What’s a soccer team got to do to get some respect around here?
It’s a fair question, and one being asked by the Arundel girls’ soccer team. Undefeated regular-season county champions and region finalists a season ago when they went 16-2 overall, the Wildcats nonetheless felt pegged as also-rans throughout last season, slighted by news media and never considered true contenders despite their stellar record.
This season, the Wildcats are back with a vengeance and determined to build on the success of 2012, and they got the year started on a resounding high note by knocking off IAAM A Conference powers Archbishop Spalding and Severn in the season-opening Anne Arundel Community College tournament the weekend of September 6-8.
On September 6, a second-half goal by the Wildcats’ Kira Carberry off a cross from Kasey Crider and eight saves by Tiffany Dayton-Hegedus allowed Arundel to dispatch Spalding, 1-0. The Cavaliers (1-1-1) are reigning champions of the IAAM A Conference and were considered all last season to be one of the top teams in the state and country.
For an encore, the Wildcats turned around on September 7 and toppled Severn, a playoff team in the IAAM A Conference last season, by a score of 2-0 on goals by Clarissa Kirsch-Downs (assisted by Becky Frost) and Emani Silva. Dayton-Hegedus notched seven saves to help Arundel (2-0) to an excellent start to the season.
Yes, the girls from South River are the reigning 4A state champions, and the Seahawks can justly declare that the path to this year’s state tournament must go through Edgewater. But the Arundel girls are playing with a chip on their shoulder, determined to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke, and the early returns send that message loud and clear, says Wildcats’ coach Laura Coe.
“The girls really feel like people didn’t take them seriously,” said Coe. “So they have a fire about them this year, and they feel like they have something to prove… I told the girls before the Spalding game, ‘There’s a lot of naysayers out there about how good our season was last year, so this game is going to be about you guys proving a point that last season was not a joke,’ and those girls went out against Spalding and dominated the game.”
Coe says this year’s squad is bolstered by excellent senior leadership and an influx of talented freshmen who give the Wildcats a degree of depth they didn’t have last season.
“I am able to sub more this year to keep the girls fresh,” said Coe. “I’ve got much more depth, and we can sub without the level of play going down. And I’ve got 10 amazing seniors. Each one of them in their own right should be a captain. They all have their own strengths, but the really great thing to see about those ten seniors is they all get along, they’re all supportive, and they’re amazing role models for the younger girls on the team.”
It’s only September, but Coe says the Wildcats fully intend to earn their respect of opponents and critics alike.
“I’m not having to push them very hard to be motivated,” said Coe.
The Seahawks (1-1) and Cavaliers (1-1-1) each managed a split of the AACC tournament, while the Admirals (0-2) were the odd team out in the intensely competitive four-team field.
Katya Kaplow and Alyssa Hill scored goals and Emily Proctor notched two saves for South River in the Seahawks’ 2-0 upending of Severn in the tournament’s opening round. The Seahawks couldn’t parlay their victory over Severn into another winning performance on Saturday, falling to the Spalding, 4-2. The Cavaliers’ Julia Heck, Sarah Martin, Sarah Ensor and Marissa Brown tallied goals to ruin the best efforts of Kat Wray and Kacie Longo, who scored for the Seahawks. Cassidy Babin had seven saves for Spalding in the win, which improved the Cavaliers to 1-1-1 overall following their season-opening 2-2 tie against D.C. prep power Good Counsel on September 4.