Scrambling for success

November 20, 1996


Staff Writer

Rick Aleshire coaches Clear Spring's high school soccer team, but he got satisfaction every time North Hagerstown, Williamsport, South Hagerstown and Smithsburg won.

That's because many of Washington County's public school stars play for the Hagerstown Scramblers club soccer team, coached by Aleshire.

"Believe me, I've asked them all to come (to Clear Spring) numerous times," Aleshire joked.

The Scramblers roster has 19 players, all but one from Washington County. It includes All-State caliber players like Williamsport's Steve Ritchie, North Hagerstown's Nathaniel Krumpe and Joe Gossard, South Hagerstown's Joe Mills and Smithsburg's Ryan Lampton.

The Scramblers win as a club team, and the success often carries over to the high schools programs.

Williamsport, which has two players from the Scramblers, recently won the Class 1A state championship. North Hagerstown, with six Scramblers, went undefeated through the regular season before losing to eventual state champion Rockville in the regional semifinals. Smithsburg, with four Scramblers, has finished among the top three in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League the past two seasons. And three Scramblers helped South Hagerstown break even after a 2-11-1 showing in 1995.


"I think it's great. I'm real proud of 'em," Aleshire said. "It shows how well I've coached them.

"I'm not the guy who makes them successful on the field. I just put the team together. It's up to every individual player to tell himself to play hard, and they've answered that quite well."

Ironically, about the only county public school program that has not benefited from the Scramblers is Clear Spring. Mike Swain, who attends Mount St. Mary's College, is the only current Scrambler who played at Clear Spring.

Aleshire started coaching the Scramblers as an under-10 team. Seven years later, some of the faces have changed, but the majority remain. In fact, there have been no changes since the team was an under-14 squad.

Aleshire realized this could be a special group after the team's first tournament. Aleshire took the team to Philippi, W.Va., for an indoor tournament at Alderson-Broaddus College. The Scramblers won the tournament, outscoring their opponents 33-1.

Since, they've finished as a runner-up five times in the local Mason-Dixon Cup; won the under-19 division at the Virginia Military Institute tournament as 16-year-olds; compiled a three-year record of 25-1 in the Carroll County Indoor League; and, this year, won the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association district title and the Commonwealth and Roanoke tournament championships.

Just this past weekend, the Scramblers added an under-19 Raleigh Cup title to the trophy case.

The only goal yet unfilled by the Scramblers is a strong showing in the Maryland State Cup. Twice they've entered, and twice they've failed to advance beyond bracket play.

"If everybody is focused, we can play with any team in the state of Maryland," Aleshire said. "But the most important part is we've given these guys the tools necessary for the next level (college). I want to see them in college getting an education and playing soccer. That's the real goal."

Aleshire said it was important to keep these players together, giving Hagerstown a reputation for producing good soccer players, like the Hagerstown Hammers had done years earlier.

"There are four, five or six (players) who could have gone down the road (to play for suburban clubs)," Aleshire said. "When you're on a good team, that wins, you're not going to leave. It's been the boys themselves - they're committed to the team and they're committed to each other.

"It was important (to keep them together) not only to show how well they can play, but also for the little tykes coming up through Hagerstown Soccer Club - so they'll have the same chance these guys have got."

As is the case for all athletes and coaches, the ride must come to an end.

For the Hagerstown Scramblers, that will likely occur this summer, following either the Maryland State Cup or the Virginia Commonwealth Games tournament.

"I'm going to hate it," Aleshire said. "It's going to be a real sad day. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow from little boys to guys who didn't want to become teenagers to young adults."

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