Hammond's ties that bind Girls soccer: The Golden Bears, who have clinched at least a tie for the county title, are working on an undefeated season without a major star, but with everyone contributing

October 25, 1998|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

The players on Hammond's sixth-ranked and unbeaten girls soccer team know all about superstar players. That's because they have none.

"That's an advantage," said senior Lauren Traber. "There's no one hogging the ball, and everyone has confidence in each other. Nobody thinks they're better than anyone else."

But don't take Traber's word for it.

"We don't have, like, really famously known people," said junior Martha Bielefeld. "But every part of our team is good. We just connect very well."

You're going to believe her?

"We may not be all-national, but we're all solid and play very well together," said junior Katie Fink. "There are no weak links on our team."

If it sounds like a broken record, well, it's because Hammond's players know how they got here. They know what a wonderful thing team chemistry can be, and how it can take a good team and make it a champion.

"There are no superstars, but when you put them together they become a super team," said Hammond coach Peter Di Marco. "They play as a team, there's great chemistry."

Hammond (12-0-1 overall, 8-0 league) clinched at least a tie for the county championship Friday with a 7-0 win over Wilde Lake. The Golden Bears, who won county titles in 1985 and 1992 (shared with Centennial), can secure the championship outright with a victory or tie Tuesday against visiting River Hill (10-3, 7-1).

A victory by River Hill, and a win by Mount Hebron (10-3, 7-1) over Oakland Mills (4-9, 3-5), will leave a three-way tie for first.

"We don't want that to happen," said Di Marco.

Hammond heads into the River Hill game with a lot of confidence -- and deservedly so. The Golden Bears have 10 shutouts to their credit, and have outscored opponents 54-4. Sixteen of their 20 players have scored, led by Michelle Jenkins' nine goals and six assists.

"We know we can beat them," said Bielefeld, who has seven goals and seven assists.

"We know it's going to be a tough game, and we're going to have to play our best," said senior goalie Lindsey Mitchell, who has 85 saves.

This year's game represents a role reversal from the last two years, when Hammond was the underdog.

The Golden Bears ended River Hill's season two years ago with a stunning shootout victory in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A-2A South region playoffs. Hammond made it to the state championship, getting contributions from some of this year's seniors and juniors. Last year, Hammond ended River Hill's hopes of an unbeaten county season with a 2-1 overtime win in the final regular-season game.

A number of factors have contributed to Hammond's success this season. It is an experienced team, with 11 seniors, eight of them starters. Many of them have known their teammates and played with them for years. Traber and fellow seniors Kelly Workman, Jenny Jones and Erin Davis have been on the same club team since second grade.

In fact, 10 players -- Traber, Workman, Jones, Davis, Fink, Sarah Walker, Brita Grothe, Monica Serianni, Meg Tilley and Jen Hendin -- now play for the same club team (CSC Clash). That means the same defense that starts for the Clash -- Traber at sweeper, Grothe at stopper and fullbacks Workman and Walker -- also starts for Hammond.

"It's an advantage," said Grothe, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee last season and missed all the league games. "It helps us work the offsided trap, and Lauren is really good at pulling us out."

The players' familiarity with each other had made them a strong passing team. The Golden Bears, behind Bielefeld and Serianni, distribute the ball well from the midfield. And this season they have become more consistent at finishing.

"We're scoring goals left and right," said Di Marco. "Last year, we created a lot but we weren't finishing."

At the other end, Hammond's strong defense has made it relatively easy for Mitchell. "I really haven't been tested that much," she said. But when she is tested, Mitchell is ready. She is one of the top goalies in the county.

Another reason for the Golden Bears' success is the friendship between the players.

"We're all good friends, and that has a lot to do with it," said Fink, a junior who comes off the bench and has scored nine goals and added two assists. "We have a good bond, and we have a lot of fun together."

Di Marco said he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night, thinking how wonderful it is to be undefeated. "It's an amazing accomplishment," he said.

"They've proved they can play with anyone in the county. I'm very proud of them," said Di Marco. "It's been an incredible ride."

Pub Date: 10/25/98

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