers of old," Pharr said. "They lost too much to graduation, especially Severna Park. The holes will be tough to fill. Old Mill lost Michelle Salmon, which leaves a huge void."

Salmon, the county Player of the Year who's now at the University of Maryland, was voted the No. 2 player in the state to McDonogh's Laurie Schwoy by the Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer. A high school All-America, she set a county career scoring record with 90 goals. Salmon is one of eight key people the Patriots lost to graduation.

"I don't see us having problems against Severna Park and Old Mill," Pharr said. "They beat us badly in 1993, but we're improved."

Said Meade's Jon Putt, "Severna Park and Old Mill are the powerhouses, but they're there to be knocked off."

Noting that Meade lost last year to Old Mill, 10-0, Putt said, "If we lose, 4-0, this year, it means we've made marked improvement. Meade is fired up to try to knock off the two powers."

Stefancik rates Chesapeake as "the team to beat." Among the rea- sons are the Cougars' quality returnees, their perennially strong program, the speedy Melissa Wagner ("one of the fastest girls in the county," Stefancik said) and senior goalie Sandra Norris, who allowed only nine goals all last season and had seven shutouts.

"Chesapeake is always top-notch," Stefancik said. "They didn't lose much and have a lot of returnees. They always play us tough.

"Old Mill has its whole defense back. I don't know about Broadneck. Arundel came on last year and South River has some good athletes. South River, North County, Annapolis and Broadneck have new coaches, and those teams might respond to them."

This year, instead of only the top four teams qualifying for the regional playoffs, all 13 of the county's public schools, regardless of record, will be eligible for an open tournament if they apply by Oct. 1.

A blind draw is scheduled Oct. 23, with the first of four rounds to start Oct. 28. There will be five first-round games, with three teams getting byes, to be followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and a final. The first-round pairings will be determined by pot luck.

"We wanted to get away from the quality points system, according to size of school," Sponsler said.

There also will be a county championship, No. 1 vs. No. 2, based on regular-season records, Oct. 25 at North County before the regionals.

"The county champion was always decided by won-lost record," Yannuzzi said. "Now, with this and the new regionals format, it will give the girls a chance to play more games."

In the Catholic League's A Division, St. Mary's again is confronted by the task of trying to unseat McDonogh. The Saints finished third with a 10-7-3 record last year.

"McDonogh is still the No. 1 team in the area," said St. Mary's Jerry Tobin. "They graduated four or five, but they still have a lot of strengths. They were 19-0 and beat us three times last year, twice in the regular season and once in the tournament."

Tobin says that John Carroll, Mercy and Catholic figure to be improved despite their youthfulness and that Archbishop Spalding and Notre Dame, the tailenders last year, are also young.

"It's a real tough league this year," Tobin said. "St. Mary's should be near the top."

Expect the Saints to be in a lot of games with one- and two-goal margins. Expect them to challenge everybody. No team will handle St. Mary's easily.

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