Mount Hebron embraces the pressure of `The Streak' as it nears the girls lacrosse record

April 07, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,[Sun reporter]

When Jackie Doherty and her teammates don their Mount Hebron lacrosse uniforms, they play for many more girls than will take the field this spring.

They play for every girl who has contributed to the Vikings' winning streak, which reached 101 games Monday.

"Knowing the girls from [our] freshman year, you know how hard each year has worked to keep it up and you don't want to be the one to let it down," said Doherty, a senior. "We're doing it for all the girls who put in the time and the work and for our coaches. While we're playing for ourselves, we're also playing for the girls who started it."

The girls on this year's team don't know anything other than winning. They've never experienced a loss on a high school lacrosse field. Last May, they won the program's 10th straight state title and were ranked No. 1 in the nation by Lacrosse magazine for the fifth straight year.

As dominating as they are, the Vikings have one more goal to accomplish, something that would make their resume truly unparalleled: the all-time record for consecutive victories in girls lacrosse.

That record, believed to be the national girls lacrosse mark, belongs to Loch Raven, which ran up 103 straight wins between 1973 and 1982. The Raiders also went 104 games without a loss, tying the game before their streak began.

The Vikings could reach 104 in their tournament next Saturday.

As they approach the record, coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland keeps it foremost in the Vikings' minds that they are part of a tradition much bigger than themselves. She reminds them of it often through creative motivational tactics that give an extra dimension to the coaching staff's relentless preparation for each thoroughly scouted opponent.

"I feel like if we give them that little extra push, that could be the reason for the victory," said Kuhl-McClelland, who is 96-0 in her sixth season as head coach.

Last May, before the Vikings went to play Moorestown, N.J., in a game that ultimately would decide the No. 1 national ranking, Kuhl-McClelland asked former players to write words of inspiration for the current players. She handed out copies of the letters on the bus.

Melissa McCarthy, a 2002 graduate now playing at North Carolina, wrote of the Vikings' "bag of tricks."

"This `bag of tricks' holds a legacy over two decades old," McCarthy wrote, "and it overflows with: a passion for facing a challenge; the ability to overcome disabilities, disadvantages, self-doubt and skepticism: it reeks of sweat; it is stained with blood. Walk onto the field carrying your `bag of tricks' that we, every player that's ever worn a Vikings jersey, have built together."

Mount Hebron defeated Moorestown, 10-8.

"[The letters] pumped us up so much," senior Kara Passarelli said. "That goes back to how there is so much tradition, how there have been so many girls before us and they all want us to do well."

Legacy of excellence

Since the program began in 1988, the Vikings have gone 317-20-1. That's a .938 winning percentage.

On Monday, the Vikings beat Centennial, 17-4, to reach 101 straight wins. Their last loss came at St. Stephen's/St. Agnes in Alexandria, Va., on May 10, 2001. They last lost to a local team, St. Mary's, on April 19, 1998.

Loch Raven's 103-game winning streak has stood since Severna Park ended it on May 20, 1982 - six years before the Vikings and the rest of Howard County began playing girls lacrosse.

As they go for the record, the Vikings have an unexpected ally - Joy Nuttall, who coached Loch Raven through its streak.

"Records are made to be broken, and Loch Raven's record has stood for 25 years," said Nuttall, who was featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces In the Crowd" when the Raiders' streak hit 100. "I've only heard good things about that Mount Hebron team. If they break the record, I say, `Great. Go on and set your own record for some other team to break.' "

Back in the 1970s and early '80s, Nuttall faced many of the same challenges Kuhl-McClelland faces today, especially in how to keep her team motivated when it had a lot of lopsided wins.

"It takes a tremendous amount of the psychological game keeping kids in those games. It's a tremendous job, and it's very difficult," Nuttall said.

"The girls at Loch Raven, I think they learned, at the time that they had that streak, that each subsequent team was responsible to something much larger than themselves. That was the lacrosse team. They took that seriously, and we had passionately dedicated kids. That's what was largely responsible for that streak lasting that many years."

Motivational tools

The Vikings have the same passion for the game. Like the Raiders, they grew up around lacrosse and aspired to be part of the Mount Hebron tradition.

The girls bring a lot of motivation, but Kuhl-McClelland gives them plenty of prodding in her pre-game pep talks. Before each big game, she comes up with a new way to fire up the team.

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