COACH OF THE YEAR Wendy Kridel, Roland Park -- When the Reds lost some extremely talented players to graduation a year ago, just about everyone expected them to drop a notch, but Kridel and the Reds knew better. Ranked No. 1 at the end of last year but No. 3 in The Baltimore Sun's preseason poll, the Reds reclaimed the top spot with an 11-10 win over then-No. 1 Mount Hebron in April. Then they polished off another banner season with a 9-7 win over Mount de Sales for their fifth straight Association of Independent Schools A Division championship. Even without the superstars, the Reds rolled. "The thing with these kids is they're so equal," said Kridel. "One kid can have a bad game and someone else will pick up the slack. We're hard to beat because it's rare that two or three kids have the same down game." The Reds have won the AIS title every year since Kridel took over the program five years ago. A former goalkeeper, Kridel has a 64-5-3 career record with the Reds. Her secret seems to be giving the players a lot of control over what happens on the field. "I want the kids to know the game, so they'll be able to make good decisions on the field," said Kridel. "I try to teach as much strategy as they need to give them enough say in what's happening on the field so
they feel comfortable out there." After guiding the South I team to the national schoolgirl championship at the United States Women's Lacrosse Association's national tournament Sunday, Kridel will serve as assistant coach for the United States team to compete in the first under-19 world championships.
FIRST TEAM AT A GLANCE Kim Allen, Loch Raven, Sr., defense -- A smart third man for the Class 1A/2A state champions, Allen held her ground against a handful of charges in the 18-5 title-game victory over Liberty. An all-around excellent defender, Allen could mark a player out of the game and anticipate the opposition's moves. She was quick to the ground balls and interceptions and also scored eight goals and eight assists. A repeat first-teamer, Allen was named first-team All-Baltimore County Class 1A/2A and played for the South II schoolgirl team. She will play next year at Division III Oberlin.
Lizzy Bennett, Roland Park, Jr., attack -- The consummate assist artist, Bennett showed off amazing vision setting up her teammates all around the crease. She could put the ball in the most incredibly small spaces and finished as one of the area's top assist makers with 33. Bennett also could go to goal with determination and matched her assist total with 33 goals. Her great stickwork made her able to catch anything thrown in her vicinity and she cleaned up the ground balls. Bennett was an AIS All-Star and played for national champ South I.
Ridgely Bennett, Roland Park, Sr., defense -- An all-around solid defender, the older Bennett sister drew many of the tough assignments this season. Perhaps her best performance came in the AIS championship game when she held Mount de Sales' top threat, Amy Buck, without a goal. A great position defender, the third man never had a bad game. Her speed also made her an offensive threat and she scored five goals and added an assist. An AIS All-Star, she played for South I. Bennett is headed for North Carolina's new lacrosse program.
Tice Burke, St. Paul's, Sr., attack -- An excellent shooter, Burke recovered from an early-season ankle sprain to pace the 6-6-1 Gators to the AIS tournament semifinal. With great stickwork and a quick first step, Burke could beat the defenders on the crease and always took high-percentage shots. She was unselfish as well, compiling 21 assists to go with 29 goals. Burke, who is headed to Princeton, completed her comeback by winning a spot on the United States team that will play in the first under-19 world championships in August. She also scored three goals for South I in the national title game.
Melissa Coyne, Roland Park, Soph., goalie -- The premier goalie in the AIS, Coyne posted a 67 percent save rate. She faced 285 shots and made 165 saves and allowed 81 goals in 15 games. Poised beyond her years, Coyne proved a great decision-maker in the crease. She had 29 ground balls, made 14 interceptions and even assisted on one goal. Her patience helped her make strong accurate clears. Named an AIS All Star and to the South I team, Coyne will be in the goal this summer for the U.S. under-19 team at the world championships.
Summer Downing, Friends, Sr., midfield -- A versatile player with explosive speed, Downing could outrun most defenders and race straight to goal. She led the Quakers in scoring with 39 goals and four assists. Downing used her speed and great stick skills to overwhelm opponents, playing strong defense and jumping all over the midfield ground balls. An AIS All-Star, Downing scored a key second-half goal in South I's 10-9 overtime victory against Chesapeake in the national schoolgirl final.