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HCC soccer scores area's, county's best

July 12, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

With a few strokes of a pen, the Tri-State's best and Washington County's best became Hagerstown Community College's best.

By signing national letters-of-intent to play soccer for the Hawks on Friday, Jefferson's Chris Lambert and Smithsburg's Josh Edwards made a mark on HCC's rebuilding program.

"This is a huge deal for our program," HCC coach Brian Eichelberger said. "This is what I need to build this program and get it going in the direction we need it to go. This will help us compete in the Maryland JuCo Conference and Region XX."

The addition of Lambert and Edwards gives HCC not one, but two possible cornerstones in the foundation.

Lambert led Jefferson to a 15-6-4 record and to its second straight trip to the West Virginia state tournamnet. He was named the 2007 Herald-Mail All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year and selected to the West Virginia All-State first team.

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Meanwhile, Edwards spearheaded the Leopards push to a 14-3 record and a trip to the Maryland Class 1A West semifinals, scoring 13 goals and adding four assists to earn Herald-Mail Washington County Player of the Year honors, along with All-MVAL Antietam first-team honors.

Jefferson and Smithsburg finished Nos. 1 and 2 in the Herald-Mail's final rankings.

"This is a coup for us," Eichelberger said. "This is my second year here and recruiting is where it all starts. To get these guys, this is the finishing touch on a recruiting class filled with the top soccer players in Washington County. And to get guys of this caliber - The Herald-Mail's top area and county player - it will help us get to the top of the Maryland JuCo Conference."

It was a little simpler for Lambert and Edwards. They just wanted to play for Eichelberger and close to home. Their union as teammates was an added benefit.

"I had never met (Edwards) before, but I have seen him in the papers," Lambert said. "There is no measuring against him. I'm sure he is better in some things than I am. I just want to win at all costs."

The pair brings a new dynamic to the HCC soccer program. Lambert is known for his strength and his hard shot, while Edwards made his mark because of his footspeed. Together, they will add a new, more potent dimension to the HCC offense.

"Both these guys have the knack for scoring and have the ability to see the field well," Eichelberger said. "Scoring is what we needed. Last year, we had just Tyler McHenry as our only consistent scorer. When we add Chris and Josh, it will allow us to opportunity to be more aggressive to attack the goal."

Edwards admits he got a bit of a taste of what it might be like playing for HCC when he played in the Four Diamond Senior All-Star Classic.

"I have a couple of buddies who played for North Hagerstown and we played together on the all-star team," Edwards said. "We played pretty well and I think we will work well together here.

"I like to handle pressure. I will try to step up to the challenge (of being designated a main scorer for the Hawks). I know it will be really competitive. I'm going to have to come out and earn my spot."

HCC was 2-14-1 overall and 1-12 in the conference last year in Eichelberger's first season as head coach. Eichelberger took over a Hawks' program, which has been dogpaddling to keep its head above water, but Friday's signings could give HCC the strength to fight against the current.

"The program has been down for the last six years," Brian said. "We were starting to make strides last year and we were able to do that with only a half-year of recruiting. The signing of Chris is big because this gets us into the Eastern Panhandle. I've tried to go down there in the past, but had to compete against Potomac State for talent. There are a lot of good players in the Panhandle."

Edwards and Lambert admit they know they have the targets on their backs because of their past successes, but there are still things to strive for on the college level.

"My ball skills have improved over the last year," Edwards said. "I want to improve on them more. I hope to become a great player."

That would lend itself to HCC fulfilling Lambert's ultimate goal.

"This school has never been nationally ranked," he said. "That's what I want to do."

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