Off-season changes score well with most coaches

September 13, 1994|By Steven Kivinski and Jeff Seidel | Steven Kivinski and Jeff Seidel,Contributing Writers

Before the soccer season started, most Baltimore-area boys soccer coaches -- from public and private schools alike -- were voicing their support for the changes made in the off-season.

More than a majority of the public-school coaches are for the open postseason tournament, saying it will help sustain the interest of more teams as the season progresses and help build a greater following of the sport.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, formerly the MSA, shuffled teams from its two conferences, raising the B Conference membership from five to 10 teams while strengthening an already highly competitive A Conference.

Mount Carmel coach Mike Naughton knows that with Boys' Latin, St. Paul's, Friends, Severn and St. Mary's joining the B Conference, it will be more difficult for his Lions, but that doesn't mean he's against it.

"I'm totally for it," said Naughton, whose team finished third in the B Conference last season behind Lutheran and B Conference champion Park School.

"Your kids only get better by playing better competition. You have to do what is best for the programs as a whole. Last year we had five teams in our league and there were 14 teams in A Conference, and it wasn't healthy."

Archbishop Curley won the final MSA A Conference title last year, and this year should fight for the first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown.

The Friars (16-0-1 last year) lost some key players from the team that topped Calvert Hall, 3-2, in the title game, but they have lots of talent back. First-team All-Metro pick Mike Bailey and second-team selections Steve Ball and Giuliano Celenza will help Curley gain several more victories.

Calvert Hall is loaded again, and Gilman also should challenge for the A Conference title.

Corey Popham -- who also kicks for Gilman's football team -- will help spark a growing Greyhounds' team. Gibbons and Mount St. Joseph both lost a lot to graduation and are rebuilding.

Boys' Latin and Friends moved from the A to the B Conference. The Lakers have a lot of talent on offense and should be a force. If Friends can overcome depth problems, it could be there, too.

For the city public schools, City College, Patterson and Poly should duel for the city title, while Southern, Mervo and Lake Clifton fight to overcome inexperience.

City, which won the title last year, has a mix of freshmen and seniors. City scored 80 goals last year, and Chris Cranson should help the Knights do more of the same this year.

Patterson and Poly also should be in the race. The Clippers field a strong offense, and inexperience should be their biggest problem. Poly should continue to improve and be in the hunt for the crown.

Dulaney and Perry Hall -- not necessarily in that order -- should once again prove to be the best among Baltimore County's larger schools while Overlea and Sparrows Point appear to be the county's premier 1A-2A schools.

"With this new crazy playoff system we all have a bunch of weeks to get ready," said Dulaney coach Craig Laferty, one of the few coaches not thrilled by the new open tournament. "We have a lot of growing to do and this should give us time to mature."

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