Hawks' soccer team opens doors for biggest class yet

May 14, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

When Brian Eichelberger took over as head coach of Hagerstown's Community College's men's soccer team, the challenge in front of him was immense.

Eichelberger could have been forgiven if he thought it was too immense after his first year, when the Hawks went 2-14-1 in 2007. But they made vast improvements in 2008, finishing 11-6-1.

"I wasn't expecting this big a turnaround," Eichelberger said. "It's the way we want to go for sure."

Eichelberger's latest step in turning the Hawks into a regional and national power came on April 22, when 11 local athletes signed letters of intent to play for HCC beginning this fall.

"This is the biggest class we've had in a long time, maybe ever," Eichelberger said.

With about 15 Hawks expected to return for their sophomore seasons, Eichelberger finally has a full deck to work with. That should make practices more competitive and, in turn, make HCC a true contender.


"Our ultimate goal is to win the region and get a berth in the national championships," Eichelberger said.

The gem of the latest recruiting class may be Cody Riffle of Berkeley Springs. The Herald-Mail All-Area Second Team defender is also a talented playmaker -- he had 20 assists for the Indians, who won the West Virginia Class AA state title last fall -- and he earned all-state first-team honors.

Defense seemed to be the focus. Boonsboro's Steve Kopp anchored the back line that helped the Warriors reach the Maryland Class 1A state final in 2008. Williamsport's Brandon Barlow and Heritage Academy's Cody Butts add depth, and the Hawks added a pair of goalkeepers in Urbana's Brian Kukucka and Smithsburg's Brett Toms.

"I think we got a lot of defensive players this year," Eichelberger said. "Although I thought we played good defense last year, this gives us excellent defensive depth."

Brunswick's Chris Trimble may be the top offensive threat. He scored 46 goals and assisted on 22 others in his Railroaders career. North Hagerstown's Roland Wilson and Smithsburg's Phil Weller and Andrew Fowkes could contribute in the attacking half.

Boonsboro graduate Jonathan Miller rounds out the group, transferring in from Shippensburg University.

"All these players have a specific thing they do very well," Eichelberger said. "I think they'll fill our weaknesses."

Eichelberger hopes to continue teaching his ball-control style and believes the Hawks will be even better this fall, led by sophomore Chris Lambert -- a Jefferson graduate who was The Herald-Mail's 2007 Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

"Last year's team, when they started coming around, we like to play a possession-style game, get the ball out on the flanks and get the crosses coming," Eichelberger said. "With Lambert coming back, he did excellent for us last year. We worked the ball down the flank for him and he had a lot of crosses and a lot of assists. We try to switch the point of attack a lot. These 11 kids are skilled, they're smart and I think they'll fit into our system very nicely."

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