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Blazers finding success to their liking

October 19, 2007

By ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

and DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

All the Clear Spring girls soccer team has to do to clinch its first winning season in five years is beat winless Brunswick at home Tuesday.

"Actually, Brunswick is kind of dangerous because they don't have anything to lose," said Clear Spring coach Jeff Semler, whose team is 7-6 with the one game left in the regular season. "I don't like being the favorite. I like being the underdog."

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The Blazers know the underdog role well.

Their last winning season - 2002, when they went 9-6-2 - is their only one in the 11-year history of their program.

"The typical problem with a small school like Clear Spring is we don't get a lot of players," said Semler, in his ninth year as Clear Spring's coach. "We have 17 varsity players and 13 JV players, and that's the size of some of the squads we face.

"We make no cuts. We keep everyone who comes out and play everybody. And it just takes longer to build a program that way."

The Blazers' program seems solid right now. Their three leading scorers - Sarah Dice (14 goals, 4 assists), Jessie Dice (3 goals, 2 assists) and Wendy Lucas (2 goals, 2 assists) - and standout goalkeeper, Beth Andrews, are all nonseniors.

"We're headed in the right direction," said Semler, who's pointing toward the upcoming Maryland 1A West playoffs.

"We always want to go as far as we can in the tournament," he said.

While Clear Spring's seven victories already are the second most in program history, it's one of their six losses this season that has the Blazers believing they can play with anyone in Class 1A.

Earlier this month, they held Smithsburg, the two-time defending state champion, scoreless for 55 minutes before falling, 2-0.

"If you can play right along with the best team in our class, it certainly does give you hope," Semler said. "Anything can happen in the playoffs.

"No matter if you're playing North Hagerstown or Smithsburg, the game starts at 0-0, no matter what your record is."

This year's record, however, matters greatly to the Blazers.

"Everybody knows we haven't had a winning record since 2002," Semler said. "That's been one of our goals since the beginning of the season. We're good enough to do it."

Leopards put Antietam on ice

Smithsburg's boys wrapped up the MVAL Antietam title Thursday night with an impressive 6-2 win over Boonsboro. The Leopards, winners of nine straight, finished 5-0 in the conference.

Are they satisfied?

"Not yet," Smithsburg coach Paul Newman said. "We talked about it tonight after the game, that when we won the county championship, they told me they had four things they wanted to accomplish - the county championship, the league title, regionals and states. They're halfway there.

"You can't settle. As soon as you do, that's as far as you go."

The Leopards have outscored opponents 30-9 during the run. Losing Josh Edwards (9 goals) for two weeks has proven beneficial, as Smithsburg developed other weapons in Zach Carson (10 goals, 6 assists) and Steve Kretzer (9 goals, 3 assists).

"You hate to lose a player like Josh, but the kids found a different way to score, a different way to attack the goal," Newman said. "Boonsboro took Josh out tonight, but they couldn't take out Josh and Steve and Zach. The kids have options and they're used to looking for those options."

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