Fall practice begins for county athletes
The journey begins for county athletes
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.”
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.
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.