The truly special athletes usually stick out, one way or another.
A person doesn’t really need any advanced knowledge to see it, either. Anybody will notice those who run faster, jump higher, throw harder or just happen to be ridiculously talented.
Sydney Watson is one of those athletes.
In the fall, the recent Calvert High School graduate capped a girls soccer career that featured 108 career goals, one of which earned the Cavaliers their first state soccer championship when they took the Class 2A crown in 2014. This past season, she scored 24 goals and had 24 assists in leading the team back to the 2A final, where it finished a goal short of adding another state championship trophy to the school’s trophy case.
For her efforts, she was selected as the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Most Outstanding Player, was named first-team All-State and was also named the All-County Athlete of the Year.
Watson plays lacrosse, as well, and will be playing it at the NCAA Division I level collegiately at the University of Connecticut. Her career lacrosse exploits at Calvert were no less impressive than those on the soccer field (save the team winning a state championship part), as she was a four-year varsity starter and had been named All-SMAC and All-County each of her first three seasons, while she was also named the All-County girls lacrosse Athlete of the Year a year ago.
The season, she scored 43 goals and had 19 assists to lead Calvert to again stand out as one of the top players in the conference. But you won’t find her name on the All-SMAC Chesapeake Division team. Well, at least not unless you read all the way through the honorable mentions.
I’ve been under the impression, right or wrong, that the All-SMAC teams mean quite a bit to some people. See, at the end of every season we put together the All-County teams, which require that we contact all of the coaches for every sport in each county for their input, stats, etc. to try to put together the best teams we can. Sometimes it’s easy. Often it’s not.
But once in the recent past I had a coach respond by simply sending me the All-SMAC team from the season that had just finished. I, of course, responded that the county teams were different (the All-County teams are just dealing with individual counties — I feel like that should be apparent in the term “All-County”), but I never heard back again.
That coach’s sole input was sending me the All-SMAC team (which I had already received, anyway).
So I took from that that the All-SMAC teams were viewed as very important and All-County so insignificant that a coach would not even bother to nominate any of their own players.
Fair enough, but then I don’t quite understand what happened with this year’s girls lacrosse teams. Quibble about whatever you’d like, but Watson’s numbers stand out to the point where a person would think she would have been a no-brainer to at least be named to the team. But it gets worse. You look over at the Potomac Division side of the page, and there is not a single player from La Plata listed. That’s tough to fathom when you consider that the Warriors went unbeaten against the rest of their division.
La Plata head coach Kelley Nicholl was selected as the conference’s Coach of the Year, and I guess she had to be a no-brainer there to win her division without having a single player worthy of an All-SMAC Potomac Division honor ... though the stats I’ve seen show La Plata’s Morgan Leonard to have scored 47 goals, one of the highest numbers in the division.
Also conspicuous in her absence from the All-SMAC list is North Point’s Ali Zadeh. Zadeh found the net a division-high 60 times this year and finished her career with 196 goals for the Eagles, yet you can’t find her on the All-SMAC lists until you reach the honorable mentions, either.
And again, talking about athletes that stick out ... I saw Zadeh play once, against Patuxent in the 2016 season and she certainly stood out. Patuxent won 14-9, but Zadeh was the star of the show that day, scoring a game-high six goals.
The Eagles’ Lia Willis and her 46 goals are missing from the All-SMAC Potomac team, too. In division action, North Point lost only a one-goal decision to La Plata, so again, the sum must have been greater than the individual parts.
In all fairness, any of these all-whatever teams can be difficult to put together. Often you have a number of players with nearly identical statistics and no room for all of them.
The division split in SMAC does not make it any better, with players from teams like Northern — which defeated the Potomac Division’s top two teams in La Plata and North Point — in the Chesapeake Division pretty much unable to crack that division’s All-SMAC team because it’s typically hogged up by the perennial conference powers in Leonardtown, Huntingtown and Calvert.
Regardless, I wasn’t in the room when those teams were put together, nor would I want to be. Don’t know what went on or what personal feelings any coach has for another coach or any of the players competing in the conference. Don’t know if the process was overwhelming for any of the conference’s newer coaches, if voting would have been different if votes were not anonymous or if the consensus was that some of the players’ competitive nature was not very sportsmanlike.
On that last note, I can only say in the case of Watson I covered her for four years and personally never saw anything that would even remotely exclude her from any postseason honors.
Further, if I were a coach or a teammate, I wouldn’t want any players on the team having zero competitive fire burning inside them.
If the point of All-SMAC teams is to recognize the best players, then the best players should be recognized. Anything less does the athletes and the conference a severe disservice.