After the Sparrows Point girls soccer team won its third consecutive Class 1A state title in 2015, the Pointers bid goodbye to 16 graduating seniors who represented the core of those championship teams.
Since then, of course, Sparrows Point has won an additional three state titles to run their streak to a state-record six in a row.
This time, the graduating seniors from last year’s team wasn’t noticeable for its numbers, but for who graduated. Julie Lynch, a high school All-American, all-state and all-county player who starred on four straight Pointer state championship teams, now plays for West Virginia.
In addition to Lynch, Sparrows Point also graduated key starters Kalli Bell, Jasmine Pinter and Sammie Bennett.
“It will take time and effort yo work our way back to where we were,” Sparrows Point coach Lori Sexton said last week after the Pointers were outplayed in a scrimmage by St. Paul’s School for Girls.
“Half of the team is brand new,” Sexton said. “We realized today we need to work harder. Every win we get this season will be earned.
“This is not last year’s team. This is a new team, and we have to try not to live in the shadow of our previous teams.”
Another big change for the Pointers is the team has been moved up to Class 2A. One thing that hasn’t hanged is the Pointers are still the dominant team in their region (Class 2A North) and should easily make the state quarterfinal round.
But when the eight surviving teams are re-seeded for the quarterfinals, the Pointers will face a number of unfamiliar postseason opponents.
The Pointers’ roster was not entirely stripped by graduation. Key returning players include Alayna Jacurak, Alayna Jerome, Abby Meadows, Jade Weir, Dezirae Mortimer and four-year starting goalkeeper Jaddah Foos.
Among the important new starters are Savanah Iacovelli, Laci Bell (Kalli’s younger sister) and Molly Kocent.
And there’s still the motivation the Pointers expressed last season when driving for their sixth straight title: no one wants to be a member of the team that ends the run.
“It’s harder to stay on top that it is to get there,” Sexton said. “There’s always a target on our backs.
“The road will be harder this year, but that’s good. Every game will be hard-fought and help us get better.”
Sparrows Point opens the season on Saturday at Notre Dame Prep, playing Mercy as part of the Private vs. Public Tournament.
The Pointers host Patapsco on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.
Other home games this year for the defending Baltimore County champions include Perry Hall (Sept. 24), Eastern Tech (Oct.1). Towson (Oct. 3) and Franklin (Oct. 11).
Sparrows Point is scheduled to play at Hereford on Sept. 26, the first meeting between the two teams since the Bulls upset the Pointers in the 2017 county championship game.
Sparrows Point has won four of the last five county titles.
Patapsco hosts Hammond in its opener on Friday at 3:45 p.m.
The Patriots have a solid core of returning players with seniors Lanyia Jacobs and Cami Williams, junior Megan Diehl and sophomore Alex Mariano.
Colleen Langis, a freshman, has looked good, and the Patriots received a good player when Lilly Buettner transferred from Dundalk.
“We suffered a few unfortunate off-season injuries which has hurt the participation numbers program-wide,” Patapsco coach Steve Dorfman said. Despite these challenges we had a great three weeks of practice and are really excited to kick off the season versus Hammond.”
Dundalk, seeking its second consecutive winning season, hosts the Institute of Notre dame on Friday at 3:45 p.m.