Ken Wolf likes to compare his Anne Arundel Community College men's soccer team to baseball's New York Mets -- two squads that flourish on their home turf, but often flounder on the road.
So it's no wonder the veteran coach was relieved to learn the Arnold junior college would be the site of this weekend's Region XX men's and women's soccer tournaments.
The Pioneers, seeded fourth and awaiting tomorrow's 5 p.m. semifinal game against top-seeded Montgomery-Rockville, are 8-1 at home, but 3-4-2 when removed from Siegert Field.
"That's one reason why I'm glad we're hosting the playoffs," Wolf said.
He's pretty relaxed about facing the No. 1 seed as well. Anne Arundel split its two games against Montgomery-Rockville this season, winning last Friday, 3-2, behind two goals from Archbishop Spalding graduate Danny Smith and one from Ron Eckels (Severna Park).
The Fightin' Knights had beaten Anne Arundel, 3-1, on Oct. 2, and were 16-0-1 and ranked No. 1 among junior colleges going into the rematch.
"That was really a big win for us, psychologically," Wolf said. "We felt we had the capability of beating them, but we had to prove it."
Should the Pioneers get past Montgomery-Rockville, they would play the winner of tomorrow's Essex-Allegany game in Sunday's 8 p.m. finals.
Anne Arundel reached the semifinals of the region tournament last year, only to lose to Montgomery-Rockville, 3-0. With numerous sophomores returning this year, the Pioneers went 11-5-2 during the regular season.
"We were optimistic," Wolf said, "but we didn't really have any superstars coming in, somebody to look to. So it was a question of, were we going to have different people to rise to the occasion in different situations. And by and large, we've done that."
Forward Mike Ogden (Broadneck) has 11 goals and five assists through 18 games. Eckels has nine goals and nine assists, and Barry Conner (Old Mill) has contributed six goals and seven assists.
Freshman keeper Corey Derfler (Southern) has started the last seven games in place of sophomore starter Chris Davis (Meade), after the latter injured his elbow against Dundalk Oct. 9.
"We knew Corey was a good goalkeeper," Wolf said. "It was a situation where he was just waiting for an opportunity to play. He got his shot and has made the best of it."
Like the men's team, the Anne Arundel women are lacking a "superstar" -- much to the joy of Pioneers' coach Mike Miles.
"That's not needed on this team," Miles said. "In fact, that might have hurt the team. These girls work together. They need each other.
"It's a fun team to work with this year. There's so much balanced talent. It's a real nice situation. There's more balance than I've ever had."
That includes the last two seasons, when Anne Arundel advanced to the nationals. On both occasions, the Pioneers lost, 1-0, to the eventual champion.
As the No. 1 seed in this year's Region XX Tournament, Anne Arundel (11-4-3) has received a first-round bye and will face either Montgomery-Rockville or Dundalk in Sunday's 5 p.m. finals.
"They're two different styles of ball," Miles said. "Montgomery is the better control team, but they're not as aggressive as Dundalk. It's a trade-off. There's a little to worry about on each side. Both teams can beat us, and my girls know that."
The Pioneers, ranked seventh nationally in the latest JuCo poll, have beaten each team twice en route to an 8-0 record in region play. They are 28-0 in the region the past three seasons.
Miles' claims of a balanced team are supported by the Pioneers' scoring.
Megan McElhenny (South River) has eight goals and four assists, and she hasn't started three-fourths of Anne Arundel's games.
Duffy Kelly (Southern) also has registered eight goals. Sandi Young (Andover) is next in line with seven goals and three assists, followed by Suzanne Price (Severna Park) with four goals and seven assists, Roxanne Elsey (Broadneck) with six goals and two assists, and Sharon Roe (South River) with five goals and three assists.
Excluding the keepers, only four Pioneers have not scored.
Miles has juggled the lineup from opening day, and says he still may do so even if the Pioneers advance to the nationals.