Elliott gives UMBC pick-me-up Ex-Calvert Hall star assists 5-1 start COLLEGE SOCCER

September 28, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

The way Pete Caringi sees it, the men's soccer team at UMBC did not need a savior. But when Rob Elliott joined the Retrievers last month, Caringi could not help but envision his team moving to a higher level, with Elliott directing much of the traffic.

After all, the Retrievers had just inherited one of the Baltimore area's most celebrated players of the past seven years.

"It's not like I was looking for Robbie to be the player who's going to come in and turn everything around," said Caringi, UMBC's third-year coach, whose team was coming off a 12-9 season and a semifinal loss to Campbell in the Big South Tournament.

"But you're talking about a player who's been very successful and has so much experience," Caringi added. "Last year, we had a good team, but we didn't have that one player who could put the ball in the goal when we really needed it. And we were a little too predictable."

Not anymore. Elliott's arrival, after a year in which he sat out after transferring from Loyola, has had plenty to do with the changes.

First of all, the Retrievers are off to a 5-1 start, having just dropped their first decision to Campbell on Saturday. Secondly, unlike last year, when the Retrievers offense revolved around J. J. Kremer and Bobby Wagner, UMBC is hurting opposing defenses from numerous angles.

Nine players already have scored. The foursome of Elliott (three goals, three assists), Kremer (4, 3), Joe Bailey (2, 4) and Wagner (five goals) has given opponents the biggest headaches.

"I really like playing with these guys, because we don't have to depend on one person to carry the load. No individual is going to carry you through the season," said Elliott, 22. "A lot of pressure has been taken off me."

Not that Elliott, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior forward, doesn't relish the pressure. He's excelled with it on the soccer field for years. By the time he was 16, he already was an uncommonly quick, instinctive player with a blend of ball-control and shooting skills that college coaches could not miss.

That year, Elliott was the only non-Howard County player on the Columbia City United 16-and-under team that won a national championship. By then, he also was establishing other standards at Calvert Hall. Over four, terrific years for the Cardinals, Elliott scored 63 goals, recorded a school-record 38 assists and was the catalyst behind four MSA A Conference titles and a 71-4 record. After his senior season in 1988, he was The Sun's Player of the Year.

"I matured at light speed there. He [Calvert Hall coach Bill Karpovich] tests your character and builds your character. He demands more of you," said Elliott, who was selected the next summer to play on the East squad at the U.S. Olympic Festival.

Elliott went on to attend Loyola on a scholarship. He scored 67 points in his first two seasons. In his junior year, though, injuries and academic problems took Elliott's career on a detour.

Five games into the season, he suffered a third-degree separated shoulder that made walking and breathing painful. That put Elliott on the shelf for the season. Watching the Greyhounds suffer through a 12-8-2 year -- their worst in 12 years under coach Bill Sento -- added to his frustration.

Eventually, academic troubles forced Elliott to regroup at Essex Community College in the spring of 1992. After earning some credits there, he transferred to UMBC and worked out with the Retrievers, also playing on a non-paying basis with the Baltimore Bays to stay sharp.

"He [Elliott] is fitting in real well here," Wagner said. "We know what kind of player and explosive scorer he is. Even though this is his first year here, we look up to him. We know what he's done."

"He's matured as a student. One-on-one, he's still one of the better players in the area," Caringi said. "And he's never come across like the kind of person who is caught up in his stats. If anything, I want him to score a little more."

Elliott agrees. After a two-goal, two-assist performance in the first half of the opener against Charleston Southern, he has managed just one goal and one assist.

"I've had a lot more chances than my stats show. My teammates have given me great opportunities to score," said Elliott, who wants to play professionally. "I still have a long way to go to get back to my peak."

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