Tri-cap­tains en­joy­ing a wild ride

Friends since child­hood, trio of se­nior stars driv­ing Wilde Lake’s soc­cer suc­cess

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Glenn Gra­ham

The se­nior tri-cap­tains of the Wilde Lake girls soc­cer team planned a spirit day ear­lier this sea­son with a “decade” theme.

Mid­fielder Lily Dun­bar was re­turn­ing to the 1960s, dress­ing as a hip­pie, while for­ward Ju­lianna Bon­ner still hadn’t made up her mind at the time.

Both, how­ever, knew ex­actly what the Wilde­cats’ third cap­tain, goalie Jenna Hutchi­son, would be sport­ing. “She’ll be wear­ing leather,” Dun­bar said. “Yeah, def­i­nitely leather,” Bon­ner quickly added.

Sure enough, con­fir­ma­tion came soon af­ter: “I have this cool leather vest, so I’m def­i­nitely go­ing [1950s] greaser,” Hutchi­son said.

Friends since their youth soc­cer days, var­sity starters since the first game of their fresh­man sea­son and cap­tains for the past two, the trio knows each other well and has a spe­cial vibe.

They have an even big­ger plan for the sea­son: Mak­ing a strong push to bring home the pro­gram’s first state cham­pi­onship.

The Wilde­cats, ranked No. 6 with a 9-0-1 mark, are equipped for the task at hand. They brought back all 11 starters from last year’s 12-win team and have an in­flux of new tal­ent with three fresh­men start­ing.

In Bon­ner, Dun­bar and Hutchi­son, they have lead­er­ship that knows what it takes to reach the ti­tle game. In their fresh­man year, they were tagged “The Trio” and played a big role in help­ing the Wilde­cats make the state ti­tle game, a one-goal loss against Fall­ston that still drives them to­day.

“We know what it’s like be­cause we’ve been down the road and it takes a lot,” said Bon­ner, an All-Metro first-team se­lec­tion and Howard County Player of the Year last sea­son. “It’s a long sea­son, and we can’t take any­thing for granted. It’s a cliché, but we have to play ev­ery game like it’s our last. Just hav­ing that back­ground knowl­edge can pre­pare us for the big games. So I feel like be­cause we know what we’ve got­ten into in the past, we can rally this team and get there.”

In­di­vid­u­ally, Bon­ner, Dun­bar and Hutchi­son bring their own spe­cial qual­i­ties to the team.

Bon­ner thrives at tak­ing on de­fend­ers with an abil­ity to pro­duce con­sis­tent of­fense. Com­ing off a 21-goal, nine-as­sist ju­nior sea­son, she al­ready has nine goals and an as­sist this year. Dun­bar, who has three goals and three as­sists at cen­tral mid­field, is the ef­fi­cient con­nec­tor who makes sure every­body is where they need to be on the field.

Hutchi­son brings con­fi­dence and un­ques­tioned re­as­sur­ance in the back, own­ing the penalty area with smart and ag­gres­sive play.

“We all have so many dif­fer­ent lay­ers. There’s a se­ri­ous part to all of us and also a fun part to all of us,” said Hutchi­son, who also was a cap­tain in her sopho­more year. “Over­all, we just kind of make it work. Some­times it may seem we have con­flict­ing per­son­al­i­ties, but we’re all very out­go­ing and will­ing to put in the work to make this team great and we all have the same goals. So in the end, those con­flict­ing per­son­al­i­ties is ex­actly what a team is.”

Look­ing back on their fresh­man sea­son, all three shared the feel­ing of be­ing a bit over­whelmed by the sit­u­a­tion and how im­por­tant it was to have each other. Now, they are looked up to and cher­ish the re­spon­si­bil­ity, mak­ing sure to share ev­ery­thing they’ve learned to get the most out of ev­ery minute of their last high school sea­son.

“It’s so ex­cit­ing,” Dun­bar said. “It’s a lit­tle sad, a lit­tle bit­ter­sweet be­cause ev­ery game, we’re like, ‘Oh this is my last time play­ing, say, Reser­voir, that kind of thing. But it’s been awe­some so far be­ing able to lead such a great group of girls. They work to­gether so hard, and I can trust ev­ery girl on the team.”

Over the sum­mer, the trio con­ducted 7 a.m. prac­tices for all the play­ers in the Wilde Lake pro­gram to set a strong tone.

Wilde Lake coach Me­gan Shea was pleased and im­pressed with the or­ga­ni­za­tion and com­mit­ment her cap­tains have shown. She also wasn’t sur­prised. They have all re­ceived Divi­sion I schol­ar­ships — Bon­ner set to play at Le­high, Dun­bar com­mit­ted to Drexel and Hutchi­son headed to Ge­orge Ma­son — and each have weighted GPAs that ex­ceed 4.6.

Shea has a folder filled with e-mails from par­ents of the fresh­man class, all of whom showed ap­pre­ci­a­tion to­ward the three se­niors.

“They all said how nerve rack­ing it is to have a fresh­man daugh­ter come into high school, but know­ing the lead­er­ship that they have shown over the sum­mer, they know they’re in a good place and their daugh­ters have some­one to look up to,” Shea said.

Op­pos­ing coaches have also taken note for the past four years.

“The amaz­ing thing to me is that they’re all at dif­fer­ent lev­els on the field and they work so well to­gether,” said Reser­voir coach Phil Ranker, whose Ga­tors earned a 1-1 tie against the Wilde­cats on Sept. 25. “Ob­vi­ously, Jenna in the back kind of holds it all down any time there’s break­downs, and Lily ba­si­cally con­trols the en­tire mid­field and [Ju­lianna] fin­ishes chances up top bet­ter than most girls at this level that I’ve seen.

“They’ve played at such a high level to­gether and have been able to do it in Howard County, which has been a tough spot for girls soc­cer.”

Wilde Lake is count­ing on the sig­nif­i­cant tests from the Howard County league to be ready for the play­off grind. Last sea­son, the Wilde­cats fin­ished sec­ond in Howard County to even­tual Class 2A state cham­pion River Hill, which also beat them in the re­gion play­offs.

They’ll get their first crack at the No. 4 Hawks on Tues­day, Oct. 9, and the teams will likely meet in the re­gion play­offs again.

“I love play­ing Wilde Lake soc­cer so much, and it’s just so sur­real that within the next cou­ple months, we’re go­ing to be done,” Hutchi­son said. “So it’s hap­pi­ness and joy and there’s also some sad­ness, but mostly that drive to do your ab­so­lute best in your fi­nal year.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

From left, Wilde Lake's Ju­lianna Bon­ner, Jenna Hutchi­son and Lily Dun­bar, who have played to­gethr since youth soc­cer, have led the Wilde­cats to a 9-0-1 record and No. 6 rank­ing.

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