The Annapolis Blues concluded their season with a 4-0 playoff loss to West Chester United on July 21. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic inaugural campaign for the soccer club, as they finished the regular season with an 8-1-1 record, earning the best record in the National Premier Soccer League (PSL)’s Mid-Atlantic Conference. The team also captured their conference championship with a 3-2 win in penalties over the Alexandria Reds on July 15.
The club represents an intriguing local tie to the greater Annapolis community, as the Blues are the first Annapolis-based professional sports team since the Chesapeake Bayhawks ceased operations in 2020. However, the local ties to the team this year were even stronger within the Severna Park community, as two Severna Park residents made vital contributions to the team’s success in their inaugural season.
Defenseman Brian Lenzer and winger Gordon Bernlohr were both raised in Severna Park and continue to reside in the area, with the community having a profound influence on their careers as soccer players. Lenzer appeared sporadically in nine games for the Blues, accruing 160 minutes of game time throughout the season. Bernlohr appeared in 11 games for the club, starting four matches and playing a little more than 400 minutes during the summer.
When reflecting on his upbringing in Severna Park, Lenzer recognized the popularity of soccer within the community, and he also gave credit to his experiences playing other sports in his youth, emphasizing the role of football, lacrosse and basketball during his formative years as an athlete.
“Playing those other sports, whether on real teams or just out in the yard with my friends, made me a better soccer player. [It made me] more athletic, more durable, certainly more physical,” Lenzer said.
Bernlohr, who moved to Severna Park from Crownsville after the first grade, was introduced to the community via Severna Park soccer. It helped him acclimate and adjust to a new environment during a time of transition in his youth, and it gave him an opportunity to make lifelong friends.
“Severna Park was my select soccer team,” Bernlohr recalled. “From my very early beginnings with the sport, I was wearing a Severna Park jersey. There are players from my SP U10 team who are friends which I am still close with to this day.”
While Lenzer had a successful high school career at McDonogh in Owings Mills, Bernlohr continued his soccer career at Severna Park High School. The Falcons alum was twice named to the All-County, All-Metro and All-State teams during his high school career. He looks back on those times fondly, stating that “it was [his] favorite part of high school” from the moment he made the varsity team during his freshman year.
Similar to Lenzer, he was a bit of a late bloomer, as he was admittedly the smallest kid on the field during his first two years. However, once he scored a hat trick in the first game of his junior year against Severn School, Bernlohr began to treat every game and practice with a new level of competition.
After ending his collegiate career at Johns Hopkins with a year-long injury, Lenzer was facing an uncertain future with the sport that he had spent his entire life with. He continued to train every day, working his way back to fitness, yet he couldn’t find an avenue that allowed him to continue his soccer career. That changed when he saw a Blues scarf at Rise Up Coffee, which led to him discovering the Blues website, reaching out to the coaches, and making the team after open tryouts.
Bernlohr’s route to the Blues was a bit easier than Lenzer’s, as he already had a prior connection with Colin Herriot, the team’s head coach. He had played on Herriot’s club team during high school, so when Herriot got the opportunity to coach the Blues, he reached out to Bernlohr to invite him to the team’s tryouts. Bernlohr accepted.
Throughout the season, both Lenzer and Bernlohr were blown away by the support shown by the Blues fan base, which managed to set an NPSL attendance record by drawing 8,480 fans to the conference championship. Coming from Catholic University, “where the average attendance for games would be lucky to break 200,” Bernlohr was stunned by the opportunity to play in front of 8,000 fans regularly. Lenzer was shocked when he was recognized by people away from the field, describing it as a “special and humbling” experience.
When asked for his biggest takeaway from this inaugural season, Lenzer responded that he realized that “not everything [is] under your control … What is in your control is showing up early, training hard, eating right, recovering right and giving everything you have to the game/team. There’s nothing to stress about when you show up every day and give everything you have.”
Bernlohr’s biggest takeaway from the season was learning to always play with a chip on your shoulder.
“Very few coaches have given me the recognition I feel I've deserved, and I've always turned it into motivation,” Bernlohr said. “Playing with a chip on my shoulder has proven to pay off, seven goals, two assists on the season … if my minutes were going to be limited, I had to find a way to get on the stat sheet and make it extremely obvious that I needed to be in the starting 11.”