When an excited and nervous group of seven and eight-year-old girls stepped onto the field five years ago to try out for the Hereford Hornets Soccer Club, they didn’t know that they were making a life changing leap, but playing for the Hornets has made quite a difference in their lives. The Hornets formed as a team in 2008 at the U8 level. Thirteen girls tried out and Head Coach Chris May kept all thirteen. Their opener was a 0-8 debacle against an experienced Baltimore Bays team. Coach Chris recollects, “The girls had never played as a team before and were so nervous, one of our girls dribbled through our players and shot and scored against our own team.” Luckily, the Hornets rebounded from that initial shock to have a very competitive season and won quite a few games.
The girls continued to improve their skills and strategy under the trained eyed of Coach Chris. According to Brooke Barger, “Coach Chris is an awesome coach. He played soccer himself so he understands the game. He teaches us so many new things about soccer.” Coach Chris kept the girls focused on learning new moves such as the “second hook” and the “Matthews”. Katie Riehl states, “He taught us a lot about ball skills and moves to make on the field. I really liked practicing what he taught us at home.” Not only does Coach Chris teach the girls how to play soccer, but he teaches them how to have fun in the process. He rewards the girls by playing games at the end of every practice and maintains a positive approach to coaching. Coach Chris can certainly make the girls giggle when he sets his mind to it. Katie Riehl reports, “Our coaches dressed up in costumes as hornets. Even though they had costumes on and we laughed at them, we still played and won our game!”
The hard work and training has paid off for the Hornets. In 2009, the Hornets had a bigger turnout at tryouts and were able to add a few new girls. The Hornets faced their first rival, the Baltimore Bays, under the lights in Fallston with a huge crowd in attendance. The girls took an early lead and hung on to win with outstanding defensive and goalie play. The Hornets 1-0 victory in a pressure packed game was a sure sign of the strides they had made as a team since their first game a year before. By the end of the season, the girls had won the Saturday Central Maryland Soccer Association (CMSA) A League, going undefeated. They also won the George Pratt Memorial Tournament in Cape May, NJ on Columbus weekend, playing up a year at the U10 level. However, the highlight of the season was undoubtedly winning the Fallston Cup at the end of the year.
The championship was won in sudden death against a Fallston team they had not beaten up until that point.
Emma Charles recalls, “During overtime there were only five girls on the field, then four, then three, but all of the girls on the sideline were cheering and bursting with excitement for their teammates.” It was a huge moment in the growth of the girls as a team. Player Rachel Saunders remembers the exhilaration of victory, “My best memory was the 2009 Fallston Cup...sudden death and winning it all!”
In 2010 and 2011, the Hornets decided to challenge themselves by playing in the top division of Philadelphia Area Girls Soccer (PAGS), as well as playing in CMSA. In PAGS, the Hornets were repeatedly faced by teams loaded with talented, fast, soccer players. Although the Hornets were competitive in most games, they did struggle in a few. “It was a good experience for the girls to continue to be consistently challenged by athletic players on teams playing organized, high-level soccer.” reflected Coach Chris. The girls were able to try new things, make mistakes and try again. The players mastered skills and grew in confidence. The Hornets continued to have huge success in tournament play. In 2010 the Hornets played a Memorial Day weekend tournament at HMMS and won the championship of the top division. They maintained strong tournament play in 2011, winning the championship of the top division of The Gettysburg tournament and the Hempfield Classic in Lancaster, PA.
Through the years, as the girls faced tough opponents on the field, their friendships have continually grown stronger. Many of the nervous girls who walked on the field five years ago remain on the team, but are now becoming confident young women with a strong sense of self. The girls have developed a shared sense of unity and lasting friendships. They enjoy spending time together on and off the field. Sydney Bonbrest shares her memories of a tournament weekend, “When we go to Wildwood we get to swim in the ocean, ride bikes on the boardwalk and all go out to a fun dinner.”
Even as bonds among the members of the team remain strong, new players are welcomed with excitement. Halaina Basham recalls, “My favorite moment as a Hornet was when I joined the team and went to Coach Chris’ house for a pool party. I was new to the team and everyone was so nice to me. The girls and the coaches all made me feel so welcome and it really made me feel like part of the team.”
The Hereford Hornets Soccer Club team will compete at the U12 level on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall of