Hubs, Leopards brace for battles

September 22, 2006|by ANDREW MASON and DAN KAUFFMAN

If there's such a thing as must-see girls soccer this early in the season, it's happening Saturday night at South Hagerstown's School Stadium.

No. 1 Smithsburg vs. No. 2 North Hagerstown for the Washington County Tournament title.

"It should be an interesting matchup," Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes said. "We have quite a rivalry and both teams have great respect for each other. We know it's going to be very difficult and very competitive."

Not only are both teams undefeated this year, neither has allowed a goal. The Leopards (3-0) have outscored their opponents 15-0, while the Hubs (4-0) have routed theirs, 35-0.

"The girls have been working hard," North coach Rick Aleshire said. "But we really haven't been tested yet. Win or lose, we're going to be tested against Smithsburg."


North won its second straight county title last year, beating Boonsboro 5-2 after edging Smithsburg 1-0 in the semifinals.

The Leopards, the reigning Maryland Class 1A state champs, haven't lost since. They ended last season on a 16-game winning streak, including a 2-1 victory over North in the rematch.

The Hubs advanced all the way to the Maryland Class 2A West title game last year, and are aiming to take it a step further this season.

But Saturday night's showdown comes first.

"It's an important game because this is our first goal. We're the defending champs," Aleshire said. "It'll be a good test for both teams - a barometer as to where we are."

Maria Borland has a team-high eight goals for the Hubs, while Courtney Whorten has seven. Chelsea Hoover and Shelby Layman each has four goals for the Leopards.

"They have speed in their forwards, and we're going to have to contend with that," Fowkes said. "The advantage is that we have a seasoned team - a lot of kids who've played in a lot of big games. This is one of the games they'll have to rise to the occasion for again."

A familiar foe

There should be few surprises for North Hagerstown coach Glen Singer and Smithsburg coach Paul Newman in the Washington County Boys Soccer Tournament final.

On Thursday - two days before the showdown - the Hubs and Leopards met for the first of their two regularly scheduled meetings.

Goals by Mark Vomend in the 22nd minute - assisted by Josh Edwards - and David Kurz in the 57th minute paced Smithsburg (3-3) to a 2-0 victory Thursday.

"I thought it was really evenly matched," Newman said. "They played well in the middle of the field, and we also played well. (Thursday's) game was decided by just a couple plays. It could have gone either way."

Vomend - Smithsburg's leading scorer last season - notched his first goal this year to give the Leopards the lead.

"This was his first goal, and we've been trying to encourage him to get it," Newman said. "He's played in two or three spots, and we're getting to the point where we know what we do best."

The Hubs (3-3) were hit by the injury bug Thursday.

Talented midfielder Derek McAbee left with an injury in the first half, and starting goalkeeper Josh Borland, who made four saves, was hurt on Kurz's unassisted goal in the second half.

"Josh took a knee in the back, so an ambulance took him to the hospital," Singer said. "I don't think it's too serious but I think he'll miss a little time. McAbee hurt his knee. We're going to see if he can get into a doctor (Friday).

"They're both leaders, they're both captains. Derek's one of the more skilled players in the county, so it's going to hurt having him out. We're going to have to have a couple guys step in, do the best they can and have everyone else try a little harder."

Jake Staebler made seven saves to notch his third shutout of the season for Smithsburg.

"Goalkeepers are the heart of the defense, and when he's really playing well, it gives the guys in front of him a lot of confidence," Newman said. "He has average games and really good games, and when he has a good one, the kids relax. Tonight, he was very solid. Nothing looked dangerous ... he was always in the right spot."

Singer hopes the Hubs play with more intensity Saturday - perhaps using the loss as motivation.

"It gives us something to focus on," Singer said. "I think Smithsburg and their coaches, they've been around long enough to be prepared and they're not going to have a letdown."

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