It was another banner year for Baltimore area girls soccer in 2022 and this was especially true at Mercy High School, where the Magic won its first ever IAAM A Conference championship and claimed the top spot in the final The Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Top 15 rankings.
Leading the way in that effort were Payton Schenning, the 2022 Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Player of the Year, along with veteran head coach Doug Pryor, the 2022 Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.
Also receiving top honors is Broadneck defender Kyleigh Bland, the 2022 Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Defensive Player of the Year. As the area’s top goalkeeper, she led her Bruins to he Class 4A state semifinals the No. 2 ranking in our poll.
Here are the stories of our 2022 Girls Soccer award winners:
Player of the Year
Payton Schenning, Mercy High School
All you need to know about the impact Payton Schenning had on her team this fall is to look back at how Mercy fared in 2021 when she was sidelined with a knee injury.
With many of the same players, the Magic were certainly competitive last season, yet lacked another performer with the ability to create enough dangerous situations in the offensive third to get to the top.
In short, while seniors Asia Minor and Sydney Feiler gave Mercy a formidable one-two scoring punch, adding Schenning to the mix this fall made for a much more powerful attacking unit.
Scoring statistics bear out Schenning’s contributions to Mercy’s first-ever Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship and 16-1 record when compared to last fall’s 7-6-3 campaign that concluded in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
Without Schenning, the 2021 Magic produced 29 goals in 16 matches.
In 17 contests this fall, Mercy rippled the net a whopping 45 times, with the Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Player of the Year accounting for 25 of those tallies — an impressive 55 percent of the team’s total output.
The UMBC commit said that the Magic’s ability to regroup after a 3-0 loss to Broadneck at the IAAM Challenge was an important moment in a subsequent title run.
Led by a pair of Schenning goals, Mercy hit the ground running in their next match, a 3-0 win over eventual Class 2A state champion Century.
Two games later, a 6-1 thumping of Perry Hall, was more proof that the Magic’s recovery was in full bloom.
”The Perry Hall game really got us going,” said Schenning, who assisted the first goal (one of her 12 assists this season) and scored early in the third quarter to further tamp down the Gators’ upset bid.
She added four goals in a three-game stretch against Towson, eventual IAAM B Conference champ Maryvale Prep and John Carroll, with the two strikes against the Patriots helping the Magic to secure the top seed and an all-important bye in the A Conference playoffs in a 2-0 triumph.
”She’s dangerous from 10 yards or 40 yards,” John Carroll coach Hayley Howe said about Schenning. “And she has such a quick shot. They just got us in our defensive third — and their best player got us.”
Schenning was at it again in a 4-1 verdict over Notre Dame Prep by notching her final two goals of the season in the semifinal.
When Feiler’s goal was the difference in a 1-0 win over McDonogh in the championship match, Schenning said that she locked eyes with her childhood friend and standout Mercy senior defender Allie Petryszak.
”We had just put so much work into the season,” she said. “It meant so much.”
Both players were tasked with facing each other in practice, and they did so with gusto.
”We challenged each other,” Petryszak said. “But I don’t ever want to have to mark someone like her again, because you never know what she’s going to pull out of her pocket. She wants the ball at her feet, and you never know what her next move is going to be.”
Doug Pryor, the Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Coach of the Year, said that Schenning’s value to the team is immense.
“If we had her last year, we might have won it all,” he said. “She’s just such a gifted soccer player — a kid that every team has to worry about. And she could have had more goals than she scored this season. She’s that good.”
Defensive Player of the Year
Kaleigh Bland, Broadneck High School
Kyleigh Bland, the Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Defensive Player of the Year, doesn’t have to search far and wide in order to find someone who played in the goal for the Broadneck soccer program.
After all, her older brother, Keyshawn Bland, was a standout in his own right for the Bruins before graduating in 2021.
Taking advice from her sibling, plus quality input from Braodneck’s goalie and JV coach Jake Boyle, turned the junior keeper into a tour de force on a Bruins’ backline that produced 13 shutouts this fall.
Bland said that she looks up to her big brother, who also played the position at CCBC-Catonsville for a year.
”He gives me pointers,” she said. “And also helps me train.”
Whatever knowledge or training tips her brother or goalie coach imparted, they worked well for Bland and the Bruins, who posted a stellar 16-1-4 record this season with a stingy 0.3 goals-against average.
After splitting time in the goal as a sophomore, Bland earned a solo gig this year with her strong play.
”I really didn’t feel like I was under a lot of pressure,” she said. “I was coming off a really good club season and I was really ready to prove to my coaches and my teammates that I could get the job done.”
Bland simply dazzled with eight saves in a 3-0 win over eventual Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champion Mercy in early September, hinting that her career was about to take off in a big way.
”I felt like during warmups I got the whole team focused,” she said. Nearly two months later, in a key Anne Arundel County match, Bland said that her best stop of 2022 contributed to a 1-0 verdict over the Falcons.
“There was a shot to the far corner, and I knocked it away,” she said. “It was my favorite save of the season.”
