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Mars’ Howell heading to Richmond

Mars senior defender Gwen Howell will be continuing her academic and soccer career at the University of Richmond in 2023. Eagle File Photo
Standout Planet defender plans to spearhead Spiders’ soccer rebuilding efforts

ADAMS TWP — Mars senior Gwen Howell plays for a Planets girls soccer team that has not lost a game during her time there.

She’s heading to a college soccer team that hasn’t had a winning season in 11 years — and is looking forward to it.

A center back on defense for the Planets, Howell committed to the University of Richmond last September to continue her academic and soccer career. She carried a 4.5 grade point average through her junior year and wants to study something in the medical field.

“Richmond is a pretty lucky school, getting Gwen,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “She’s a great player who plays the game with grace and creativity.”

Mars is a three-time defending PIAA championship team and has been undefeated during those years, allowing very few goals in the process. Gerlach said Howell has been an anchor for the team defensively.

“She’s a mainstay,” the coach said. “She’s started every game for us since her freshman year and it’s hard to be a four-year starter in our program. Gwen has excelled from the day she got here.”

Also planning on considering Davidson, Howell said Richmond was the first school to show interest in her. She made a visit, got to know the campus and the program — and made her decision quickly.

“They made me an offer and everything fell into place quickly,” Howell said. “Richmond just checked all the boxes, so I went for it.”

The Spiders play in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Under coach Marty Beall, who is entering his fifth season, the team qualified for the conference tournament last season for the first time in seven years. Richmond was 7-10-1 overall, 5-5 in league play.

Richmond’s last winning season was in 2011, when the team finished 13-5-3.

“I like how the coach is rebuilding the program,” Howell said. “They made real progress last year and I’m excited about getting down there and contributing, to help the program come along.

“I do feel like I’m getting there at a good time. I want to step in and play right away.”

Gerlach expects such a scenario to play out.

“Gwen can be a real asset to a team in their situation,” he said. “She will bring grit. She will bring intensity. She’s got a winning pedigree and a player like her can develop into a leader for them.”

A soccer player since age 6, Howell has played club soccer with Arsenal and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in recent years. She played basketball and ran track in middle school, but fully committed to soccer her freshman year.

“I was in gymnastics for a bit, too, but soccer just stick with me,” Howell said. “I’ve had great coaches through the years and developed a love for the game.

“I’ve lost games in club soccer, but never in high school. It’s crazy when you think about it, never losing a game. I’m proud to be a part of that. It’s something I’ll remember my whole life.”

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