With Shelton, no end in sight to Severna Park reign


October 25, 1998|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

When Lil Shelton dusted off some old sticks she found in a closet at Severna Park High in 1975, little did she know what was ahead.

The Falcons have come a long way since playing intramural field hockey on the school's front lawn. They've come farther than any other county girls team, and after 23 years of dominance there is no end in sight.

Severna Park won a record 20th county championship out of a possible 21 when they beat Arundel, 5-0, at George Roberts Field on Thursday. With their 13th consecutive county crown, the Falcons took the first step toward an 18th region title and likely Maryland-record 11th state championship.

"We started out in 1975 with a small group and we were very close and we stayed that way," said Shelton, who is 319-40-5 in her 24 varsity seasons, with 18 of those losses coming in her first three seasons.

The consistency of Severna Park field hockey can be explained by one word: close.

"And Lil puts in a lot of time," said Arundel coach Clint Gosnell, who has had a lot of success coaching boys lacrosse and over the last several years built a quality field hockey program for the girls at Arundel.

"Hockey and lacrosse are all-year sports nowadays and being a two-sport coach, I guess I'm a dying breed. Lil pours everything into field hockey and it shows."

Shelton started the county's junior league field hockey summer program in 1986. It has grown dramatically, thus improving the quality of the sport around the county.

In 1990, Shelton organized the Maryland State Field Hockey Coaches Association, and after serving several years as president, went on to become president of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association. She never tires of lecturing on field hockey and has done so at scores of clinics, locally and nationally.

Perhaps even more impressive than all her accomplishments and honors, which include induction into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame last year, is the way Shelton has managed to maintain such a close-knit program from varsity to the JV.

It seems only human to have at least one team along the way that lacks togetherness, yet it has never happened under Shelton.

"It never gets old because the girls are so refined, so nice and they know I'm enthusiastic, love the game and them," she said.

"They recognize that and they perform. They don't just do it for me, but because I ask them. There has never been any selfishness."

And fun is just what it is. It's a unique and unforgettable high school experience with constant team gatherings, whether it be at dinner, breakfast or sleep-overs at one of the players' houses, and ski trips.

On game days, the girls meet for team breakfast and the big sisters (seniors) make lunch for the little sisters (underclassmen) and vice versa.

This team and program has something that is missing from too many high school programs.

"We have spirit," said junior Erin Shaklee, who is the county's leading scorer with 14 goals and six assists. "We do something spirit-wise every game, like wearing ribbons or little buttons that we make."

It's been going on for 24 years and it will continue until "I'm not having any fun," said Shelton.

Now that's not good news for the rest of the county.


Despite the loss in the field hockey championship, Arundel's Gosnell says he's glad the county did away with the north and south divisions and now puts the top two teams in the game. "I like it better this way and I think most of the coaches do," said Gosnell.

Shelton is encouraging the county to hold a JV championship. ZTC "The more kids you get involved, the better," said Shelton.

The drawing for the state open tournaments in field hockey, boys and girls soccer, and volleyball will be held today.

Severna Park and Arundel could be going at it again in the field hockey first round, which starts Tuesday. They met twice in three days last week, the final regular-season game and the county championship. County soccer championships are set for Tuesday at South River, boys (Severna Park-Chesapeake) at 5 p.m., girls (Severna Park-South River) at 7 p.m. It's the start of a big week with field hockey quarterfinals Thursday, boys and girls soccer region first-rounders Friday and Saturday and the county cross country championships Friday at Annapolis.

The Jamie McNealey-coached and 13th-ranked St. Mary's boys soccer team earned its school-record 16th win, 3-2, over Key School on Thursday. Maryland football coach Ron Vanderlinden visited Meade last week. The Terps are interested in the Mustangs' standout RB/DB/kick returner Andrew Smith.

Have a note for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647- 2499.

Pub Date: 10/25/98

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