Severna Park’s Slaterry and Strohmer from Liberty are VSN’s best for field hockey
Varsity Sports Network is proud to introduce our 2019 Field Hockey Player and Coach of the Year.
Lila Slattery, who led Severna Park to the Class 4A state championship with a knack for setting up her teammates as well as finishing, is our Player of the Year. Brenda Strohmer led No. 1 Liberty to a perfect season and their third state title in four years, this one in Class 2A, and was named Coach of the Year.
Congratulations to Lila and Brenda. Both were kind enough to tell us their stories, including in video interviews that follow.
2019 VSN FIELD HOCKEY PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Lila Slattery’s personal bond, talent helped reignite Severna Park championship dynasty
by Katherine Dunn
At one time, Lila Slattery didn’t think she wanted to play field hockey. Her mother and three sisters all played in high school, but until she tried organized hockey as a third grader, Slattery expected soccer to be her sport.
“When I first joined field hockey, I told all my (soccer) friends, ‘My mom is making me do it. I’ll come right back,’ but something about it just kept me playing it,” she said.
With her years of experience and her drive to excel, the Severna Park midfielder emerged as one of the best players in the history of Maryland’s most storied field hockey program. Varsity Sports Network’s 2019 Field Hockey Player of the Year led the No. 4 Falcons (16-2) to their record 24th state championship but their first since 2015.
Whenever Slattery had the ball, she threatened to score. It never mattered where on the field she started. No one maneuvered the ball more deftly through traffic at speed than Slattery, who scored 22 goals and had 18 assists this fall. She finished her three-year high school career with 51 goals and 30 assists.
“I’ve been playing for a long time, so I think the practice helps,” Slattery said. “I work on my stickwork, I work on dribbling skills so that when the time comes I can stay calm under pressure and do some pulls, do some dodges and I think it’s also vision, so seeing the field and seeing where you’re going to go next, so that you already know what you’re going to do to get there.”
Broadneck coach Shannon Hanratty, who coaches against Slattery during the high school season but, as a coach in the SPark Field Hockey Club, has watched her play for years, said it’s easy to see that Slattery has worked long and hard to hone her skills.
“She’s so talented and comfortable with a stick in her hand that she makes whatever play her team needs her to make which, as an opposing coach, makes her really dangerous,” Hanratty said.
“You want to contain her and hope to force her to make the worst possible choice because she’s prepared to make any choice she needs to make. She really is a smart player with great game sense and when you put her field hockey IQ and her comfortable stick handling skills together, I’m happy to hear that she did get Player of the Year, because she really is the best field hockey player that we’ve had.”
Severna Park coach Shannon Garden said Slattery, a first-team All-State selection last year, impressed her every day with her skill, her work ethic and her humility.
“She was involved in almost every play on the field on the defensive end or the offensive end,” Garden said. “Even if she doesn’t make the save or score the goal, the ball has passed through her stick at some point and she always tries to help her teammates succeed… All they have to do is give her a nod and she will put the game on her back and do whatever’s necessary to get us a good scoring opportunity. She just has that presence about her.”
The Falcons finished off their season with 14 straight wins after dropping early-season games by one goal each to No. 5 McDonogh and Mount Hebron. They won the Anne Arundel County championship over No. 10 Arundel, 2-1, and defeated then-No. 7 Dulaney, 1-0, for the state title.
Slattery had a hand in 65 percent of her team’s goals and finished more than a third of them as the Falcons outscored the competition, 62-14.
Still, she didn’t always have to be the one to put the ball in the goal.
She forced the penalty strokes that sealed the county and state championships for Severna Park, but she didn’t take either one. She wanted junior teammate Kat Esposito to take them and Esposito scored on both.
“She just kept hitting them and I knew she could score,” Slattery said, “so even though I could take them, I knew she would be able to score. It wasn’t like I needed to do it. Our team was very team oriented. We always just played for each other. We all had a different job whether it was on the field or off the field and we all just did our part.”
Garden said she had a hard time finding weaknesses when Slattery asked for pointers, but the 17-year-old is never satisfied and keeps pushing to get better.
“I’ve always just wanted to be the best at everything I could do… I think field hockey especially, I want to be the best because I’m going to college and I don’t want to be playing catchup when I get there. I want to be good, so I just want to improve every day and never settle,” said Slattery, who has a 3.95 unweighted GPA and will play at Northwestern next fall.
Finishing off the season with a state championship didn’t just polish off her career, it ended a long Falcons run for the Slattery family. Lila now has a field hockey state championship to match the ones her sisters Samantha, Emma and Julia won at Severna Park.
“It was definitely the perfect finish for me, especially because my family has been in this program for so long. It felt like we started with a state championship (Samantha’s) and we ended with one. We came full circle.”
VSN FIELD HOCKEY PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2010 – Alyssa Parker, Glenelg High School
2011 – Alyssa Parker, Glenelg High School
2012 – Brooke Adler, Garrison Forest School
2013 – Linnea Gonzales, Patterson Mill High School
2014 – Elizabeth George, McDonogh School
2015 – Erin Shanahan, Archbishop Spalding
2016 – Sarah King, South River High School
2017 – Nathalie Friedman, Notre Dame Preparatory School
2018 – Nathalie Friedman & Rachel Borzymowski, Notre Dame Preparatory School
2019 – Lila Slattery, Severna Park High School
2019 VSN FIELD HOCKEY COACH OF THE YEAR
ROARING TO THE TOP
Strohmer’s challenge pushed Liberty to championship perfection
by Katherine Dunn
After winning a second state championship in three years last fall, Liberty field hockey coach Brenda Strohmer set an even bigger goal for her 2019 team — finish undefeated.
