Rare role of underdog motivates Mount Hebron

Perennial power Vikings lack stars, not confidence

Girls lacrosse

High Schools

March 26, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Cassie Krause has heard and seen just about everything regarding her Mount Hebron girls lacrosse team.

From speculation that the Vikings don't belong among the top five teams in The Sun's poll to taunts that a Howard County opponent will defeat Mount Hebron for the first time since 1990, Krause is well aware that there is more skepticism surrounding this team than in more than a decade.

And that suits the junior midfielder just fine.

"They can say whatever they want," Krause said. "We see all the things on the Web sites and in the newspapers, and it pumps us up. It gets us to come together and to work and to be strong."

This year - perhaps more than any other - Krause and her teammates will need to lean on each other as the Vikings enter the 2004 season with nearly as many questions as they have answers.

How will Mount Hebron fare after graduating 12 players from last season's 18-0 squad who earned lacrosse scholarships to Division I colleges?

Where will the Vikings find the firepower to replace seven All-Metro first- and second-team selections who combined to score 209 of the team's 384 goals last spring?

How will the team cope with its first non-No. 1 ranking since early April 1999?

Even head coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland is unsure what team will take the field when No. 3 Mount Hebron plays host to No. 1 Notre Dame Prep today at 3:45 p.m.

"Being an underdog this year is a very different feeling for all of them," said Kuhl-McClelland, whose Vikings are 37-0 during her first two seasons as the coach. "Right now, they're all learning, and they're all being challenged to step up their games."

There's a reason Mount Hebron (1-0) is unfamiliar with the underdog label. The Vikings' worst loss total in a season is three, the program boasts six perfect records since 1992, and the team has been voted the No. 1 program in the nation by Lacrosse Magazine in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003.

But Mount Hebron's lack of a superstar and a group of untested players has some believing the Vikings are not invincible.

"[The superstars] are gone, but [the critics] are overlooking so many other people that we have," said senior attack Kristen Slahor. "We've got such a young and powerful team and so many girls that they don't know about that are coming up and rarin' to go. It's only good for us."

Megan Bosica, a sophomore midfielder, is the returning leading scorer with 27 goals and 14 assists. Bosica, Slahor (25 goals, 15 assists) and Krause (16, 11) are the only players returning with double-digit totals in goals or assists.

This year's team bears some similarities to the 1994 Mount Hebron squad. That Vikings team - which had graduated six starters from an 18-0 team that had claimed its third straight Class 2A-1A state crown and began the 1994 season ranked No. 2 - went 16-2 en route to a Class 4A-3A state title and a No. 2 ranking.

P.J. Kesmodel, who coached that 1994 squad, said he used the whispers about the program's so-called decline to motivate his players and expects Kuhl-McClelland to do the same this season.

"My sense is they'll be right there with the top teams in the area," said Kesmodel, who is an assistant coach at Seton Keough and a guidance counselor at Mount Hebron. "There's enough talent and enough pride in the players and coaches to stay at the top. I think people writing them off would be a mistake."

Gaudy numbers

Mount Hebron's girls lacrosse program boasts a legacy rivaled by few teams:

The Vikings own a 259-20-1 record since lacrosse became a varsity sport at the Ellicott City school for the 1988 season. They are 126-1 against Howard County opponents, losing, 4-2, on April 25, 1990 to Centennial.

During that span, Mount Hebron has won a state championship 11 of the past 12 years, collected 16 consecutive regional crowns and 15 of the past 16 Howard County titles.

The Vikings are the only program -- boys or girls -- to reach the state semifinals every year in the 14-year history of the state tournament and the only program -- boys or girls -- to reach the state championship game the past 12 seasons.

Mount Hebron owns a 43-game winning streak and hasn't lost since May 9, 2001, when St. Stephen's/St. Agnes won, 10-9. The Vikings haven't lost to an area opponent since April 18, 1998, when St. Mary's won, 13-7.

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