Bland also could have mentioned her bravura performance against Notre Dame Prep, in which she made a game-saving stop on a penalty kick. It was one of 11 saves in the scoreless tie that was played just 24 hours after a 2-2 deadlock with soon-to-be Class 3A champion Crofton.
None of those exploits surprised Broadneck coach Jon Camm.
“Kyleigh had an outstanding season,” Camm said. “She’s very athletic and really commands the box. She’s a good communicator and takes crosses out of the box.”
Other intangibles include her ability to remain poised in the heat of the battle.
”She’s a steadying influence back there,” Camm added. “She’s very competitive and doesn’t want her team to get scored on.”
Her season ended earlier than she would have liked when Quince Orchard scored the lone goal of the match from point-blank range in the semifinal round of the state Class 4A playoffs.
”It was very disappointing,” Bland said. “I felt that I should have stopped that goal.”
While Bland said that she will continue to work on her goal kicks and other techniques as she plays for her Maryland United club team, her game is already polished and poised.
”My biggest takeaway from watching her play and seeing her in training is her focus and composure,” Boyle said. “She does a great job of reading plays and making the decisions she needs to influence the game, whether it’s coming for a cross, making a good pass or coming out for a one-vs.-one. She doesn’t let big moments impact her play and she stays confident no matter what is happening around her. Her demeanor and consistency give confidence to the rest of the team.”
Coach of the Year
Doug Pryor, Mercy High School
In the final season of Doug Pryor’s 13-year coaching tenure at Mercy, its fortunes skyrocketed to the top of the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference and the Baltimore Banner/VSN rankings while posting a sparkling 16-1 record.
That the surge came on the heels of a 7-6-3 season and an early dismissal from the playoffs in 2021 made this fall’s success even sweeter.
While Pryor, the 2022 Baltimore Banner/VSN Girls Soccer Coach of the Year, implemented some changes that had positive impacts on the squad, he never wavered from scheduling 10 non-league matches that produced wins over eventual state championship sides from Crofton (Class 3A) and Century (2A).
Moreover, having senior forward/midfielder Payton Schenning back in the fold after missing last year with an injury was a major factor in the Magic’s rejuvenation.
”Last year, we lost a lot of games by one goal — and Payton scores about a goal a game,” Pryor said. “This year, we were on the other side of that — we won those games.”
Pryor added that he mulled over his penchant for scheduling so many non-league matches — and decided to keep the plan intact.
”It gives kids more of a chance to play,” Pryor said after the Magic prevailed in nine of those contests. “Kids like playing, and you can play night games, which are special. We had a deeper team, so we could get more kids in games.”
Sweeping all five matches and two postseason encounters in the IAAM A Conference was another feather in the Magic’s cap.
Perhaps the pivotal moment of the season, however, may have been an early 3-0 loss to 2021 Class 4A state finalist Broadneck.
After that battle, and before league play started, the Magic’s work rate increased and a 13-game winning streak ensued.
”Our coaches talked to us and told us that we really had to be locked in,” said Schenning, the 2022 Baltimore Banner/VSN Player of the Year. “We worked really hard in practice after that.”
Some of the tweaks that helped shore up the defense included moving senior co-captain Bella Wojcik back to midfield and junior Camren Blocker to center back while fine-tuning the play of sophomore keeper Soliel Umbarger.
”We tried some kids in different positions in the preseason,” Pryor said. “But then we went back to the way it was last year. (Broadneck) was our worst game of the year, so we really worked hard with Soliel after that and, from that game on, she was the best goalie in the state.”
Pryor also praised assistant coach Madison Ferrara for her work on spoiling rivals’ set pieces.
”We had 15 corners in a game against McDonogh, and they never scored,” Pryor said. “She did a great job.”
Oddly enough, there was another benefit from the Broadneck setback.
”We were in the mix as one of the favorites (to win the championship),” Pryor said. “That loss put us under the radar a little bit — the focus wasn’t on us anymore.”
A 3-0 bounce-back win over Century helped Mercy to right the ship and a 6-1 verdict over Perry Hall further advanced that notion.
”We jelled in (the Perry Hall) game,” Pryor said. “The kids all know each other, so it was a big game and we came away feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
The Magic never looked back, taking the title in a remarkable 1-0 triumph over four-time defending champion McDonogh on senior Sydney Feiler’s late goal.
”We went into that game on a big field (at Calvert Hall) with a lot of confidence,” Pryor said. “McDonogh expects to win games like that, and they hit the post once. We got a few bounces, and I guess it was just our turn. Our goalie was phenomenal. And Syd’s goal was, too. She made something out of nothing.”
Much of the Magic’s late-season success was the result of Pryor’s insistence that his players’ endurance was where it needed to be.
”In the beginning of the season we did a lot of running,” Mercy senior defender and team co-captain Allie Petryszak said. “Every practice was a grind. He asked us how hard we were willing to work to win.”
Yet Pryor said that he also kept things fun by, for example, taking team-bonding trips to Lake Anna, Va. and to Amped Up, a facility in Middle River featuring basketball/volleyball courts, video games and water slides.
In addition to the lighter side of coaching, he said that he raised money for new uniforms and warmups.
”We just tried to take some of the financial burden off the parents,” Pryor said.