Social Media Director
November 1, 2016
Merry Clinchmas! After their big win against Wilde Lake on Thursday, October 20th, the Lady Raiders have clinched the county title. This year, the Lady Raiders (10-1-2) have used combined grit, goals, and overtime victories to make them the cream of the Howard County crop this year.
Their record alone lets people know that Atholton girls soccer is no joke and not to be taken lightly. The lady Raiders finished the regular season 10-1-2 and have big overtime victories under their belt against Centennial after a late goal by Junior Victoria Huxtable. Not only are the Lady Raiders county champions, but their recent success has put them right on the cusp of a state rank.
The team has a large array of seniors that has proven to be impactful such as Holly Edsall, Ashley Ensor, Kelley Flynn and Sofia Harrison. That’s only the beginning. Players like Victoria Huxtable, Katie Cardea, and Adrienne Vaughn get significant playing time as Juniors and have used their previous Varsity experience, as they made the team last year. There are Sophomores who made Varsity as freshmen contributing to the team’s success, namely Katelina Lennon and Delaney Ensor. Even players on JV last year such as Tina Rodgers, Sam Clearfield, and Mary Kate Gelak have been forced to play bigger roles and thus far, have clearly succeeded. Katie Cardea said that having this role of bringing energy off the bench is something her and fellow Juniors embrace.
“We bring a lot of energy to the team and even though we’re not as old as the seniors, we still have a lot of experience from last year and we have a lot of club players,” she said. “I embrace being on the field and enjoy every minute I’m on the field to put my best effort forward and help everyone on the team succeed.”
The team is known for its lockdown defense. They play up and aggressive from the outset and try to cause turnovers on the opponent’s side. All year, this tough D has let up a grand total of eight goals and has a goal differential of plus eighteen. It also helps to have Bryce Bathras, a solid goalkeeper, smothering opportunities for the opposition and creating new chances offensively.
“My mindset in the game is to keep position throughout the entire game. We have very good communication in the back that really helps us to connect passes and not get flustered when the ball enters our half. My job is to keep the defense organized and talk to them throughout the game. I also clean up balls that do make it through the box,” Bathras said.
It’s an amazing group girls. They came together, they mesh well, they click well, they play great on the field together, and even if we lost to Wilde Lake, it would not have meant anything. Just coming back from the (county) tie last year, it was a big win for the team.
“Being the oldest in the backline, I try to make sure everyone is on the same page when defending and always talking,” Harrison said. “Communication is so important because we have to make sure we stay organized.”
Even while aware of the team’s incredible success on defense, her face lit up with shock when she heard that her team had allowed a measly eight goals all season. She takes a lot of pride of goal total and is pleased to see it that low.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but this team has definitely impressed me. Overall, we have a strong offense. When we work together, we’re able to attack and prevent being scored on. It’s not just the defenders jobs to make sure the other team doesn’t score; it’s everyone’s job. We attack as a team and defend as a team.”
On offense, they are led by the speedy striker Holly Edsall, along with Victoria Huxtable and Adrienne Vaughn. They also use the leadership of Ashley Ensor. Ensor proves herself as a leader on a regular basis, but notably in the huge game against Reservoir. It was her first game off her injury, but started anyway and brought her veteran experience to help guide the Raiders to victory in their hard fought battle against the Gators.
“I had to play,” she said. “This is my senior year and the game against Reservoir was extremely important to our team and it helped be in control of our own destiny to win county.”
The road to being the outright county champions looked questionable at one point. The Lady Raiders blew a 3-0 lead and fell into a tie with Long Reach, 3-3. However, against Wilde Lake, the Lady Raiders got off to a quick start and sprinted to the finish line, scoring all three goals in the first half and winning 3-0 in blowout fashion. Coach Steph was very happy at the way her team rebounded from the last game and got off to a quick start and maintained it.
“It was very important to come out and pump the girls back up. No matter what happened, we knew we were either co-county champs, but they really wanted to come out and win it outright,” she said. “We played the style of soccer we had been practicing all year so it was a good win for us.”
To the surprise of many, this is the first county championship for girls soccer in school history. It also makes the victory over Wilde Lake that much sweeter, beating a team who took the county title from them a year ago. A thrilled and emotional Coach Steph pointed out just how special this team is.
“It’s an amazing group of girls. They all came together, they mesh well, they click well, they play great on the field together, and even if we lost to Wilde Lake, it would not have meant anything. Just coming back from the (county) tie last year, it was a big win for the team.”
The enthusiasm and confidence of Coach Steph is evident. She said very plainly: “We are going all the way to states.” With this team, that very well could be true. The team has thrived this year and look as though a deep run is very possible. They have all the ingredients to be a very potent team down the stretch. With the leadership of five Seniors and the depth and experience of the Junior class, this team is strong across the board and should be a major force in this year’s playoffs.