Admirals get back on winning course Coach gets credit: Severn players say Renie Sotiropoulos has been the key to turning around a girls lacrosse program that went 5-12 last year.

April 28, 1996|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

The amazing turnaround in Severn's girls lacrosse team began seven weeks ago and 850 miles away.

At the time, though, new coach Renie Sotiropoulos feared the team's preseason training trip to Cocoa Beach, Fla., might not have been such a good idea. The Admirals arrived in a driving rainstorm and it kept pouring for two days.

"We had to do mall walking the first few days," said Sotiropoulos, "but we did get four or five days of double practices in. That helped me get to know them and they got to know me. That was the most valuable part of it."

The players also look back on the trip as having developed a lot more than their passing and catching.

"Everything just clicked," said midfielder Meghan Bauer. "I didn't think anything like that would happen, but down there everybody got to know each other, not just from playing but from spending all that time together. We developed a lot of team unity -- more so than I've ever seen here."

That unity showed on the field right away. Unranked in preseason after finishing 5-12 last year, the Admirals knocked off then-No. 6 Notre Dame Prep and bolted into the Top 15.

"We played out of our heads in that game," said attacker Julie Tice. "It was the greatest feeling in the world to go in there and beat them after they had beaten us in all the years past. We had been a little skeptical, but after that we thought maybe we can go all the way."

By their seventh game, the No. 9 Admirals had matched last season's win total. Their only losses during the stretch were close ones to Roland Park and Annapolis, the only teams to be ranked No. 1 this season.

The winning has continued. The Admirals are 8-5 after Friday's 9-6 loss to No. 4 St. Mary's. In the AIS, they are among a handful of teams expected to contend for the A Division championship when the tournament begins May 6.

As the improved record indicates, there are few similarities between this year's Severn team and last year's.

The players say the difference is Sotiropoulos, a Philadelphia native who played defense at Bucknell. The third Admirals coach in four years, she seems to have finally brought some stability. Along with new assistant coach Gretchen Bensinger, she also brings an interest in them and a dedication to them that the Admirals had never experienced.

"It's just the positive energy they bring," said defender Amy Galebach. "That support just wasn't there last year. They have so much confidence in our team and they've helped us have so much confidence in each other. I really think that's why we're winning."

Sotiropoulos, who guided the Admirals hockey team to the AIS semifinals last fall, would rather the players take credit for the turnaround.

Even the top players, seniors Tice, Galebach and Kate Graw, have not gotten caught up in the kind of cliques that undermined last year's team. They maintain a team philosophy that includes both reserve players and starters Bauer, Jessica Burke, Jessie Popham, Carol Prickett, Cynthia Berger, Bess Freelander, Becky Sawyer, Gussie Habeck and goalie Molly Arey.

"I think they were just looking for somebody who cared enough to run a practice and was passionate enough to want them to play well," said Sotiropoulos. "I'm not saying I don't care about wins and losses, because obviously I do, but the most important thing is getting them to play well and live up to their potential."

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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