Fine finish to a small start

UMBC's McElligott closes on all-time scoring record

College Soccer

October 13, 2004|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Derek McElligott never believed he needed any fancy high school soccer labels when he moved to Baltimore from London at the age of 11.

UMBC's preseason All-American had learned all the nuances of the game in a country where the sport is revered and played with an intense passion.

So it was no big deal to McElligott when he enrolled at Greater Grace Christian Academy, a rather obscure Christian school on Moravia Park Drive. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound forward knew he could always enhance his skills at the club level.

"I never really worried about where I would end up," said McElligott, who led Greater Grace to three national Christian school titles. "I was going to a great high school and wasn't concerned about all that stuff about it not being a strong soccer school."

McElligott was right.

UMBC coach Pete Caringi, who discovered McElligott at Greater Grace before other college coaches did, said, "I knew I had to have him. He was very quick and a natural goal scorer."

Caringi called McElligott a "typical American success story, coming from a small high school to make it big at the Division I collegiate level."

McElligott built on that success Saturday at UMBC with a two-goal, one-assist performance in an important 3-0 Northeast Conference victory over Vermont. McElligott's scoring show not only ended a four-game losing streak for the Retrievers (5-4-1 overall, 1-3-0 in the league), but it enabled the senior to become UMBC's all-time leading scorer at the Division I level.

He broke Giuliano Celenza's record of 100 points (41 goals, 18 assists), though he needed four years to do what Celenza did in two.

McElligott has 105 points (47 goals, 11 assists) and needs 20 points to surpass Ray Ford as the school's overall all-time scoring leader. McElligott has seven regular-season games left in his career, and should UMBC reach the NEC tournament, he'd have as many as three more. He needs five goals to pass Ford's career mark of 51.

UMBC will play at Navy tonight at 7.

McElligott said he hasn't focused on any of the scoring records.

"I'm more worried about how we're playing," he said. "Actually, I think we're playing great. I just feel we've been unlucky and I'm just waiting for the turnaround."

As for those people who may have doubted his ability because he came from a small high school with little soccer background, McElligott gave them a lot to think about in his first collegiate game.

He made a rather startling debut, scoring three goals in a 3-1 victory over Iona in 2001.

"I felt like I had a couple things to prove," said McElligott, who leads the Retrievers in goals this season with eight.

"It's not so much that people doubted me. They were waiting to see what I had. I think going in there and scoring three goals relaxed me. I knew I belonged at this level and I didn't have to worry about what people thought."

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