Fall prac­tice be­gins for county ath­letes

The jour­ney be­gins for county ath­letes

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com

There are cer­tain dates on the cal­en­dar we all look for­ward to more than oth­ers. For nu­mer­ous Charles County ath­letes and coaches, Wed­nes­day was one of them.

On Wed­nes­day, pub­lic high school teams be­gan their sea­sons with the first day of fall sports prac­tice.

Head coach Doug DeCook and the North Point boys soc­cer team kicked off things bright and early at 7 a.m. on Wed­nes­day morn­ing with a two-mile run for con­di­tion­ing and broke off into small groups to per­form first-touch pass­ing and agility drills on its turf field. The Ea­gles had a three-hour prac­tice ses­sion.

“It is al­ways great when a new sea­son starts up and it’s great to see new kids come out to the team, ma­ture and see all their work in the sum­mer pay off,” said DeCook, who en­ters his sec­ond sea­son with the boys squad. “We are just try­ing to get kids com­fort­able and fit for the next cou­ple weeks be­fore our scrim­mage at [Howard County’s] Oak­land Mills [next Satur­day]. To­day we also wanted to work on the men­tal as­pect of the game along with tac­tics.”

Last sea­son, North Point fin­ished with a 8-6 over­all record and went 5-1 ver­sus county op­po­nents, good for sec­ond place in the Po­tomac Divi­sion be­hind La Plata, the de­fend­ing divi­sion and Class 2A South Re­gion cham­pi­ons. Five of their losses were just by one or two goals.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to the sea­son, the sum­mer went by so quick and it is crazy be­ing back so soon,” said North Point se­nior for­ward Cameron Bal­lard, an All-County first team se­lec­tion last sea­son who scored five goals in 2016. “We want to do bet­ter this year and get past the sec­ond of the play­offs.”

North Point se­nior de­fender Chris Simp­son, one of the team cap­tains, was ea­ger to get back to work for the fall.

“We’ve been work­ing hard this sum­mer and it feels good to get back on the field with th­ese guys and we have a good re­turn­ing core,” said Simp­son. “We worked on our fit­ness and ba­sic fun­da­men­tals the first day.”

Af­ter fall­ing in penalty kicks (6-5) to even­tual re­gion cham­pion Calvert last sea­son in the sec­tion fi­nal, the La Plata girls soc­cer team was back for

the first day and brings back 12 re­turn­ing se­niors while some new faces will also join the mix.

La Plata fin­ished 8-7 over­all and fin­ished run­ner-up in the Po­tomac Divi­sion be­hind North Point with a 5-1 mark in county play. The War­riors open the sea­son on Septem­ber 5 at home ver­sus Calvert in a re­match.

“We are glad to get back on the field and the con­ver­sa­tion we’ve had so far is that we are ready to make a play­off run again and the girls are ready,” said La Plata head coach Kevin Barry, whose team has nine re­turn­ing starters. This is the best day of the year and we had 52 girls for try­outs. That is the most we’ve ever had.”

La Plata se­nior Han­nah Lind said even though it was the first day that this year’s team is al­ready a close knit group.

“We’ve all been to­gether for four years and this is ex­cit­ing to play our fi­nal sea­son to­gether,” said Hind. “This is our last hur­rah and we lost only two se­niors from last sea­son.”

War­riors se­nior Ju­lia Simp­son added: “We did con­di­tion­ing to­day and did small scrim­mages to see what ev­ery­one could do. We have a lot to work on for the sea­son.”

The La Plata foot­ball team was also hard at work on Wed­nes­day morn­ing and are look­ing to make strides from a tough 2-8 sea­son a year ago.

“The first day is al­ways the most ex­cit­ing be­cause you know that the sea­son is on its way,” said La Plata head coach Rod Mil­stead, whose team has 17 se­niors, 13 of them re­turn­ing starters. “We had a good off­sea­son and have been work­ing re­ally hard and re­cently fin­ished up a foot­ball up at Shep­herd Univer­sity. We have some pieces to the puz­zle that we’ve been work­ing on the last few years and hope­fully we can bring this thing to­gether.”

La Plata se­nior line­man Jonathan Gra­ham, a highly re­cruited player re­ceiv­ing Divi­sion I in­ter­est, will bring back ex­pe­ri­ence and power up front for the War­riors this sea­son.

“It is hard get­ting back to it the first day. It is hot, but I love it,” said Gra­ham. “We are get­ting the feel of the hel­met and worked on tech­nique and con­di­tion­ing.”

The West­lake vol­ley­ball team, which fin­ished with just one win last sea­son, took the court for the first time on Wed­nes­day with new head coach Bran­don Bader, a na­tive of Colorado and a re­cent grad­u­ate of Drake Univer­sity.

“Day 1 wasn’t a lot of play­ing, we just got a lot of height, weight and mea­sure­ments, and test speed from our play­ers,” said Bader. “We want to change the cul­ture and we have to be tough and work on a cou­ple things to re­tool.”

Emily Decker, one of four se­niors on the team, was ex­cited to be back for the first day of prac­tice.

“I ended up wak­ing up at 6 a.m. this morn­ing. I could hardly sleep,” said Decker. “To­day we worked on speed, foot­work and the ba­sics. Ul­ti­mately we want to be com­pet­i­tive this sea­son. West­lake vol­ley­ball hasn’t been known for much, but we just want to im­prove and have fun.”

STAFF PHOTO BY AJ MA­SON

La Plata se­nior line­men Jonathan Gra­ham, left and Colton Sci­as­cia pre­pare to do a drill on the sled in the first day of of­fi­cial foot­ball prac­tice on Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY AJ MA­SON

North Point se­nior Cameron Bal­lard Jr. works through a drill in Wed­nes­day’s first day of fall prac­tice dur­ing a morn­ing ses­sion with team­mates.

West­lake head coach Bran­don Bader en­ters his first sea­son as head coach of the vol­ley­ball team as he talks to the team at Wed­nes­day’s first prac­tice of the 2017 sea­son.

Mem­bers of the La Plata girls soc­cer team line up be­fore a drill in Wed­nes­day’s first of­fi­cial day of fall sports prac­tice.

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