If someone had told Hawks coach Gavin Donahue prior to Urbana’s Class 4A North Region Section II final against Howard that his team would give up only six goals and lose, “I wouldn’t believe that for one minute,” he said. But for the first time all season, the Hawks struggled to take advantage of their scoring opportunities in a 6-5 defeat. Despite outshooting the Lions by nearly 20, Urbana couldn’t convert on enough of its chance and, facing a five-man zone defense for the first time all spring, got a little impatient, Donahue admitted.
“At times, we weren’t patient enough in our zone offense to force them to make a mistake,” Donahue said. “We needed to be more disciplined and not take the first shot, but the best shot.”
Though the Hawks enjoyed much success this spring, in reflecting on the season, they collectively agreed they underachieved—this was a squad with its sights set on contending for the state title. But falling short of expectations will only drive Urbana in the offseason, Donahue said.
“They’re even hungrier for next season,” Donahue said. “I think with a young nucleus and who we have coming back, we’re going to be hungry and not have any complacency.”
Urbana graduated eight players this spring, but 19 are expected to return next season, including leading scorers Jack Jozwiak (52 goals, 59 assists), Jason Jozwiak (57, 37), Jason Kolar (67, 23) and Eric Kolar (32, 19). Senior goalkeeper Kevin Medina (64 percent save percentage) and stalwart defender Steven Drabick are among this year’s graduation casualties, but Donahue said there are several younger players waiting in the wings to take on more prominent roles, including Sean Kelty, who likely would have started in goal at any other school in the county.
Replacing midfielders Brendan Schmitz (33, 13) and Tyler Harper (22,6) won’t be easy, but the Hawks have remarkable depth to draw upon.
When coach Ann Lewis gathered votes for this year’s Most Valuable Player, more than seven players were nominated. “That shows the depth of our team,” Lewis said. “We had eight people score more than 20 points. Anyone could be a threat on offense; if one player was shut down, it didn’t kill our team.”
Averaging 16.5 goals per game, the Hawks had no trouble generating offense this spring. But trailing by one goal in a defensive battle against Montgomery County’s Sherwood in the Class 4A North Region Section II final, Urbana was unable to convert on three scoring chances in the final 30 seconds of a 7-6 loss.
“One hit the pipe, one went over, it was unlucky,” Lewis said. “But I’m super proud of the girls. (Sherwood) is a great team and it could’ve been anyone’s game. Of course, we wanted to win, but it was a great game to go out on and I’m proud of how the girls played.”
The rematch of last year’s section final was 6-5 at halftime—each team managed only one goal in the second half.
Though Urbana will graduate several players who have been integral to the team’s success over the past four years, Lewis said she was impressed by how well some of the Hawks’ underclassmen took on more prominent leadership roles in the midfield this spring. Urbana will certainly miss its five seniors, which include go-to scorers Shaye Morrell, who led the team with 41 points off 33 goals and eight assists and earlier this year signed her letter of intent to continue her lacrosse career at Monmouth University, and Lilly Stephens, who tallied 29 goals and 11 assists. But Urbana’s offense should remain rather intact next year with the return of this year’s MVP, sophomore Natalie Vorhees (25 goals, seven assists), and classmate Avery Hines, who led the team with 22 assists and added 13 goals.
The Hawks will also welcome back goalie Emma Regan, who enjoyed a breakout sophomore season. In 15 games she made 137 saves—54.58 save percentage—and allowed an average of only 7.6 goals per game. Led by Morrell, Stephens and Vorhees, eight players scored at least 15 goals this spring, including Brooke Collins (24), Kasey Beach (18) and Maya Clark (16). As a freshman, Beach was also second on the team with 43 draw controls, behind Stephens, with 44.
“It’s always great having a senior class that leads by example, but what I loved this year was that leadership came from every single grade,” Lewis said. “All the girls expected a lot from each other, and it was OK for a sophomore to tell a senior she could do better. That’s what I loved about this team, that the girls were so close.”
