'For real' Knights start 4-0, gaining longed-for respect Girls soccer: This young, improving team has beaten two prospective county titlists, which means no one's thinking, 'Oh, just Parkville.'

September 17, 1998|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

For Parkville, this fall is all about building a reputation.

The Knights have never been a power in Baltimore County girls soccer. Two years ago, they finished 6-8. Last year, they improved to 8-3-1 but did not beat a contender.

But this fall, at 4-0, the Knights have beaten two of the three preseason favorites in the county title race -- Franklin and Loch Raven.

"We want to beat the big teams that have always thought of us as 'Oh, they're just Parkville.' " said striker Stephanie Curnoles. "We don't want to be 'Oh, Parkville.' We want to be 'Oh, Parkville. They're tough.' We want respect."

The Knights are earning that respect -- one game at a time.

"They're for real," said Franklin coach George Wagner, whose team lost 4-3 to the Knights in the season opener. "They play a controlled game with good passing. They spread the defense and attack from the outside. I can't remember the last time we gave up four goals. I was very impressed with them."

Edging Franklin was a good start, but last week's 3-1 win over then-No. 15 Loch Raven sent an even stronger message.

"Loch Raven is our biggest rival," said Curnoles. "We'd never beaten them, but this year, we outplayed them and we deserved to win. It made our season."

Beating Franklin and Loch Raven in the first five days of the season certainly made the rest of the county take notice, but the Knights' turnaround began last year. What sparked the change depends on who tries to explain it.

The players give most of the credit to coach Bryan Rothstein, who took over the team last fall. Rothstein, however, gives all the credit to the players.

The truth is in the combination.

"When I got here, the talent was here. They just didn't know it," said Rothstein, who also has coached at Boys' Latin and Friends. "I changed their style to a give-and-go type game, but mostly they had to gain confidence."

That's where the players say Rothstein, whom they dubbed Coach Rusty, has helped.

"He builds us up and makes us feel good about ourselves," said center halfback Stephanie Gnau. "He always tells us if we give 100 percent, he'll give 100 percent, and that's what he does."

Rothstein made adjustments, moving some girls to different positions, but most players have club experience and know the game.

Strikers Curnoles and Kristen Habicht are the top scorers so far with seven points each. Gnau is the midfield mainstay. Stopper Emily Anastasia and sweeper Lisa Tsimbidis are flanked by backs Lindsey Frisch and Candy Burkhardt. The Knights also start three freshmen, including goalie Heather Rock, an Olympic Development Program player.

Depth is a bonus. Everyone plays. Rothstein runs a new midfield every five to seven minutes.

"Our secret is we're deep and we're skilled throughout," said Rothstein. "We should be able to play with any team -- not that we're going to win every game. But there's not going to be a game that we're going to be slaughtered in."

The Knights have more challenges ahead, including playing this weekend's Bel Air Tournament without seven starters. All are band members who will be marching in the Miss America parade

in Atlantic City.

More important, however, is the race to win the county's Division II championship and earn a berth in the county title game. Franklin and Loch Raven were good wins, but both are in Division I. Last year, the Knights also were unbeaten early but fell to Division II rivals Perry Hall and Hereford.

The division title could come down to the Oct. 2 clash between the Knights and the defending county champ, No. 10 Hereford.

"They will be an excellent matchup for Hereford," said Wagner, whose team lost to the Bulls, 2-0, last week.

"After we played Hereford, their coach, Steve Power, said he thought we'd probably meet again for the county championship. I told him, 'You're going to have to play better against Parkville than you played against us, or they'll take it to you.'"

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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