Bel Air girls' lacrosse head coach Kristen Barry has a simple philosophy when it comes to setting her nonconference schedule: "If you want to be the best, you have to play the best."
Through the early-season schedule, the Bobcats (6-2) have shown they can compete with some of the area's best teams.
Bel Air opened the season with six consecutive wins, including a victory against John Carroll of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland. Now, the Bobcats are ready to tackle conference play in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference.
"We want to build our strengths and determine our weaknesses, and the best way to do that is to challenge yourself," said Barry, who is now in her third year as head coach. "The girls have faced challenges and deficits that have bolstered their confidence and resolve in close matches. They've learned to stay positive, keep their teammates up, and trust that they can hang with top teams. Conference games and playoff games are physically and emotionally tough … that is ultimately what we are preparing for."
Julia Henry (Michigan) leads Bel Air with 28 goals, while Anna Farley (Georgetown) has been a "senior quarterback" for the offense with 21 goals. Juniors Elizabeth Hillman (30 draw controls) and Lauren Asher (26 ground balls and 17 draw controls) have played well, controlling the midfield. Senior goalie Molly Loughlin has also come up big, with 55 saves through eight games.
Barry, however, has been most impressed by the overall positive attitude of her players. Henry, a junior attacker, was asked to run midfield in the absence of an injured player. Her response? "Whatever it takes to win, coach," Henry said.
"That quote speaks volumes about our team's character," Barry said. "We are also lucky to have amazing parents/guardians and school community that encourage us, are committed to building the program, and offer help in whatever way they can."
Bel Air opens conference play at North Harford April 20. The UCBAC should be a deep league once again, with Fallston and C. Milton Wright as the traditional powers. Still, Bel Air is ready to challenge for that top spot.
"Our biggest strength is our depth and unselfishness," Barry said. "We have a lot of talent across our entire roster; we are fortunate to have players coming off the bench that could easily be starters as well. The girls have tremendous support for one another, share the ball and play for the team over their individual stats."