No surprise: Severna Park sticks out as the best LOCAL SPORTS: HIGH SCHOOL FIELD HOCKEY PREVIEW

September 15, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Year after year, it is an unspoken goal for Anne Arundel County's field hockey teams. There is no need to enunciate it. No need to say: Let's beat Severna Park.

No one has said it more often, or with more passion and conviction, or with a better chance of succeeding, than Jerry Raab. In the final Baltimore Sun poll headed by Severna Park (16-0) last year, Chesapeake, at No. 14, was the only other Anne Arundel County team in the Top 15.

As she goes into her 18th season at Chesapeake, Raab has won a lot of games. But for all her success, she never has beaten Severna Park.

"Both our losses last year were to Severna Park," said Raab, whose Cougars were 10-2-2. "We met in the middle of the season, both of us undefeated, and lost 3-0. That was quite a defeat. It took the wind out of our sails. Then we lost in the playoff 1-0, which was more respectable."

One measure of a county team's success or failure is its margin of defeat to Severna Park. Broadneck's Phoebe Kelly said, "We lost most of our games by 1-0, except to Severna Park." Southern's Carolyn Knowles derived slight satisfaction from the fact that Severna Park didn't score against her team until the final 12 1/2 minutes.

Numbers and championships speak eloquently of Severna Park's dominance. Lil Shelton's Falcons won their second straight state Class 4A title and seventh since 1978, outscoring opponents, 49-2, and not allowing a goal until the state semifinals.

Shelton started the field hockey program at Severna Park, the county's first, in 1975, and won the school's first state championship four years later.

The Falcons have won 15 county, 13 regional and seven state crowns. They were undefeated in 1980 and 1987 as well as 1993 and have had nine seasons with only one loss.

As Shelton enters her 20th season, Severna Park has a 239-36-5 record, absorbing 15 of those defeats in the first three years, to Baltimore County schools.

Shelton and Raab are the county's field hockey coaching veterans. The only first-year coaches are Patti Lavell at St. Mary's and Amy McConnell at Severn.

Raab gives full credit to Shelton for starting the Anne Arundel County Junior League, a summer recreation program that feeds county schools, but primarily Severna Park.

Shelton initiated it seven years ago. This summer almost 250 girls, from 8 to 16, played in the league, receiving instruction three days a week not only from Shelton and her coaching colleagues but varsity seniors as well.

"The program has really improved county hockey," Raab said.

Said Shelton, "Each girl improves her level of skill. That, in turn, improves her entire school team in the fall."

South River coach Julie Venit, whose team was 1-11 last year, speaks almost reverently of Severna Park's passing, dodging and communication skills.

"A lot of those girls played in rec leagues, so Severna Park has talent coming in that's ready to go," Venit said. "Most of my kids' experience before we get them is from two days of field hockey in gym class."

So who will challenge Severna Park this year?

Chesapeake, for one. Raab lost eight seniors, but three of the returnees are Holly Colajezzi, Emily Plenge and Cammie Owens, all first- or second-team All-County.

Coaches also mention Annapolis, Arundel, Broadneck and Old Mill.

"You know Severna Park will be strong," Raab said. "Annapolis, Broadneck, Chesapeake, Arundel and Old Mill will be tough. But it's hard to be more specific until we get a few games under our belts."

The fact that Severna Park lost 11 players to graduation is nothing to arouse opponents' hopes. Not even the fact that five of those seniors -- county Player of the Year Colleen Gately, Tressa Campbell, Amy Senger, Robin Sosnow and Erin Kelly -- were first-team All-County and a sixth, Mary Jo Mahoney, was second team.

As Shelton noted, the Falcons lose 11 or 12 every year, and more talent always arrives as replenishment. Help will come from last year's undefeated JV.

"We'll be intense and dedicated," Shelton said. "Since 1979, there have been only two years, 1983 and '84, when we haven't gone to the state playoffs. No group wants to be the one that doesn't get to the states."

Before every season, Shelton's teams set goals. Last year the Falcons sought to score three goals a game, finish with a total of 49 and advance to the state playoffs.

They succeeded on all three counts, reaching the goals total on the nose in the 2-1 overtime victory over Richard Montgomery of Montgomery County in the state final.

Now it starts all over again for the perennial county champions. Severna Park will open its season tomorrow against a Severn team that Shelton hears "is quite good."

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