North girls are still the team to beat

August 31, 2010|By ANDREW MASON
  • Mary-Kate Afzali, Saint James

Changes are aplenty in Washington County girls soccer this year, especially on the sidelines.

Of the nine varsity teams that conduct their seasons in the fall, five have new head coaches.

The new guys are Chris Lantz at Boonsboro, Greg Noe at St. Maria Goretti, Victor Della Mea at Smithsburg, Abib Niang at South Hagerstown and Tim Salvagno at Williamsport.

But this much is the same: North Hagerstown is still the team to beat.

"Until we get beat, they can't take that from us," said Rick Aleshire, who's beginning his 12th season as North's coach.

The Hubs, the six-time defending champions of the county tournament, haven't lost to a county opponent -- public or private, regular season or tournament -- since their 2-1 loss to Smithsburg on Sept. 22, 2005.

"That keeps a little pressure on us," Aleshire said.

While several county teams appear to be much improved this year, North returns only five starters from last year's team that went 14-2-1 and advanced to the Class 2A West region final.


"I think we're going to be pretty well matched with three other teams --Clear Spring, Boonsboro and Williamsport," Aleshire said. "I think Boonsboro could be the strongest."

The Hubs' most significant losses to graduation are 2009 all-staters Jackie Keller and Katie Ritter, along with four-year starting goalkeeper Lindsay Irving, who last year set a single-season school record with 10 shutouts.

But North still returns three all-county players in seniors Beth Wagner, Kelsey Smith and Samantha Koterwas, who were all standouts in the midfield last year.

"We also have some freshmen who are really going to help us and some girls who moved up from JV," Aleshire said. "But we don't have that experience. It's going to be a trying year for us, it really is.

"It just depends on how bad the girls really want it and how hard they are willing to work to get it."


Lantz, the Warriors' JV coach the previous four years, has some big shoes to fill with the varsity as he replaces Kyle Lingg. In Lingg's five seasons at the helm, Boonsboro went 47-30-2 and twice advanced to the Class 1A West final, including last year.

"I'm looking forward to it," Lantz said. "There's a lot of talent and a lot of possibilities if it all comes together. I've been around them enough to know they can play and do it well."

The Warriors have nine starters back from last year's 8-8-1 team, including four all-county players -- seniors Emily Horst (defender), Jen Sherdel (forward) and Kaylee Monniger (defender) and sophomore track star Abby Duncan (forward).

"We have good, young talent we pulled up this year that will be able to fill some of the holes," Lantz said. "We have high expectations. We expect to be playing in the state finals. But the first goal is the county tournament."


Salvagno takes over for Jen Fields, who went 8-8 in her one season with the Wildcats last year.

The new coach is a 2002 North Hagerstown graduate and was a two-time all-state player for the Hubs before continuing his career at Virginia Wesleyan.

"The game has done a lot for me," Salvagno said. "And the big thing is being able to give back."

Williamsport returns eight starters from last year, including three all-county selections -- senior Amber Shumaker (forward), junior Casey Arnone (defender) and sophomore Ashley Likely (defender). Salvagno said he also expects big things from senior midfielder Kaelii Stout.

"We're a young team, but we have great athletes," Salvagno said. "We just need to work on understanding how to play the game and discover our own style of play. Once we get that down, we should be able to play with anyone.

"The overall goal for this season, obviously, is to improve on last year's record and to really start establishing a name for our program."

Clear Spring

The Blazers return 10 starters from last year's 5-8-1 team, including all four of their all-county selections -- seniors Jessica Dice (midfielder) and Ashlyn Long (defender), junior Jessica Barnhart (midfielder) and sophomore Tori Albert (keeper).

"We lost four seniors but only one starter," second-year coach Brian Albert said. "Our team pretty much stayed unchanged."

The experience should be worth at least a few more wins.

"You always have lofty goals at the beginning of the season," Albert said. "I will just say that I would like to be better than last year.

"I'd put us in the middle of the pack right now, but I'm not saying that's where I want to be or where we will be. That's just where we are until we prove it different."


The Leopards, who went 4-9-1 last season under then-first-year coach David Jones, have won three state titles in program history (2001, 2005, 2006) -- three more than any other county school.

Della Mea, a former St. Maria Goretti coach, knows all about the rich tradition.

"My goal is to bring the Leopards back to state prominence," he said. "I don't aim low, I aim high."

The Herald-Mail Articles