Cumberland Times-News

November 12, 2009

Let them eat cake; they’ve earned it

Mike Mathews

They walked along the sidelines, headed to the fieldhouse, with smiles on their faces and cupcakes in their hands.

The Mountain Ridge girls soccer team had plenty to celebrate Tuesday night. And it was pretty unanimous, judging by the looks on their faces: Sixteen was sweet, but 17 was even sweeter.

This day wouldn’t soon be forgotten. The Lady Miners etched their names further into the area recordbook with their 17th straight victory. It came on co-captain Shyler Phillips’ birthday, which was, fittingly, her 17th.

No area girls soccer team has ever had a perfect season, the closest being Bishop Walsh (17-1) in 2002.

Tracking down the records of teams over the many decades of boys soccer is a more challenging task. No team in the past 40 years has had a perfect season, and only one has ever had an undefeated state-championship season, that being Beall (18-0-1) in 2004.

The Mountain Ridge girls stand just two wins from the top of the mountain. They seem to know exactly what it takes to scale that mountain, too

“I knew we could do it,’’ said Phillips. “Mr. Bishields (assistant coach) kept telling us you have to want it. It’s not something that’s impossible, but you have to work at it and really want it.”

Mountain Ridge (17-0) plays Loch Raven (12-4-1) Saturday in the state semifinals at North County High in Anne Arundel County.

Many things stick out about this team. One is how the players switch positions on the fly so well, and for extended periods of time, and not miss a beat.

There are no “defensive players” or “offensive players.” Just players ... who happen to do everything. Fifteen have scored goals or been credited with assists.

Janelle Walbert, a senior co-captain, is listed on the roster as a midfielder. She says she considers herself a bit more as a defender. But there she was, getting the assist on the first goal in the region championship game Tuesday night.

“We’re a well-rounded team, and we have good coaches, too,’’ she said. “You don’t really play just offense or defense; you do both.

“We’re 17-0 now, and last year we had an undefeated regular season, too,’’ she said. “I think we can do it. We have the heart and desire to do it.”

This is a team that’s already set records for most wins in a season, longest winning streak and most shutouts. It’s been a dream season. For a while, dreaming to play was all midfielder Kristin Knotts, another senior co-captain, could do.

A four-year varsity player who’s played on several offseason traveling teams, she likely had her senior year all mapped out. But then the whole thing was suddenly in jeopardy because of medical reasons, and she missed several early-season games.

Then, good news came. Now, even better.

“I didn’t actually believe I’d be starting in a playoff game for the region championship game,’’ Knotts said, looking back a bit to those uncertain days. She assisted on Tuesday night’s second goal and has five goals and seven assists in 14 games.

“I knew this was possible this year because we had some girls move up to the varsity, and because we came together and have played very well as a unit.”

Quincy Hegeman, a junior, agreed.

“We work together as a team and that’s a big key,’’ she said. “We know it takes a lot of heart, desire and effort. And I think we have a pretty good chance to go all the way.”

Hegeman described herself as a defensive midfielder. But she has 12 goals and nine assists, including the assist on Shyler’s goal Tuesday night.

“She’s a goal line-to-goal line girl,’’ head coach Martha Mauzy said with a laugh. “She does it all.”

Just like all of her teammates.

Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. He can be reached at mmathews@times-news.com.