The Lions did that and more. They finished 18-0, won the Carroll County and state Class 1A championships and capped it all off with Varsity Sports Networks’ final No. 1 ranking.
For leading the Lions to a perfect season that included wins over two of the other three state champions — No. 6 Westminster (3A) and No. 7 Marriotts Ridge (2A) — Strohmer is the 2019 Varsity Sports Network Field Hockey Coach of the Year, the first from Carroll County in the 10-year history of the award.
“We try to set a goal each year for ourselves,” Strohmer said. “Last year, we wanted to win counties and so this year always want to win counties, always want to win states (and) I said. ‘Hey, let’s do it. Undefeated.’ And it was amazing to accomplish that. It was definitely fun and exciting to win the state championship but to cap it undefeated was awesome.”
Strohmer, in her ninth season at Liberty, coached the Lions to back-to-back championships for the first time since 1981 and 1982. In the state final last month, the Lions defeated Washington, from Somerset County, 2-1. They won the Class 2A title last year and the 1A title in 2016, their first championship since 1982.
This fall, Lions allowed only six goals and never more than one in a game. Along the way, they defeated their archrival and last year’s Class 1A state champion South Carroll twice by one goal, including an overtime win in the regional playoffs.
Strohmer looks to two key points in the season as being major catalysts for the unbeaten finish, wins over No. 9 Dulaney, the Class 4A state finalist, and Marriotts Ridge in a one-day tournament early in the season and a 2-1 overtime win at No. 5 McDonogh School on Oct. 1. Just a few days before, the Eagles had upset then-No. 1 Garrison Forest, 2-0.
“McDonogh’s been wanting to play us for a couple years and I kept saying no, kept saying no,” Strohmer said. “Finally, the girls were like. ‘We want to do it, we want to play them,’ so like, ‘All right, we’ll play them,’ so we went into that knowing we want to stay undefeated, we have to play hard, we know they’re good, so they … just played their butts off.”
In the playoffs, the Lions defeated South Carroll in their only regional game and then defeated Kent County, 8-1, in the state quarterfinals and Patuxent, 5-0, in the semifinals before edging a strong Washington team for the championship.
Strohmer gave a lot of credit to her “Fab Five” for leading the team on and off the field. Senior midfielders Meghan Huey and Christine Goetz, senior forward Caroline Evans, junior forward Kayleigh Ward and sophomore forward Caitlynn Szarko were the core of a team with many stellar players, including senior goalie MiKayla Bull, the anchor of a defense that posted 12 shutouts.
She also credited her assistant coaches, Brad Widner, Kayla Holston and Brenda Spittel.
Last year, Strohmer said the Lions weren’t expected to win the state title and they had to upset Glenelg and Hereford to get it. Finishing undefeated was just the next logical goal.
“I told them, ‘Now we’re not the underdogs. We got the target, so how are you going to handle the target?’ and they handled it with grace. Every game they played with heart and that’s how we coach. You’ve got to handle it. You’ve got to do your best. You’ve got to leave it all out on the field. You don’t want to be like, ‘I wish I would have done that.’”
Huey said the high expectations, of course, brought pressure but not too much.
“She does put pressure on us,” Huey said, “but I think we enjoy it, because we’re all very competitive, so we also put pressure on ourselves. We have high expectations for ourselves so it’s not her saying, ‘Oh, you have to do this.’ We want to do just as well as she expects us to do. We want to push ourselves to be better.”
Huey said Strohmer brought a lot of energy to practice and never doubted that the Lions would finished undefeated.
“She’s a very unique coach,” Huey said. “She’s very straight up with everyone. She really loves the game. She loves the sport. She loves to coach and she puts her whole heart into it. She does speak her mind and it can be funny at times, but she really cares about this team and she puts her whole heart into it to make sure we all do well.”
Strohmer, a Randallstown High graduate, started her field hockey coaching career as an assistant at South Carroll and helped the Cavaliers to the 2002 Class 2A state title before taking over the program for five years.
As a youngster, Strohmer played a lot of recreation basketball, but she didn’t play high school sports. She had never played field hockey when she was asked to coach South Carroll’s JV. The JV basketball coach at the time, she said all she knew about field hockey was “a stick and a ball.”
Undeterred, she quickly learned.
“Field hockey is more fun for me to coach because I had to learn it,” Strohmer said. “I went to clinics and camps and I was online constantly. It’s more fun. Just because I didn’t play it, doesn’t mean I don’t know it. I can actually coach field hockey better than the sports I played.”
VSN FIELD HOCKEY COACHES OF THE YEAR
2010 – Ginger Kincaid, Glenelg High School
2011 – Lil Shelton, Severna Park High School
2012 – Martie Dyer, Altholton High School
2013 – Leslee Brady, Archbishop Spalding & Janice Rhodes, C. Milton Wright High School
2014 – Halayna Fried, McDonogh School
2015 – Emily Gryglewski, Bel Air High School
2016 – Caitlin Duvall, Hereford High School
2017 – Katrina Ross, Notre Dame Preparatory School
2018 – Kelly Mattingly, C. Milton Wright High School
2019 – Brenda Strohmer, Liberty High School