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North Hagerstown girls might seem unstoppable

September 04, 2008|By ANDREW MASON

North Hagerstown, no surprise, is the team to beat again in Washington County girls soccer.

The Hubs, champions of the last four county tournaments, only lost two starters from last year's team that went 14-3 and outscored its opponents 61-16.

"It should be another exciting year for us," said Rick Aleshire, who's in his 10th year as North's coach. "I'm really looking forward to it."

The Hubs return four All-County first-team selections from last season -- twin senior forwards Maria and Stephanie Borland, junior midfielder Katie Ritter and junior goalkeeper Lindsay Irving. Senior forward Alluka Ogle-Moore, who scored 12 goals in 11 games last year, also is back.

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"But the most solid player on the team is probably Amanda Hutzell, my sweeper," Aleshire said.

The Hubs might seem unstoppable.

"On any given night, if we can't put the ball in the back of the net and the other team can, we'll get beat," Aleshire said. "Like anything else, you stay No. 1 for so long, that every game that's the other team's No. 1 goal -- to knock you from the ranks."

The Hubs' No. 1 goal is to win their first region title. Despite being the No. 1 seed in each of the last three region tournaments, they've finished no better than second. They lost to Century in the semifinals last year.

"The first goal is to get that county championship," Aleshire said. "The second goal is the (MVAL Piedmont Conference) championship, and then hopefully get that region title that's been alluding us."

While arch-rival Smithsburg might prove to be North's biggest obstacle again in county action, the Leopards will have to get the job done without Bill Fowkes as their coach.

Fowkes, who in 2006 guided Smithsburg to its second straight Maryland Class 1A state title and sixth straight West region crown, stepped down after last season. Jeff Berk, one of Fowkes' assistants the last two years, is now in charge.

"It's going to seem a little strange," Aleshire said. "I'm going to miss Bill. He was just a great guy to compete against. But I'm sure Berk will do a good job, too."

Berk admitted that he has big shoes to fill.

"Whenever a big-name coach retires, it's always tough to follow the standards," he said. "But our core group was here for the two state championships, so they know what it takes to get there.

"And, hopefully, so do I."

The Leopards -- who went 11-5-1 and won the MVAL Antietam last season -- have lost several of last year's stars to graduation, namely forwards Shelby Layman and Chelsea Hoover. Layman was The Herald-Mail's 2007 All-Area Player of the Year.

"We have some girls who have big shoes to fill," Berk said. "But we have the talent to fill them."

The Leopards return three All-County seniors -- first-team defender Lauren Donley, second-team midfielder Danielle Berk and honorable-mention goalkeeper Bethany Garnand.

Boonsboro



After being bounced from the 1A West playoffs two straight years by Smithsburg, the Warriors got their revenge last year. They beat the Leopards on penalty kicks, after 100 scoreless minutes, in the quarterfinals to end the Leopards' run of six straight region titles.

But Boonsboro then fell 3-1 to Northern Garrett in the semifinals, finishing 10-5-1.

The Warriors have five seniors to help them try to get over the hump this fall, including 2007 All-County first-team forward Lauren Hensley and second-team defender Kristen Byers.

"We're leaning on those five seniors," fourth-year coach Kyle Lingg said. "And we have a lot of talented underclassmen."

Clear Spring



The Blazers return seven starters from last year's team that went 8-7 for the program's first winning season in five years. Coach Jeff Semler said the goal is to win at least 10 games this fall.

"We'd like to better the mark for most Clear Spring wins in a season (nine in 2002)," he said. "We're looking good. Of those seven starters, five are seniors. We still have more underclassmen starting than not, but youth is not a bad mix with experience."

Both of the Blazers' All-County first-team selections from last year are back -- seniors Beth Andrews (goalkeeper) and Sarah Dice (midfielder).

Andrews, who suffered a torn ACL in a summer-league game in June, has postponed surgery to the end of the season.

"She'll wear a brace," Semler said. "She wants to play her senior year. She's all heart."

Hancock



The Panthers are set to begin their first season as a varsity program, after going a combined 12-5-5 as a JV team the last two years.

"We're all excited to be playing varsity," coach Karen Sornson said. "It's just going to be learning every game and improving. I've been telling them, 'It's a whole new world.'"

The team is comprised of four seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen.

"Even though we're a young team, I've got some nice athletes," Sornson said.

The Panthers' first game might be their toughest. They play perennial power Smithsburg in the first round of the county tourney Friday.

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