S. River field hockey team builds winning tradition

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Commentary

September 17, 2006|By MILTON KENT

There's something to be said for confidence, which the second-ranked South River field hockey team has in abundance heading into tomorrow's showdown with No. 1 Severna Park.

The Seahawks' confidence isn't arrogance or braggadocio, but more a sense that they belong on the same field with the storied Falcons, and that if things go the right way, well ...

"I just hope we play our game, that we play confident, that we work as a team, as one big unit and that we communicate well," South River coach Katie Corcoran said. "We always have a sportsmanlike game with them. As long as we play our best, win or lose, I'm happy."

In most cases, it's good to keep your expectations as modest as possible when facing Severna Park. Under coach Lil Shelton, in her 32nd season, the Falcons' field hockey program is as historically dominant a unit as exists in Anne Arundel County high school athletics.

Severna Park has not only won 15 state titles, but it also has captured all 11 county championship games that have been played, as well as being declared champion in all but one of the other years.

In other words, the road to success in field hockey in Anne Arundel typically runs through Severna Park, the site of tomorrow's contest.

However, the Seahawks, who have won two straight Class 4A state championships, and three titles in the past six years, have their own tradition building and appear to be narrowing whatever gap still exists between them and the Falcons.

After dropping a 3-0 decision to Severna Park early last season, South River led Severna Park in the second half of the county championship game before Hayley Rausch scored two of her three goals late in regulation and in overtime to give the Falcons a 3-2 win and another trophy.

The story had a happy ending for South River, which won the state title weeks after losing to Severna Park in the county title game - the same scenario as the year before.

This year's clash comes early enough in the season that it doesn't dominate the rest of the schedule, which includes meetings with burgeoning county powers Broadneck and Chesapeake.

"It [playing so early] kind of helps in a way, because since other people do talk about it so much, we're not always concentrating just on Severna Park, and if we get them out of the way, we can really focus on everybody else," senior forward Abigail McNair said.

"It [talking about Severna Park] can be tiring, because we just want to get through our season. We don't only play Severna Park, but we play everybody else as well. Yes, we want to play good against them and it's nice to win the game, but we have to get through everybody else before the season is over."

The Seahawks (3-0) appear to be ahead of schedule, or at least further along now than last year. Corcoran, in her second season as coach after being an assistant, says there's better offensive continuity this year than last.

The team struggled early in 2005, especially during the period when it was shut out by Severna Park, which won the 3A state title last year. However, with all but two starters returning for this year, things seem to run more smoothly, Corcoran said.

"Our offense was a little out of sync in the beginning [of last season], and we had to rely on our defense and midfield," Corcoran said. "If one section of the field is not doing what it needs to do [this year], I think other [positions] will step up and compensate for what we need to work on."

Most importantly, the Seahawks have solid perspective, even about facing Severna Park. It's just another game, with many more to go.

"They're not so excited over all the hype with everything. They're grounded and they know what they have to do," Corcoran said. "Yeah, it's 1 vs. 2 and it's a huge game and we want to play well and do our best. They know that they have to play their best. They know that it's one of our best games of the season. And it's early, so they know we have time to improve by the time we get to the playoffs.

"Their ultimate goal is to win a state championship again. Yes, they want to beat Severna Park, but that [state title] is their ultimate goal."

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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