Soccer tournament a big draw

June 14, 1997


Staff Writer

Washington County continues to show its increasing presence in the world of soccer this weekend, hosting the seventh annual Mason-Dixon Cup Soccer Tournament.

About 1,600 players from Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey took to 14 fields across Hagerstown Saturday to compete for trophies in a number of age groups up to 19 years old, according to organizers.

The tournament was started by the Hagerstown Soccer Club to raise money for the group. Susan Rocco said she remembers coming up with the idea after going to the Crestar Soccer Tournament in Roanoke, Va., one of the most popular tournaments in the region.


"We came back and said we can do this," said Rocco.

The first Mason-Dixon Cup Soccer Tournament attracted about 70 teams, Rocco recalls. Over this weekend, about 100 are expected to compete.

There are bigger tournaments along the East Coast, but there are few in the local region as large as the Mason-Dixon. Be-sides the games, tournament organizers are promoting the event as a way to discover historic sites and other attractions in the Tri-State area.

Tournament organizers estimate the event pumps about a half-million dollars into the local economy when players and their families come to the area for the two-day event.

"We turned away a lot of people," said Ray Beach, an employee at the Hampton Inn on Dual Highway, where business has in-creased about 50 percent because of the tournament.

At the same time, Hagerstown soccer continues to grow and excel.

Besides the Hagerstown Soccer Club game schedule, all public schools except Hancock in the county have soccer programs for boys and girls.

The strength of Hagerstown soccer was demonstrated two weeks ago when the Under-18 boys team for the Hagerstown Soccer Club played in the semifinals for the Maryland State Cup.

The local team lost to the Columbia, Md., soccer team, which won the national championship last year, Rocco said.

"It wasn't too shabby. It's come a long way," she said.

Teams in this weekend's Mason-Dixon tournament began competing Saturday morning on fields at North Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown Junior College, Ditto Farms Regional Park near Black Rock Golf Course, Williamsport High School and St. James School.

Each team paid a $300 entry fee. Last year, the tournament raised about $20,000 for the Hagerstown Soccer Club.

The tournament ends today.

Participants in Saturday's round of games said they like the Mason-Dixon competition because it is close by and attracts good players.

"The name of the game now is experience," said Mike Bowles of Frederick, who came to watch his daugher, Emily, compete in the Under-17 age category.

Soccer, popular in South America, Italy and England, has gained popularity in the U.S. over about the last decade. A goal is worth one point. Games last up to 45 minutes depending on the players' age, Rocco said.

Players said they like the game because of its intense pace and technical nature. A player can be twice the strength of his competitor, but can be outsmarted if his competitor knows what kind of move to initiate, said Laura Ferrell, of Ijamsville, Md., who was competing in the Under-17 category at North Hagerstown High School Saturday morning.

"It's the best. I can't describe it. Just the adrenalin rush," said Allison Kiniry, of Jarettsville, Md., who was competing in the Under-17 group.

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