The Columbia Hornets held five opponents scoreless, as the 13-and-under boys soccer team swept its competition to win the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Regional championship last weekend.
The regional title was the first for a county team in four years. Four other Columbia teams failed to make it past the first round.
The tournament, which was played at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, included 16 teams from a region covering 12 states.
Maryland teams took four of the seven boys titles. No national championship is held for 13-and-under teams.
In the July 7 championshipgame, the Hornets edged the Syracuse Blitz, 1-0, winning a shootout on the fourth penalty shot.
The Hornets, 19-1-2 this season, played their toughest game in the semifinal July 6, against the Richmond Strikers, and won, 1-0, in overtime.
"We knew the biggest obstacle facing us in the tournament would be Richmond," Hornets Coach Ron Leesaid. "But we've been playing really well and expected to win."
It took an astute coaching move by Lee to beat Richmond.
Zuri Barnes, who scored the winning goal five minutes into the first 10-minute overtime period, normally plays the left-side forward because he is left-footed.
But Lee crossed up Richmond by switching Barnes to right forward in overtime. When Barnes broke free at the right of the box, Richmond's goalie naturally expected a right-footed shot and dove to his right in anticipation.
Instead, Barnes kicked a left-footerto the goalie's left for the winning score.
"We were at wit's endto score and were ready to try anything and this worked," Lee said. "Richmond was strong down the middle so we tried to attack from the sides."
This was the Hornets' second straight trip to regionals. They were 2-1 a year ago but failed to advance to the semis.
They allowed only four goals all season, and goalie Luke Timmons, one of twoOlympic Development Program travel players on the Hornets, was outstanding.
The Hornets' other ODP travel player is center-midfielder A. J. Lee.
The Columbia squad benefited from an ideal tournament draw.
The Hornets faced a tough Northampton (Pa.) Lasers team in Thursday's July 4 opener and beat them, 1-0. Then they drew two easy opponents Friday, beating West Virginia, 5-0, and New Hampshire, 13-0.
"That first Friday game is usually tough to recover for," Lee said. "It was at 8:30 a.m., and I was proud of the team's maturity because it elected to skip Thursday night's fireworks display so it could go to bed by 9:30."
The team didn't have a chance to get overconfident after winning its first three games because the players knew how tough Richmond would be in Game 4. The Hornets have played Richmond the past two seasons, splitting two games.
"The draw worked really well for us," Lee said. "Everything was just right."
In addition to Timmons at goal, Lee at center-midfield and Barnes at forward, other key players included sweeper Bobby Landolt, midfielder Peter Backman, fullback Brian Fogarty, forward Brian West, forward Teddy Zingman and stopper Mike McDonald.
Other players included forwards SpencerAdamson, Aron Shea and Matt Stevenson, fullbacks Andrew Bednarzik and Luke Tourtlott and midfielder Ben Stevenson.
"We don't have any stars as such and we try not to emphasize who scores, but we just hang in there," Lee said. "We're still numb from winning. In another week we'll have a picnic to celebrate."
Other Maryland boys teams that won included the 12-and-under Bethesda Dragons, 14-and-under Bethesda Wizards and 15-and-under Potomac Silver Streak.
Lee, 40, is from Guyana and has lived in the United States for only nine years. The Hornets have played together for four years.
The only other countyboys team in the tournament, the 16-and-under Columbia Crew, also performed well but failed to make the semis despite winning two of its three games.
The Crew lost to Wetherfield, Conn., 2-1, in the opener. Then it beat Buffalo, 1-0, and Maine, 2-0.
Wetherfield won thebracket with a 2-0-1 record.
First-year Crew coach David Kelley was pleased with his team's performance and already is looking forwardto next year.
"This was a revamped team that had lost several of its stronger players to other teams when I took over," Kelley said.
Rehan Gill scored the winning goal against Buffalo. Keever Frye andRenard Brown scored against Maine.
Goalie Russell Payne, an ODP travel player, was outstanding at goal.
Some of the team's other strong players were midfielders Jason Yancey, Matt McNeeley, Gian PauloEinardi, sweeper Dan Farabaugh, fullbacks Keith Nelka and Alex Dennoand John Campbell who played several positions.
The Crew, Maryland Cup champs, were 17-2-2 for the season.
Three Columbia girls teams also played in the regional tournament.
The Columbia Spirit 13-and-under team won its first game, 10-0, over Maine -- to stretch itswinning streak to 15 games -- but lost, 2-1, to Connecticut and, 4-1, to Braddock Road, Va.
The Spirit finished the season with a 15-5record.