Hon­or­ably men­tioned

Maryland Independent - - SPORTS - Andy States Twit­ter: @cfh­philly

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.

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