Odell's goal: leave success behind Soccer: The River Hill coach will be departing after this season, but not before she sets up the program's future -- and perhaps wins a state title.

September 21, 1997|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Cynthia Odell's future is in Hilton Head, S.C.

Her husband, Barry, an assistant principal last year at River Hill High School, is there working in sales for Marriott Vacation Club International. They own property and plan to build a house.

But the future is three months away.

Odell quit her job as a Spanish teacher at Wilde Lake Middle in June and spent the summer with Barry in Hilton Head. But they agreed she would return to Howard County to sell their home and to tie up loose ends.

And to coach River Hill's girls soccer team one more season.

"I want to get it organized so that whoever takes over next year has it in a nice little package with a bow on it," Odell said.

Odell and junior varsity coach Joany Kelso Smedley, who is on maternity leave from Liberty High and is Odell's choice to replace her, began the program last year. Though the Hawks had no seniors, expectations were high for the first-year school because of a strong talent base.

River Hill ended 8-4-1, losing in a shootout to Hammond in the playoffs. The Hawks, who had beaten Hammond in the regular season, led 2-0 late in the game before the Golden Bears rallied to tie.

"It was devastating loss," Odell said.

There are a number of solid teams this season in the county, but River Hill is without a doubt the best on paper. The Hawks have eight Olympic Development Program (ODP) players, seven of whom played on the same team.

"People expect us to win," said sophomore Natalie Klisas, an ODP player.

Still, Odell is not convinced the Hawks are the county's best team.

"I think Centennial's the team to beat," she said. "I really do."

But Odell realizes her team is special. "We're very lucky [to have so many good players]."

Odell's greatest challenge, she said, is to take this group of 25 players and mold them into a team. "I have to have the right people playing at the right times, and the right combination for the right game," she said. "They are talented young ladies, and can do whatever they want provided they put their mind to it. They have to have that intensity, that desire and it's my job to make sure they have it."

Smedley said Odell has a "gentle but demanding way. She expects a lot, and she gets a lot from them."

Odell, who is substitute teaching at River Hill and Wilde Lake Middle, lets the team know her expectations. Winning a state championship certainly is something Odell feels the team is capable of.

"But that's [winning a state title] not the main reason I came back, even though a lot of people probably think so," Odell said. "When I start something I like to finish it. I was at a point in teaching where I could cut it off, but I didn't feel that away about the soccer program."

The Hawks (2-1) lost in overtime, 1-0, at Urbana on Thursday. Odell said her team "did some very good things," but could have done some things -- especially finishing -- better.

"We'll look at that game, dissect it and figure out what we didn't do as individuals and as a team and go from there," said Odell, whose teams opens the county schedule Wednesday against Wilde Lake. "We'll learn from it."

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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