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Hubs bring perfection to playoffs

October 27, 2006|by ANDREW MASON and DAN KAUFFMAN

Fifteen wins, zero losses. Washington County and MVAL Antietam championship titles. Coach Rick Aleshire's 100th career victory. The Herald-Mail top ranking.

The North Hagerstown girls soccer team did it all this season on its way to grabbing the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage for the Maryland Class 2A West tournament.

"Now it's for real," Aleshire said Thursday night. "It's a new season. In the playoffs, everything's different. We just have to go into each game and take care of business."

After receiving a first-round bye, the Hubs will host either Northwood or Frederick on Tuesday at School Stadium in a regional quarterfinal.

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North routed winless Frederick 16-0 last month, and Aleshire said Northwood doesn't appear to be much better than the Cadets.

As much as the Hubs want a finals rematch with second-seeded Middletown (11-2-1) - which edged North 1-0 in last year's region final - they can't just assume it will happen.

"Middletown is the defending champ, but South Carroll might be the best team in the whole bracket," Aleshire said.

South Carroll (7-5-1) - which lost to North on penalty kicks in a shootout in last year's region semifinals - is in North's half of the bracket again.

South Carroll and North have one common opponent this season: Boonsboro. The Hubs beat the Warriors 7-3 on Oct. 3, while Boonsboro beat South Carroll 2-1 on Monday.

"Let me tell you," Aleshire said, "Boonsboro right now might be playing the best soccer of everybody in the county."

His Hubs, of course, are in a position to argue that, having outscored their opponents 93-7 this fall.

Senior midfielder Courtney Whorten has tallied a team-high 47 points (16 goals, 15 assists) for North, which has three other players with double-digit goals and another two with double-digit points.

"I'd hate to be an opposing coach and look at these numbers," Aleshire said. "I've got girls who can score. You can stop one or two, but you can't stop three, four or five."

Whorten, North's all-time leader in career assists with 52, is only one goal shy of tying the career goals mark of 43.

The Hubs' defense is led by senior Cara Thompson, a three-time All-Area first-teamer, who finally appears to be fully healthy after spending much of the season recovering from a knee injury. She played an entire game for the first time this season in North's 2-0 victory over Smithsburg on Wednesday.

"One of the biggest keys right now is that Cara Thompson is back," Aleshire said. "And Cara Thompson is Cara Thompson. She just dominates."

In the Class 1A West bracket, a rematch of last year's final won't happen - at least not in the final.

Top-seeded Smithsburg (12-3) and fourth-seeded Boonsboro (10-3) are on the same side of the bracket.

The Leopards beat the Warriors 2-1 for their fifth straight region crown last year on their way to the state title.

After first-round byes, Smithsburg hosts either Fort Hill or Allegany, while Boonsboro hosts Clear Spring in Tuesday's quarterfinal round.

The Leopards and Warriors split their two matches this year.

"Boonsboro is definitely a team to contend with," Smithsburg coach Bill Fowkes said. "But it's the old clich: One game at a time. If you don't win the first game, it's not going to matter."

In the bottom half of the bracket, Beall and Northern Garrett are seeded second and third.

"We've seen Beall play. They're a legit contender," Fowkes said. "And Northern Garrett is a lot better this year."

In November, Smithsburg always seems to be the best.

"The girls know it's the time of the season that really matters," Fowkes said. "It's definitely the fun time of the year - serious, but fun."

Blazers boys get second seed

Clear Spring is in the best position of any Washington County boys soccer team to make a deep run in the playoffs.

The Blazers (10-4), who tied with Boonsboro for second place in the MVAL Antietam behind champion Brunswick, earned the second seed in the Class 1A West bracket, thanks to their seven-match winning streak to finish the regular season.

"We're very excited about where we're at right now," Clear Spring coach Greg Hoff said. "You look back at the beginning of the season, and it really started with Adam Reid scoring in the first 30 seconds of the first game of the county tournament. That set the stage for whole team.

"When you know you're good enough to win, the mental game makes your physical game better."

Clear Spring made noise with a 2-0 victory over Williamsport and a scoreless draw with Smithsburg in the first two rounds of the Washington County Tournament (the Leopards won the shootout 3-0 to reach the tournament final).

But the Blazers really hit their stride with a 4-2 victory over Berkeley Springs on Oct. 3 - the first triumph during the recent winning streak, in which Clear Spring also defeated North Hagerstown, Williamsport and Smithsburg.

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