Coach Purcell hoping for one last playoff run


October 31, 2007|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,sun reporter

During her high school days at Howard, Centennial field hockey coach Gail Purcell could never get enough sports.

She played field hockey, basketball, softball, tennis, ran track and found a way to get in badminton, too.

It was during that time that Purcell, 55, gained knowledge about leadership, the importance of playing as a team and the camaraderie that comes with playing on a team. She also knew she wanted to become a teacher and coach.

In her 31st season as the only field hockey coach at Centennial, which opened in 1977, Purcell is hoping for one last long playoff run before she steps down. The Eagles, who captured the Howard County championship last week with a 2-1 win over Glenelg, went into yesterday's Class 3A East region semifinal game against Long Reach with a 12-2 mark.

With a win, they would be playing in tomorrow's regional championship game with Purcell looking for her 300th career victory.

"I guess my feeling is I really did choose the right group of seniors to go out with. I've had them since they were sophomores, and the neatest thing is they're playing for me and I'm coaching for them," said Purcell, who also is a physical education teacher at Centennial.

Purcell said that unlike last year, this year's group is peaking at the right time. After falling to Glenelg, 7-4, in the regular season, the Eagles got a complete team effort to come away with a 2-1 upset victory in last week's title game.

"It's really exciting to see them come together," she said. "I think the thing about this team is they kind of did what they had to do to get by, and then they recognized it wasn't enough. They've really come together and not just the team on the field, but 19 very cohesive players, which I think you have to have going into a big game or playoff situation."

Senior forward Lindsey Norris, who scored the game-winning goal in the county title game, talked after the game about what an honor it is for this class to be the one going out with Purcell.

Fellow senior Sarah Parks echoed the sentiment.

"She's the reason the program is here and as strong as it is," she said. "She's all about team bonding and making sure everybody is on the same page. We want to make this last year something special for her, something she'll always remember at Centennial."

Purcell, whose 1995 team was the only one in the county to win a state championship, said she felt it was the right time to step down. Tara Fadrowski, who played at River Hill and has taught at Centennial and been on the coaching staff the past two years, is set to take over.

Sweep for siblings

Two county soccer championship victories for River Hill added up to one special night for the Hudson family Oct. 23.

After sophomore goalie Carylynne Hudson turned away 11 shots in a 4-3 win over Centennial, her older brother, Pat, a senior, made a key save late to preserve a 1-0 triumph over Oakland Mills that gave the Hawks a sweep for county bragging rights.

"It was a great night. We had both our parents, and our grandpa was there," said Pat, who is 10-4 on the season with seven shutouts. "We support each other a lot - I watched the first half of Carylynne's game before our game, so it was fun to be able to cheer my little sister on. She made some amazing saves."

Goalkeeping is a way of life in the Hudson household.

The siblings' father, Don, played at now-defunct Andover High in Anne Arundel and their older sister, Katy, was a two-time All-Metro goalie at River Hill and is starting for Richmond.

"For Pat and I to both start on competitive teams is great," said Carylynne, who is 13-1-1 with seven shutouts. "Watching him play that night was phenomenal. He was able to come out and grab all those balls. I had a lot of fun cheering for him, and I'm just so proud of him."

Playoff bound

Howard football coach Al Feldblum was beaming after his Lions' 21-14 comeback victory over then-No. 10 Wilde Lake that clinched a playoff berth in the Class 3A East region Saturday.

"It's the school's first playoff berth since 1999, and I can't say how proud of their effort in the second half," said Feldblum, who is in his third season at Howard, the past two as head coach.

"We'll probably play these guys [Wilde Lake] or maybe Atholton in the first round of the playoffs. We're 7-1, but North Harford is also 7-1 and figures to finish 9-1 and take the top seed. The way I see it, the best we can do finish is second."

Lions senior quarterback Jeff Kalski led the comeback against Wilde Lake (6-2) by throwing two second-half touchdown passes to pace a 21-0 run in the final 24 minutes.

Sun reporter Pat O'Malley contributed to this article.

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