There were some days this spring that Urbana looked like a legitimate state title contender—the Hawks tallied wins over eventual Class 2A state finalist Middletown, Class 3 West champion Gov. Thomas Johnson and perennial Frederick County power Linganore during an 11-10 campaign. Unfortunately for the Hawks, there were too many days when they failed to play to their full potential, Coach Michael Frownfelter said.
“We were inconsistent,” Frownfelter said. “We struggled offensively this year. We had some injuries, which hurt us, and also had some guys that we were expecting to have good years, not have very good seasons. We had very good pitching all year, but we couldn’t score enough runs.”
Nevertheless, Urbana found itself vying for a spot in the Class 4A North Region final against eventual state finalist Sherwood out of Montgomery County on May 14. Though the Hawks came up short in a 6-3 loss, the teams were separated by only a few costly mistakes.
“We beat them last year in the same section final and they returned a bunch of those players, so we knew it was going to be a tough game and that we’d have to play perfect baseball to beat them,” Frownfelter said. “We made a few mistakes that cost us some runs and when I go back and look at it, if we hadn’t made those mistakes, we had a good chance at winning that game.”
Led by juniors Kameron Walters, who went 4-2 with a 2.67 earned run average in eight starts, and Garrett Osborne, who compiled a 3-0 record in five starts, Urbana’s pitching staff kept opposing offenses fairly quiet—the Hawks allowed more than six runs in a game only twice. In 39.1 innings pitched Walters struck out 39 batters. Osborne racked up 22 strikeouts in 31.1 innings and allowed only 27 hits en route to a 1.11 ERA.
At the plate, however, Urbana only batted .280 as a team. The Hawks were led offensively by junior Armani Bullock (.362 batting average), who drove in 21 runs, and Walters (.356), who scored 18 runs and sent 11 across the plate. Other top producers on offense included Garrett Kile (18 runs batted in, 14 runs scored), Graham King (14 RBI, 10 RS) and Ferris McIlmail, who boasted a .520 on-base percentage and scored 17 runs.
Urbana is slated to return all but four starters next season, which should bode well for the Hawks moving forward, Frownfelter said. Underclassmen received a lot of valuable playing time this spring and performed quite well, he added.
“Overall at the end of the year, these guys fought hard; they didn’t want their season to end,” Frownfelter said. “If we could’ve played like (we did during the postseason), we would’ve had a much better record.”
A catcher can make or break a good pitcher, Hawks coach Frank Husson said. So when Urbana’s projected starting catcher, sophomore Ashlyn White, went down with a season-ending injury before the season had even begun, the Hawks could have been in for a treacherous spring.
“If a pitcher doesn’t have confidence in her catcher and the catcher’s ability to handle different pitches, she’s not going to throw them with confidence,” Husson said. “If a pitcher throws a rise ball and the ease is just a little bit off and it goes higher (than anticipated) she needs to know that her catcher is going to be able to go up and get it. Or if there’s a runner on base and the pitch is in the dirt, (the pitcher) needs to know her catcher is going to get it and keep runners from advancing.
“That relationship is extremely important. Likewise, a catcher needs to be able to frame the ball. If a pitch is on the corner and a catcher doesn’t receive it properly, the umpire is going to look at it as a ball. The catcher needs to receive the ball and frame it properly (over the plate) in order to help her pitcher get the strike calls.”
Enter sophomore McKenna Ladson. The goalie for Urbana’s Class 3A West Region runner-up field hockey team last fall, Ladson, originally set to play first base for the Hawks, had some experience behind the plate on her travel team. Plus, Husson said, she already had that mentality of “stop the ball and not letting anything get by you.”
With Ladson’s prowess behind the plate, Urbana’s sophomore ace—left-handed hurler Spencer Rupinta—continued to shine this spring. The southpaw racked up 172 strikeouts en route to a 13-3 record and 1.52 earned-run average. And the Hawks, whose season ended in a tight 4-3, Class 4A North Region Section II final loss to eventual state champion Sherwood, finished 15-5 with a Central Maryland Conference Spires Division title. Urbana also reached the CMC championship game, falling 3-0 to Catoctin.
