By midway through the first half Friday, Anne Arundel Community College assistant soccer coach Rob Fereday stood on the sidelines, completely amazed.
It wasn't that his Pioneers were dazzling him with their stellar play. In fact, it was the complete opposite.
Two defensive miscues had the Pioneers behind, 2-0, against visiting Montgomery College Rockville, and they had been outshot, 6-0, with a 3-0 corner kick deficit.
"Sometimes, I can't figure them out,"said Fereday, who watched the Pioneers (11-8 overall, 7-5 in the state's junior college league) eventually lose, 2-1.
The Pioneers, who were outshot, 16-11, for the game and trailed only 5-3 in corner kicks, got the better of the Knights (12-4-2, 10-1-1) in the second half. They had a 7-6 shots advantage in the period but failed to capitalize on four solid scoring opportunities in the last 10 minutes.
Broadneck graduate Kevin Chapman's 12-yard direct kick was snagged by Knights' keeper Michael Bafitis (five saves) with 9 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the game. Less than a minute later, Arundel graduate Stu Weisshaar's 15-yarder caromed off the crossbar.
With eight minutes left, Weisshaar appeared to have headed in the game-tying goal off a corner kick from Barry Connor, but it was disallowed when officials ruled that Weisshaar had slapped it in with his hands.
Three minutes later, Bafitis smothered a header by Meade graduate Larry Sancomb at the goal mouth.
"They came out pumped, and we came out flat.That's basically what it comes down to," said Connor, an Old Mill graduate. "We both had something at stake, and they went at it from thebeginning of the game.
"In the second half, we dominated. We had the chances, but we couldn't put them away. But we only started coming back in the middle of the game, that's why we lost."
With the victory, the unranked, defending Region XX champion Knights captured first place in front of eighth-ranked runner-up Essex (10-2) in the state's JuCo conference. The Knights also gained the top seed for the regional tournament, which begins Wednesday. Essex will be the second seed and the Pioneers, fifth.
"Sometimes, like when we lost, 2-1, to (North Carolina's No. 7-ranked Brevard) last Saturday, we come out like we can beat anybody," said Fereday. "We even had a goal taken away in that game -- and we should have won. Other times, we come out like we're doing tonight."
Just 1:30 into the game, Pioneers' keeper and Southern graduate Corey Derfler (11 saves) played the ball to the feet of defender Troy Chroniger who was 10 yards away. But the Knights' Paul Dowell stole it from Chroniger and went straight in for anunassisted goal.
Chroniger's pushing foul near the top of the boxset up a direct kick just 13 minutes later that helped put the Knights ahead, 2-0.
The Knights' top scoring midfielder, Dave Gallant (17 goals, nine assists), bounced the indirect kick off the Pioneers' defensive wall, and the ball then rolled out to the right. There, Festus George (seven goals, five assists) hastily banged a right-footed bullet, which deflected off of an Anne Arundel defender before going past Derfler's right-hand side.
"Both goals were the result of elementary mistakes that never should have been made," said Fereday. "It's going to be a long night."
And that it was, for the Pioneers were without their top scorer, North County graduate Jody Haslip (15 goals, four assists), who had accumulated the league's maximum of five penalty cards (four yellows and a red) and was benched for a game.
"Rockville was just sort of hanging on at the end. We did pick up the intensity and close them down," said head coach Ken Wolf."I felt ifwe could get a goal, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak."
Yet even after Connor scored his third goal of theseason off a direct kick with 14 minutes left in the first half, thePioneers couldn't muster the intensity needed for a comeback.
"Onour home field, it's usually easier than away games, but we come up a goal short against all the good teams -- and usually they score a cheap goal like tonight," said Meade graduate Rodney DeConti, the team's second-leading scorer with eight goals and three assists. "I can usually hook up with (Jody Haslip) for a goal, but unfortunately he couldn't play."