River Hill's Stara on verge of 300th win

Coach could hit milestone against Atholton today

Boys soccer

High Schools

September 24, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

River's Hill's boys soccer game against Atholton today could be one to remember for Hawks coach Bill Stara.

A River Hill win would give Stara his 300th victory in just his 21st season of coaching.

He would follow on the heels of Severna Park coach Don Gregg, who achieved 300 wins last week, and become just the second public school coach in Maryland to achieve 300 victories. Retired Calvert Hall coach Bill Karpovich's teams won 422 games, the most ever by a state high school coach.

Stara's record of 299-35-15, however, is the best winning percentage of any high school coach in state history.

He compiled a 206-22-10 record at Centennial from 1982 through 1995 before helping open River Hill in 1996, where his record is 93-13-5.

His teams have won 10 state titles, three at River Hill and seven at Centennial, and that's the best mark in state history. His teams also won 14 regional titles and 11 Howard County titles and went unbeaten four times.

"It will be 300 wins for the players, not for me," Stara said. "I didn't know how many games away I was. It means two things: You've been around good people that buy into your program, and you're kinda old."

Stara, 45, was an All-America goalkeeper at Behrend College, an NAIA school in Erie, Pa. He has never been much for keeping statistics. What he enjoys is the intellectual challenge of building just the right system to fit the talent that he has.

"Some years we've had talented kids, and some years just average kids who believed in the system and were overachievers," said Stara, a science teacher. "I like to build a system that plays to the kids' strengths and hides their weaknesses. The greatest thing about high school athletes is that if the kids believe in the program they can achieve almost anything."

He has had many memorable wins and mentioned his 200th win as one. "Not because it was my 200th, but because the way we played was special." The Hawks trailed Hammond 1-0 but rallied to win.

He also remembers his second state championship victory at Centennial because it came despite having graduated a lot of seniors.

And he remembers the state championship game that the Hawks lost his first season at River Hill. The team started five freshmen and two sophomores, and the goalkeeper was a converted field player who took over after the starter was injured three games into the season.

One game he did not mention, but which had to be a highlight for the River Hill program, was beating Centennial in 1997 to end the Eagles' 47-game unbeaten streak and 32-game league winning streak.

"We have had lots of ups and downs and a host of characters," he said. "The kids make it worthwhile. They mean much more than the 300 wins. I've had a good experience with them, and though I can't please everyone, I just try to do it right. If you're not doing something right, kids wouldn't buy into it."

He said he's been lucky to have worked with two outstanding athletic directors, Jim Welsch at Centennial and Don Van Deusen at River Hill.

Will he hang around long enough to catch Karpovich at 422 wins?

"Karp did a great job at Calvert Hall," Stara said, "and if I'm ever fortunate enough to coach that long and catch him, great. If not, that's OK, too."

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