Gilman finds success with new brand of football Gridiron tradition makes way for soccer

October 27, 1992|By Marc Bouchard | Marc Bouchard,Contributing Writer

There's a new sport being played at Gilman this fall. It's called soccer.

Gilman, a school that has historically emphasized football over soccer, has suddenly found itself competing with the Maryland Scholastic Association's best soccer teams.

The Greyhounds, who finished with an 0-14-1 record last season, are 8-5-2 and preparing for the MSA playoffs.

Second-year coach John Tucker says he's pleased, but not surprised, with the team's resurgence.

"Our kids have worked extremely hard and they deserve everything they get," said Tucker. "In this game, if you play hard and work at it, you can be pretty good. Our kids are an example of that.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of them. After being 0-14-1 last year, they had every reason to give it up, but they came back strong and worked harder than ever."

Tucker, who played football, basketball and lacrosse at Archbishop Curley and became an All-America lacrosse player at Johns Hopkins, is quick to credit assistant coaches Steve McNamara and Angelo Panzetta with the turnaround.

"Those two guys have made all the difference in the world," said Tucker. "They're terrific coaches. I'd be lost without them."

McNamara, who played and coached soccer at UMBC, struggled with Tucker through last year's winless season, but saw a bright future for the Greyhounds.

"Last year, we were really bad," said McNamara. "We had to teach the kids some very basic things. But we did see some improvement. We lost six of our last seven games by one goal, so we knew we were getting better."

This season, the Greyhounds have been the surprise of the MSA, winning four of their first five games, and, with two games left, assuring themselves of a winning record. The highlight of the season was a 1-0 win over eighth-ranked John Carroll.

"We're not the most talented team in the league," said McNamara. "We just work hard. If we don't work hard, we don't win."

Panzetta, a former Baltimore Blast player, said he became instantly aware of Gilman's work habits.

"These kids work really hard," said Panzetta. "When I first started coaching here in August, the thing that impressed me the most was how hard they work."

The work has not gone unrewarded.

"This year, everyone is looking forward to playing," said senior forward Rob Carr. "Everyone has become a soccer player, rather than an athlete playing Gilman soccer."

"A lot of people worked over the summer to improve their skills," said senior goalie Blake McCallister. "No one wanted what happened last year to happen again."

Senior fullback Ferris Mudarris said the players weren't the only ones who worked hard to turn the program around.

"Congratulations has to go to the coaches," said Mudarris. "If I was one of them, I would have given up on us a long time ago. But they stuck with us."

Gilman's resurgence has not gone unnoticed by other area coaches.

"Their skill level is the best I've seen at Gilman since I've been coaching," said Curley coach Pep Perella, who coached at Towson Catholic for two seasons before coming to Curley six years ago. "They've always been good athletes and strong, physical players, but this year, they've combined that with talent."

Tucker is confident that quality soccer can survive at a school rich in football tradition.

"Football has a great tradition [at Gilman] and it's always going to be the top fall sport," said Tucker. "But I think we have our place and we'll do fine."

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