Soccer notes - Gaels, Titans flying high as season winds down

October 14, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN and ANDREW MASON

From St. Maria Goretti's first game - a 5-2 victory at Martinsburg - to their latest triumph - coincidentally enough, a 5-2 victory over Martinsburg at home that clinched the Apple Valley League boys title - the No. 3 Gaels have proven they stack up with any Tri-State team.

Goretti (11-3-2) pushed No. 1 Boonsboro as much as any team has all season in a 3-2 loss on Sept. 6. As noted, the Gaels have two convincing wins over the No. 5 Bulldogs.

Not bad for a squad coming off a 12-12-2 season in 2004. The foundation for this season was laid last November, when Goretti made the final of the Maryland Independent Schools state tournament.


The opening victory over Martinsburg was exactly what the Gaels needed to start 2005.

"I kind of knew we had the group to have this season," Gaels coach Mike Long said. "What surprised us was how well we played (early). We haven't always started out our seasons that strongly, but because we had an experienced group of players, we were able to focus on us being a team as opposed to basics."

Goretti has outscored its opponents 51-20, led by Michael Cushwa, whose 37 points (15 goals, seven assists) are good for eighth in the area. John Widmyer (10 goals) and Jon Diamond (eight goals) give the Gaels added attacking options.

According to Long, it all starts with midfielder Matt Cotleur, an All-County first-teamer last year.

"The only way to get those opportunities to finish is to have strong leadership in the middle," Long said. "Matt is a four-year starter. ... His vision and passing are the keys. He reads (defenses) very well and then makes the right decision, whether to the left, right or straight forward. We have experienced, fast players who can take what he gives them and work with it."

With Robert Nelson anchoring the defensive corps, and Kevin Brashears - a talented athlete who earned second-team All-America recognition as a catcher on the Gaels' baseball team in the spring - allowing barely more than a goal per game in the net, Goretti gives opponents few openings.

"We feel our strength is the fact that we don't really have any holes," Long said. "In high school soccer, you may have a good core of four or five players, and then some players with less experience. But our wings are as experienced as anybody we'd put up top. Traditionally, you would see the strongest players up top and down the middle. We have club players at the outside midfield positions and at outside back. We try to keep the ball away from the middle as much as possible."

With the Apple Valley League championship in hand, the Gaels will soon turn their attention to winning the state independent title for the second time in three years.

"Our goal is to finish off the season without any mistakes," Long said.

Tuscarora still No. 1

Remember the Titans?

Of course. Who could forget what the Tuscarora girls did last year?

Competing as a first-year varsity program, the Titans, who had no seniors and only two juniors on their roster, went 16-2 and won the Maryland Class 1A state title.

Word is they're even better this season. They're 10-1, ranked No. 1 in The Herald-Mail poll and have clinched the MVAL Chesapeake title.

"I think we're better," Tuscarora coach Mark Wolcott said. "We're still young, but we returned everybody and added three freshmen who are starting. We've grown and matured as a team over the last year."

The Titans are led by their two seniors - midfielders Molly Franklin and Amanda Meehan. Franklin, who has a team-high 11 goals and five assists, was a 2004 All-State first-team selection. Meehan, an All-State second-team selection last year, has three goals and four assists.

Sophomore forward Courtney Yee, an All-State honorable mention last year, has seven goals and two assists, and freshman forward Callie Simpkins has six goals and five assists.

Simpkins is the younger sister of keeper Emmy Simpkins, who's only allowed four goals in 11 games this season while recording eight shutouts.

"We don't give up a whole lot of chances," Wolcott said. "But Emmy comes up when needed."

The Titans have been forced to come up this year as they're now competing at the Class 3A level. They already have locked up the top seed and home-field advantage for the West region playoffs.

"Everything has gone up a bit," Wolcott said. "In our region, we have Urbana and Bethesda-Chevy Chase, two storied programs. You probably have six elite programs in 3A, and I think we're in that mix.

"Last year, it was a smaller level and we were able to just sort of walk through it. Now, we have to prove ourselves at a bigger-school level. The girls are very hungry."

Since opening the season with a 2-1 loss to Sherwood in what Wolcott said "was a game we should have handled easily," Tuscarora has won 10 straight, outscoring opponents 35-2 in the streak.

"You hate losing games, but it was healthy for us," Wolcott said. "It was a wake-up call. It let us know that last season was behind us."

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