Ideal conditions, a Hebron title

Field hockey: Thorough conditioning and team chemistry spark the Vikings' run to the county championship ... and maybe far beyond.

High Schools

October 29, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Remember the cones.

That's all coach Jeannette Ireland had to say to inspire the Mount Hebron field hockey team to rally and prevent Glenelg from sharing the county championship Oct. 21.

The plastic cones are used in sprint conditioning drills that are painful enough for every player to remember. The sprints are part of the price 10th-ranked Mount Hebron (10-1-2 overall, 8-0-1 league) paid to become county champs.

"We do so much running in practice that we don't get tired during games," said Vikings leading scorer Ali Lemons, who said that Ireland's mention of cones elicited a universal groan and a determination to work harder to overcome Glenelg's early 1-0 lead.

The game ended in a 1-1 tie. Glenelg needed to win to share the title.

"One of the biggest changes this season is that we've been able to come from behind," she said.

While Lemons thinks that conditioning has been the key to success, seniors Maria Bosica and Julie Laun credit team chemistry and the "buddy system" that Ireland initiated.

The team is composed of seven senior lettermen and eight younger players with no previous varsity experience. Each of the seven seniors was assigned a younger player (one was assigned two players), with whom she teamed for stick skills work and confidence-building.

"The older players nurtured them and created a non-threatening environment, and that is one of the big reasons for our success," Ireland said. "One of the hallmarks of this team is the way they play for each other and see themselves as a team and not as individuals."

Bosica, the team's second-leading scorer with 11 goals and five assists, agrees.

"Unlike some other teams I've played on that were divided between the classes, this team is really cohesive - and really fun," said Bosica, whose teams plays a Class 3A North Region semifinal today at South Carroll.

Lemons, who has 14 goals and nine assists, said: "On this team, I don't feel like I have to run, run, run. I can trust my teammates to be there."

Scoring, something that past Mount Hebron teams have struggled with, has been a strength on this team. The normally defensive-minded Vikings have scored 50 goals and allowed seven.

Sophomore goalkeeper Kristina Schweizer has nine shutouts and has allowed six goals in 13 games. The team's only loss was to Garrison Forest, 2-1, on the last corner of the game. The Vikings are unbeaten in their past nine games.

One remarkable facet of this team is that it has played only one home game because of the poor condition of its field. To be able to play on a carpet-like Bermuda grass field, the Vikings elected to play Glenelg at Wilde Lake for the Oct. 21 game, and then gave Wilde Lake the home-field advantage in Thursday's first regional playoff game, won by Mount Hebron, 3-0.

"It's my little vagabond team," Ireland said. "It was a difficult decision to move a game of that importance [against Glenelg], because that was also our Senior Day. But the kids didn't complain. They wanted to win based on their skill, and not let the field be a factor."

Ireland, coaching her 13th season at Mount Hebron after nine seasons as assistant field hockey coach at Johns Hopkins, thinks this team is mentally tougher than last year's team, and that perhaps the road games have helped in that regard.

"I know this team will never quit," she said.

The Vikings won hard-fought games against River Hill (1-0) and Centennial (2-1) and escaped with a 1-0 overtime win against Long Reach.

Forwards Bosica and Lemons credit Ireland for the team's mental toughness.

"Jeannette is the heart and soul of this team," Bosica said. "She inspires us in every game and practice. She believes in us and makes us determined and confident."

Lemons said: "[Ireland] is really tough and knows exactly what to say to get us going."

In addition to Bosica, Lemons and Laun, other seniors include Emily Goldman, Emily Smith, Emily Hengemihle (six goals, two assists) and Noelle Hopper.

Goldman is a tri-captain with Bosica and Laun, and switched from defense to midfield this season where she has seven goals and three assists.

"Smith has been brilliant on defense," Ireland said. "She's done a great job surrounded by all younger players.

The team's younger players include juniors Sarah Zammilo, Lindsay Melvin and Maureen Kelley, sophomores Emily Karrer, Robyn Jackson, Ashley Francis and Schweizer and freshman Sarah Cates.

The Vikings fell to 0-3 in state finals after losing in last season's Class 3A state championship game to Fallston, but they are hoping to win it this time.

Lemons, one of seven lacrosse players on the team, is especially looking forward to the playoffs. Her playing time last season was curtailed because of an injury during an early season game. The facial cut required 40 stitches.

This is the last chance for the former gymnast and ski racer, who moved to Mount Hebron from Utah her freshman year. "I had never played field hockey or lacrosse before we moved, but it's been great. We hope to win it."

Bosica said: "It was a great experience to get a taste of the state final. But this year's team is very determined. We really want to win it, and that [determination] is pushing us over the edge."

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