“McKenna and I work really well together; we’re friends on and off the field,” Rupinta said. “Having that relationship is so important, you need to have a good relationship with your catcher.”
Though not cleared to play defense until later in the season, when she stepped in at first base, White served as Urbana’s designated player this year and led the team offensively. She batted .446 and knocked in 21 runs. Baleigh Spriggs was second on the team in RBI with 19, followed by Rupinta (18).
Between Urbana’s pitcher-catcher duo, senior Taylor Roberts at short stop, senior Emma Bedford in center field and Lauren Lombardo at second base—and later right field—Urbana was virtually impenetrable up the middle of the field. Lombardo’s move to right field paved the way for freshman Charlene Payne to pick up valuable minutes at second base, which should pay dividends next spring.
Team champions—in all four classifications—were named at the state tennis tournament this spring for the first time since the competition’s inception in 1975.
Though this year’s new format greatly benefitted some of the state’s smaller schools, which perennially struggled at the season-ending championship, it reduced the number of players each team was able to enter into the region tournaments—one entry per bracket—something Hawks boys’ coach Jon Walton said was disappointing.
Earlier this season Urbana, one of the smallest schools in the state’s largest classification, was assigned to a Class 3A region, Walton said. But ultimately the Hawks were left to battle against the titans in the highly competitive Class 4A. Still Urbana, which again swept the Frederick County championship earlier this season, was well represented at the state level, qualifying athletes or teams in four of five events—boys’ and girls’ singles, girls’ doubles and mixed doubles—and finishing seventh out of 42 teams.
The winner and runner-up in each bracket earned a bid to the state tournament. After successfully defending his county title, sophomore No. 1 singles player Kevin Li, ranked No. 77 of 975 in the U.S. Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Section Boys 16s, reached the Class 4A North Region final. There he fell in two tiebreak sets to Dulaney’s Alexander Panyan (No. 15 in the USTA MAS Boys 18s), who finished fourth at the state competition. Li fell in the state quarterfinals to the eventual third place finisher, Finn Gamer of Broadneck. Kevin Lige and Richard Lombardo, who were part of Urbana’s deep doubles contingent this spring, finished third in the boys doubles regional tournament.
Freshman girls’ No. 1 singles player Abigail Min won the region crown without dropping a set—or more than four games in a single set—before falling in the state quarterfinals. Teammates Sophie Nielson and Jessica Wu were regional girls’ doubles finalists. Hawk girls No. 1 doubles player Aaliya Hussain and Anish Babu followed their runner-up finish in the regional mixed doubles bracket by reaching the state semifinals and ultimately finishing fourth at the season-ending championship.
Boys’ track and field
Led by junior hurdler Tim Ogunsola and senior pole vaulters Cole Jiron and Seth Hajzus, the Hawks scored in four events and were on the cusp of earning points in five more at the Class 4A outdoor track and field state championship hosted by Morgan State University over Memorial Day Weekend. Only eight points separated 15th-place Urbana from eighth place.
Ogunsola followed up his Frederick County title in the 110-meter hurdles—during which he broke an Urbana program record with his time of 14.84 seconds—by finishing third at the Class 4A North Region meet and fourth at states. Jiron, who won the region with a school-record leap of 14 feet, one inch, wrapped up his high school tenure with a third-place performance at the state meet, followed by classmate Hajzus in fourth.
Seniors Evan Schwab and Benjamin Warrick teamed with juniors Ryan Beach and Myron Holland for a sixth-place finish in the 400m relay; the four snapped a 16-year Hawks record en route to winning the region title in 43.54 seconds. Fresh off his runner-up finish at regionals, junior Nicholas Rohwer picked up eighth place in shot put at the state competition.
Schwab also qualified for the state meet in the 200m dash—he finished third at regionals—in which he placed 13th, and the 800m relay. He, along with Ogunsola, Holland and Warrick, placed 12th. Other state meet qualifiers included junior Gunnar Fredrikson (long jump), sophomore Mark McCauley (300m hurdles) and senior Ethan Vallone (pole vault).