Simply put, Saturday's Maryland JuCo Region XX men's soccer semifinal between Anne Arundel and Montgomery-Rockville was a case of a good team getting beat by an even better one.
The Pioneers had adequatespeed, a good blend of offensive and defensive talent and two provengoalkeepers.
But the Knights' explosive speed, precision passing attack and cohesive defensive unit proved too much for Anne Arundel for the secondtime in less than two weeks in a 2-0 shutout at Catonsville College on Saturday.
"We didn't play badly at all," said Anne Arundel coach Ken Wolf, adding that all the problems came in the first half.
The Pioneers defeated Allegheny of Pennsylvania, 1-0, Wednesday to reach the semifinal round, but they paid dearly for their early sluggishness 10 minutes into Saturday's contest.
Sophomore midfielder Steve Gallant used a stiff breeze to help bend a corner kick over the head of keeper Charlie Davie and into the upper right corner of the nets.
"That corner kick should have been caught. I think he (Gallant) caught Charlie cheating. It was just one of those unfortunate situations," Wolf explained.
Sophomore defender Barry Connor said, "They just came out intense in the first half, and we were kind of dead. Plus, we were going into the wind, and they just took it to us."
Anne Arundel kept the defending regional champs at bay for the next 25 minutes of the second half, until lightning-quick sweeper Paul Dowell stole a pass in the offensive half of the field and touched a delicate lead pass to his sweeper, who went one-on-one with Davie (11 saves). The freshman thwarted the attack with a brilliant kick save.
Less than six minutes into the second half, the Knights' (14-4-2 before yesterday's final) explosiveness was displayed once more in the form of Festus George.
The long, angular speed merchant took a seeing-eye pass from Dowell outside of the 18-yard line, took a couple of dribbles and pounded a low left-footed shot toward the left post.
Davie appeared to be in the right position to stop the blistering shot, but somehow the ball managed to squirt by him and into the back of the goal.
Said Wolf, "Even if you have just one guy like him (George), you'll always have someone to create dangerous opportunities. Thatwas one of our main weaknesses against them, team speed.
"We havegood speed, but we don't have one that can really turn it on like they do."
Rather than hang their heads in disgust, the Pioneers tookthe kickoff and went on the attack. Connor's crossing pass landed onthe head of Stu Weisshaar. Unfortunately, his attempt sailed inches over the crossbar.
After 30 minutes of rough-and-tumble physical action, Anne Arundel once again put the Rockville defense to the test.
With 9:40 left in the game, Weisshaar fed Jody Haslip just insideof the 18. The freshman striker (16 goals, including the game-winnerin quarterfinals) clocked a right-footer that headed for the inner left post. Knight net-minder Michael Bafitis (six saves) stretched outto the limit and punched the shot away, slamming the door shut on the Pioneers' comeback attempt.
"I thought we played well today. We just didn't finish, and they did," said Connor, who was selected to play in yesterday's regional All-Star game.
Montgomery outshot the Pioneers by a 14-9 margin.
"By and large, with the amount of freshmen that we had on our team this year, I think we had a pretty good season," Wolf said.