The best thing that happened to this year's North Harford field hockey team happened last year when the soccer team cut Chrissy Jones.
Jones didn't play any sports last year after not making soccer, but coach Lori Mitchell pushed her to consider field hockey. Jones eventually agreed, went to field hockey camp over the summer and has done a strong job this season as the Hawks' goalie.
She gave one of her best performances Wednesday when Fallston scored a 2-1 overtime victory at North Harford. Jones was everywhere, making 14 saves, using her quickness and good positioning to make several tough saves and frustrating a Cougar offense that often dominated play.
Mitchell said Jones truly has been a steadying force this season as North Harford stood at 8-6 (7-5 in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference) after the loss.
"She's been great from Day One," Mitchell said. "We've got a young team here, and we've got a lot of growing to do, [but] the thing I like about her is she's always got a smile on her face."
Jones is clearly a leader on the field, and, as a senior, she is someone the younger Hawks look up to during games.
Jones, whose older sister played goalie for North Harford a few years ago, needed the camp this summer to learn the details of the position. Jones, who also plays basketball and lacrosse, also said that the Hawks have been great to her, since life can sometimes be tough for a first-year goalie.
"Everyone's been really supportive, and that really helps," Jones said. "I'm having a lot of fun."
A helping hand
The Bel Air volleyball team has made Milt and Valerie Willey busier than usual this fall.
Milt Willey stepped up to become head coach and Valerie Willey joined as an assistant after the Bobcats were left without coaches heading into the fall season. The Willeys adjusted their work commitments after last year's varsity coach moved to a different sport, and the JV coach was transferred to another school, leaving the Bobcats without a coach.
The parents went to school officials and offered their services, and everything worked out. And so far, so good. Bel Air went to 6-5 on the season with its 25-17, 25-9, 25-18 sweep of Havre de Grace last week.
"It's been a lot of fun, and it's been rewarding," said Milt Willey. "It's just been a lot of fun being around the kids. I was nervous [in the season opener] against Archbishop Spalding, but when I saw how well they played, that went away."
Willey said it takes about 60 to 90 minutes to plan each practice and that he and Valerie are working hard to give the team the best chance to improve and win.
Bel Air returned only three players this year, graduating six seniors from last season's team. The Bobcats also lost some experienced JV players to the new Patterson Mill school.
But the Bobcats have gotten strong play from seniors Sarah Willey, Arlana Roland and Becca Kany.
Sarah Willey, Milt and Valerie Willey's daughter, is a four-year starter at setter who also helps as a hitter. She's averaging just over eight assists per game plus two kills.
Roland has started for three years and shifted from middle to outside hitter this season. She's averaging 6.85 kills per game, while Kany is a middle hitter. Her serves are consistent (93 percent), and she tops the team in blocking.
Trying to sweep
The Fallston boys and girls will go for a sweep of the UCBAC soccer championship Wednesday.
Both teams were ranked No. 6 in last week's polls and won the Chesapeake Division. Fallston's girls ended C.M. Wright's three-year run as UCBAC champion, and they'll play in the 5 p.m. game at Edgewood against Harford Tech, the surprise winner of the Susquehanna Division.
Harford Tech wrapped up the division title with a 4-1 victory over Edgewood on Monday. The Cobras now have scored 33 goals this season in 10 games - after averaging just one per game last year.
The 7 p.m. game features the Cougars against Aberdeen. Fallston plays one of the area's most difficult schedules in hopes of preparing for a good run in the regional and state playoffs.
On the run
The C.M. Wright girls cross country team moved into the top spot in The Sun's poll with a solid second-place finish in last weekend's Meade Stampede in Anne Arundel County.
Churchill, from Montgomery County, won with 53 points, but the Mustangs (then ranked No. 2) took second with 86, beating out No. 3 Hereford (105) and No. 1 Severna Park (139). The C.M. Wright boys finished third as Wilde Lake won that title.
Erika Stasakova and Nicole Clark took first and second at the recent Bobcat Invitational. Stasakova won in 18 minutes, 44 seconds, beating her teammate by 12 seconds. But it was Bel Air's day as the Bobcats won the team title with 62 points, topping Centennial (74) and John Carroll (97).
Bel Air put five runners in the top 23 to win the championship. The Bobcat boys finished second with 95 points behind Mount Hebron (61) in the race run at Jerusalem Mill.