Wildcats hope third time is a charm

September 02, 2010|By DAN KAUFFMAN
  • Washington County previews

Forgive Williamsport coach Chris Downs if he has a personal dislike of penalty kick shootouts.

In 2008, his Wildcats were favored in the Maryland Class 1A West final, only to watch Boonsboro prevail 4-3 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw through 100 minutes.

Williamsport returned to the 1A West final again in 2009, this time traveling to top-seed Mountain Ridge. After a scoreless draw through 100 minutes, the Miners won the shootout, 5-3.

With those painful losses behind them, Downs and the Wildcats have enough talent back to take another crack at winning the regional title and reaching the state tournament this year -- although, as usual, it won't be easy.

"I think for a lot of them, it's an experience factor. They've been there, it's all in their minds and they have a goal to come out of (the region) this year," Downs said. "But they are keeping things in perspective and they can't get ahead of themselves. Their work ethic has been great and they're not overlooking anyone in the county this year. There's no easy games."


Williamsport's defense should be just as stout as it was last year, when it shut out 12 of 18 opponents behind the superb goalkeeping of All-County First Team honoree Alex Aleshire. He's back for his junior season, along with senior defenders Chad Ridenour, Bradley Miller and Jared Schnurr.

"I think we have enough left to make another run. When you have Alex back (in goal), it can't be bad," Downs said. "It's just confidence. Our guys can take a few chances, be more attack-minded and if it goes wrong, Alex will be there to clean it up. ... Chad Ridenour at sweeper, he's very vocal, he's the field general and he just reads the game very well. He's another one who's going to have a breakout year this year."


Michael Long takes over a Warriors program that went 1-14 in 2009 after reaching the Maryland Class 1A state championship game in 2008. Long has previously coached at St. Maria Goretti.

A pair of returning seniors -- forward Kenny Kopp and goalkeeper Paul Jordan -- have established themselves as the Warriors' leaders.

"They're both excellent players and lead by example with their professionalism, and their ability to keep the group focused has been excellent," Long said. "Kenny is a fantastic athlete, a track star as well as great soccer player. His athleticism and his intensity are things that make a massive difference. PJ's leadership ability is what's really shown this summer. His ability to keep the guys positive and working together when things are rough (shows) he's a very mature keeper."

Sophomore defender Josh Haden earned All-County Second Team honors in 2009, but he's scheduled for knee surgery on Sept. 17. Senior Mitch Stenersen will anchor the defense in Haden's absence. Sophomores Tommy Prunty and Charles Anoman will play key roles in midfield.

"We hope with the right game plan each game, we can get a result out of every match," Long said. "We just have to stay focused and committed to our task."


The Lions won the Maryland Christian Schools Tournament championship last year and bring back a solid nucleus from that squad, led by junior twins Andrew and Michael Torres.

Andrew was an All-County First Team honoree after producing 21 goals and 10 assists, while Michael had eight goals and six assists. Michael will try to fill the shoes of brother Stephen Torres, who graduated after earning All-County First Team honors last year with 17 goals and six assists.

"I have a lot of expectations for Andrew, and I think he'll play a pivotal role in our success. He did last year," coach David Grimm said. "He was voted team captain, and hopefully he'll have another stellar year. He's a strong finisher. ... Michael, I look for him to step up and take Stephen's place in the midfield."

While Gabe Hirsch (10 goals, seven assists) and Jordan Whitt (11 goals, three assists) also graduated after helping Broadfording score 86 goals in 22 games last year, Andrew Wyand (eight goals, 14 assists) returns for his senior year. He'll join Andrew and Michael Torres up front, and they should help keep the Lions fearsome near the goal.

"Most of our players are returning. We have six seniors and it should be a pretty solid season," Grimm said. "I believe our offense is going to be strong."

Senior Ryan Haldeman will anchor the defense, with senior Donnie Fritz playing in goal.

"Ryan's going to be our go-to defensive guy, and hopefully he's going to lead that defense," Grimm said. "It's a young defense, they have a lot to learn."

Clear Spring

With eight of 11 starters back from a squad that went 10-4-1 a year ago, the Blazers are poised to challenge Williamsport and any other 1A West school for the region title.

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