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Soccer notes - North's girls heading in right direction

September 16, 2005|by ANDREW MASON and DAN KAUFFMAN

andrewm@herald-mail.com

kauffman@herald-mail.com

The North Hagerstown girls soccer team is off to a 3-0 start, outscoring opponents 18-1, and ranked No. 1 in the season's first Herald-Mail poll.

The Hubs aren't exactly pulling any new tricks out of their hats. However, senior midfielder Christine Wason is back after missing all of last season to injury, and she's been turning hat tricks.

Wason, who tore the ACL in her right knee in the summer of 2004, had three goals and an assist as North opened its season with an 8-1 victory over Clear Spring in the Washington County Tournament. She scored three more goals Tuesday in the Hubs' 9-0 rout of Frederick.

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"She's a big reason we're off to a strong start," said North coach Rick Aleshire, whose team was eliminated last year by eventual Maryland Class 2A state champ Middletown in the West region quarterfinals. "There's a possibility that with Christine last year that we might have been the ones making the run at the state. She's an important part of our team."

But even Aleshire said he's a bit surprised by Wason's early-season production.

"We give our players goals we want them to try to reach, and we had her in for 10 to 13 goals for the season, and now you're looking at 18 to 22," he said. "That's how strong she's playing."

Wason's stronger than ever, it seems.

"She's definitely stronger than when she left," Aleshire said. "She's more determined and more hungry to play."

Saints get helping hand

As Williamsport's boys soccer coach from 1976-84 and 1990-2003, Stan Stouffer led the Wildcats to two state titles and six championship games before retiring.

Sort of.

Turns out St. James coach Chris Downs - a 1992 Williamsport graduate who played for Stouffer - called his old coach with an offer he could not refuse.

"Chris was my keeper in '90-91 when I first came back," Stouffer said. "Last year during the season, he called me a couple times. He was going to play Boonsboro and he wanted to know what I knew and what to do to beat them. I told him a couple things I thought would be helpful. Then he talked to me about helping on a part-time basis, and that's what I am, part-time.

"I asked him what he wanted from me, and he said he wanted another set of eyes. He said, 'Maybe you'll see a different something that I don't see.' So I said, 'OK. You got a deal.' We jokingly said my title would be 'technical advisor.'"

Thanks in part to Stouffer's technical know-how, and in part to the play of Steve Lee and Alex Yaraghi, the Saints were 3-1 entering Thursday.

"It's nice to have another set of eyes, and he just brings some more fundamental things to the program," Downs said. "When I played for him, that was one thing I knew he did well. We're in a situation here where our boys need fundamental work, and he's very good seeing those things.

"I figured I'd be nuts if I didn't ask him. He wanted to ask me first if I wanted (the Williamsport) job, and I was flattered, but I love it here and I want this program to work, and hopefully he can help me make it work."

The style that became a trademark at Williamsport - one which stresses keeping the ball on the ground and using short, quick passes - is now catching on at St. James.

"You should only put the ball in the air when you absolutely have to," Stouffer said. "Otherwise, keep it on the ground as much as possible, because that's easier to control."

Stouffer is enjoying the freedom to teach soccer without having to make decisions such as who to cut or who to start, and the Saints are enjoying the success his lessons have bred.

"I don't have anything to do except show up when I can," Stouffer said. "It's fun because I show up when I want to and leave when I want to."

"The kids respect him and respect what he brings to the table," Downs said. "He's won two state championships. The guy knows something about soccer."

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