Savoring 99 straight wins - 1 at a time

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

March 30, 2007|By MILTON KENT

It would do coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland's heart good if her Mount Hebron girls lacrosse players would celebrate the moments of their lives and their season -- all of them.

The Vikings have gotten understandably good about rejoicing after major accomplishments, but it's their reaction to the not-so-big games that concerns Kuhl-McClelland. It's not that she wants her players to be poor sports, but that she wants them to take pride in the journey.

"I would watch them and there was no happiness or joy in what they had accomplished," said Kuhl-McClelland, in her sixth year as coach. "So, when I took over, I told them, `Girls, you have to celebrate every victory because you don't know when you're going to get the next one.' "

FOR THE RECORD - Correction -- A word was missing from Friday's column on the Mount Hebron girls lacrosse team's pursuit of their 100th straight win. I meant to say that the average victory margin for the Vikings in their state title games was 12 goals, not that they had won each game by at least 12 goals.

"The next one" has been coming like clockwork for the past six years, just as the gears of an engine turn and crank efficiently without fail.

The Vikings (2-0) look for their 100th consecutive victory tonight at home against Atholton. It's a span that has included state and county championships and victories over all comers, from local private schools to the best teams from around the Mid-Atlantic.

The bigness and roundness and importance of the number has largely escaped the players, who move on to the next moment, the next opponent, the next game, the next win.

"It's really an amazing feat," senior attacker Jacqueline Giles said. "We never really talked about it, so I didn't realize we were close. It's really going to make us feel accomplished."

So much of the joy the Vikings could take from the streak is likely swallowed by the dominance they display in their wins, particularly over local opposition.

Last Friday's season opener was a nail-biting, 25-1 win over Wilde Lake. Mount Hebron hasn't lost to a local team since a 13-7 setback to St. Mary's in April 1998. The Vikings haven't lost to a Maryland public school team since falling to Annapolis in overtime of the 1996 Class 4A-3A state final.

Since then, the Vikings have reeled off 10 straight state titles, with a 12-goal-plus margin of victory in the championship games. They also posted the only shutout in the 17-year history of the state title game, last year's 16-0 triumph over Stephen Decatur.

"We just clap and walk off like it's another day at work," Kuhl-McClelland said. "The reason for that is that for so long, they've beaten teams by such a wide margin. We don't want to smash people's faces in it. We try to be a little more respectful."

Of course, some of the rest of the fun of winning is probably also consumed by the weight and size of the streak itself. Do something as often and as well as the Vikings have and people come to expect you to do it all the time, even if you are a bunch of high school kids.

"I guess you could say it's a little bit of a blessing and a curse," senior midfielder Jill Rekart said. "It's a blessing to be a part of it, but you've got people rooting against you. But then, you're always going to have someone rooting against you. You might as well have that streak and people rooting against you."

The Mount Hebron streak figures to have serious challenges this season.

The Vikings, ranked No. 1 locally and nationally, will meet area contender St. Paul's at Johns Hopkins on April 9 and will play New Jersey power Moorestown at home on May 5 in probably the biggest game on the national girls high school lacrosse calendar.

And if the Vikings can escape this year unscathed, their ranks figure to be diluted down the road as the effects of the redistricting of students to second-year school Marriotts Ridge take hold.

But all of that worry can wait for later. For now, it should be time for a Vikings party.

"This group can say, `I won a state championship,' or `I won a big game against Moorestown.' Those kind of tangible things are there," Kuhl-McClelland said. "This group of girls can walk away and say, `I won 100 [consecutive] games. I was on the team that won 100. I was a part of that. This group has a special place in Mount Hebron lacrosse history."

milton.kent@baltimoresun.com

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