Joan Fair and Bill Pannell each coached North Carroll rec soccer teams that won postseason championships last year after being runners-upduring the regular season.
Each is on the way to a regular-seasontitle in this year's in-house program. Both hope last year's finish is not reversed.
"The biggest problem is keeping (players) focused," said Joan Fair, who coaches Bachman Valley Inn. Bachman is cruising atop the NorthCarroll under-12 division with a 5-0-1 mark.
"I've been blessed. What can I say?" she said, laughing.
Nonetheless, she reminds her holdovers from last year that they knocked off the first-place team in that postseason, and that it could happen to them now.
Bachman edged second-place Long's Florist, 2-1, Saturday at North Carroll Middle to move closer to the title with three games remaining.
Chris Wineke, who scored both goals for Bachman, has joined other front-liners Jeff Allen, Chris Baker and Brian Gibson to create a potent offense, which has been a strong point for the team this year, Fair said.
"(Besides scoring), the people are really versatile. That's anotherreason we've been successful," she added, noting that some of her front-liners are also good on defense.
Typical of that versatility is the fact that she has three solid goalkeepers.
"Usually you can't get one kid to play there," she said.
Fair gets coaching help from her son Paul and fellow North Carroll High junior-varsity booter Jeff Gibson, along with Chris Price.
But she possesses coaching talent of her own, as evidenced by three soccer titles
in the past two years.
Pannell is also on top of the world, not to mention the North Carroll under-10 division, which his Pizza Garden squad rules with a 6-0 mark.
Saturday at North Carroll Middle, the team easily handled second-place North Carroll Physical Therapy, 6-0.
His son Eric and Ryan Cardone scored twice each, and Chris Barrow and Brian Smith each had one goal.
Pizza Garden has scored 43 goals this season and allowed only one -- that on a penalty kick in the opening game.
Not surprisingly, Pannell observed, "I'm fortunate to have an excellent all-around team."
Because it is so strong, he often plays his best attackers on defense the first half before unleashing them inthe second.
He did this Saturday, and five of his team's goals came after intermission.
Pannell says his main job is preparing players to move up to the under-12 group.
He stresses skills and teamwork, rather than encouraging solo --es at the
"I want them to play as a team. I want them passing," he said.
While Pannell doesn't want his team "to get a big head" entering the playoffs, he said he feels he has a special group of youngsters.
"I wouldn't mind taking them and playing them against a travel team to see how they face up," he said.
Because the Westminster rec soccer program's under-10 division doesn't have a postseason, Kickers coach Ben Hicks doesn't have to worry about it.
But that's OK, because the regular season has provided enough thrills for him and his 8- and 9-year-olds.
In five games, all wins, the Kickers have outscored the opposition, 24-2, including an 8-0 verdict Saturday in which they scored four times in the game's first two minutes.
Hicks had a little trouble remembering who scored all those goals Saturday. But he could tell you exactly who had assists.
Nick Stillwell had five. Andhe, along with David Wynne and Jared Magee, were among the goal-scorers.
Hicks is particularly happy about how the goals were scored.
"Nobody dribbled straight downfield to score. All eight were made after passes," he said.
He considers his youngsters' passing and teamwork their biggest strengths and adds that others also have taken notice.
"The referee told me Saturday that he's never seen young kids pass the ball like they do," said Hicks.
Hicks also complimented goalkeeper David Buss, who has been a big factor in stifling the opposition.
"I don't think I have the best athletic talent," he said, citing the Stars and Blast, who also compete in the division, as having team talent at least equal to his own. "But we really play hardas a team."
Hicks said he plans to help form an under-10 team with players from his and other Westminster squads and give them a shot at indoor soccer thiswinter.