The Washington Post
In loaded Anne Arundel County, Crofton field hockey looks ready to emerge
When Kylie Corcoran played for Crofton’s recreational field hockey program, players planned to split off and attend South River High or Arundel High. But then Crofton High opened in 2020, meaning they were all going to be on the same side of the pitch.
“I was so excited, just because I knew everyone that was coming in was on the team that we had in rec,” said Corcoran, a junior. “It was so fun and competitive in rec, and we were going to have that same atmosphere in high school.”
Crofton’s group of seniors will be its first graduating class in school history. This is the first year the Cardinals have players from all four grade levels — and they’re looking to make a splash, especially against nearby schools.
“They get pumped to play the teams where they came from,” Coach Amy Skrickus said. “It’s just a big sense of pride, a big sense of community — everyone kind of feels it, and it’s such a unique experience.”
The Cardinals finished last year’s regular season — their first as a varsity program — with a 9-3 record, notching victories over traditional powers Broadneck and Chesapeake. With every one of its players back this fall, including senior forward Emma Beyer, sophomore goalkeeper Ryleigh Osborne and Corcoran, the Cardinals could take another step in loaded Anne Arundel County.
“We have a lot of talent, and also we’re going against a lot of talent in the county,” Corcoran said. “Everyone in the county is going to be so good. It’s so fun to play against all these talented teams.”
— Shane Connuck
Last season was a special one for Northwestern. A senior-led roster found perfect form at just the right time, surging through the postseason and earning the program’s first Maryland state championship since 1995.
Nine months later, the Wildcats are young and looking to capitalize on that magical run. The team returns just three starters, but the presence of last year’s team remains strong in that the goal this fall is to prove success can be sustained.
“We want to get to that level of other schools where you’re consistently playing for a state semi or every three or four years you’re winning a state title,” Coach Victor Ramirez said. “We went to the promised land, and now the question is how we stay there.”
The foundation of anything Northwestern builds this year will come from local play in Prince George’s County. Prince George’s has plenty of soccer talent, but success there also requires a little something extra.
“It gets physical [in Prince George’s County]. That’s the biggest difference from when we leave the county. It’s still physical out there but not as much so,” Ramirez said. “It will take a while to adjust to that. As Mike Tyson says, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ ”
— Michael Errigo
In January, Carrie Helfrich was invited to the U.S. under-15 women’s national team training camp in Chula Vista, Calif. Before testing herself against the country’s top players, Helfrich, now a sophomore at Stone Ridge, confronted another challenge: flying alone for the first time.
After navigating Dulles International Airport security, Helfrich shined in California and played with the team in Europe in June. In July, Helfrich sat on her couch in Mclean, refreshing her email, until the news she desired arrived. The forward was one of 18 players selected for the U.S. team in the Concacaf U-15 tournament in Tampa.
Last month, Helfrich started three of five matches — all wins — and assisted on the opening goal in a 4-1 championship victory over Canada.
“It has always been a dream,” said Helfrich, 15. “Everyone who plays soccer always looks up to everyone who’s on the national team. It was kind of surreal being able to do it at such a young age.”
Helfrich began playing soccer as a young child after learning the sport from her father, Dan, who competed at Georgetown from 1994 to 1997. She developed into a star as a 7-year-old with her club team, Virginia Union FC, with which she still plays.
Entering a season in which Stone Ridge could contend in the Independent School League AA division, Helfrich feels more confident.
“I knew I was good, but getting to that level and feeling like I fit in was nice,” she said. “I was really hard-working the whole time and persevered, even if it was hard being away from family or just being in a different environment.”
— Kyle Melnick
Supriya Ramanujam, a Maret senior, had the chance to watch Serena Williams practice before what was probably the superstar’s final competitive match Friday at the U.S. Open in New York. A longtime fan, Ramanujam said seeing her up close was a reminder of the impact Williams has had on her own tennis career.
“For me, Serena exemplifies grit; she’s always working so hard, and she’s never giving up,” Ramanujam said. “She’s an inspiration for me in that way. And both she and Venus paved the way . . . for so many female athletes of color to follow in their footsteps.”
As girls’ tennis gets underway this fall and Maret prepares to compete for the Independent School League title, Ramanujam said having players such as Williams to look up to helps define her work ethic.
“In whatever I do, whether it’s tennis or schoolwork, I always try to do my best, and here are some of the greatest athletes of all time setting the example,” Ramanujam said. “I’ ll really miss watching her, but I’m sure she’ll be around. She’s a great inspiration for me as a tennis player and a woman of color.”
— Aaron Credeur
Every year, West Springfield visits a cabin in West Virginia, using the trip to build chemistry and improve cardiovascular fitness. The pivotal moment of each trip comes on a run to the lake, when the girls’ team climbs atop a boulder.
“Every state-winning team from West Springfield has taken a picture on that rock,” senior Riley Sucato said. After finishing third last season, the Spartans will aim for a first-place finish at the Virginia Class 6 championship meet in November. “So we wanted to take it to fully set our goal for this season.”
Everything went blurry after the climb for Sucato, who broke her arm after slipping and falling into the creek. She admits that fall may have done more for team chemistry than anything else on the trip, and she has a positive attitude about the experience — she’s already back to running on a track.
“[Coach Chris] Pellegrini said this was the biggest unintentional team bonding exercise because we had to work together to get her out of the creek,” junior Chloe Miller said. “We found a floaty from nearby and floated her out. ... It was just a team effort getting her out of the water.”
— Spencer Nusbaum
Georgetown Day’s 2021 season ended in a way that frustrates and inspires. The Grasshoppers lost a thrilling five-set match to Wilson (now known as Jackson-reed) in the D.C. State Athletic Association championship game to close a 21-3 season.
Despite the bitter finish, it showed them how far they had come in recent years. In 2017, Georgetown Day lost a set 25-1 against St. John’s in a playoff game.
“We felt we had something more to prove,” said Coach Brandon Wiest, who also wants to help prove Georgetown Day can be an athletic powerhouse.
The Grasshoppers graduated seven seniors but still boast strong pin hitters. Jada Aksu, a left-handed hitter and a sophomore, is a force on the right side, especially when paired with a set from junior Clara Yu, a Sidwell Friends transfer. Aksu and Yu have known each other since middle school and have chemistry on the court.
Senior captain Izzy Evers and outside hitters Zoe Ryu and Aaliyah Howell complete the core at Georgetown Day.