North Carroll United didn't need to improve much to win this year's Central Maryland Soccer Association Under-15 boys championship.

On the other hand, North Carroll's under-13 girls Aftershock squad had to come from a long way off to make it to CMSA's winner’s circle.


But while they took different roads, both of them ended up there.

Jason Safley and his assistant coaches Bill Meredith and Julie Boden had no real idea how well their girls would do until early August's Harford Football Club's (FSC) Kick-off Classic.

They did have 10 returners from their fall 2016 team, but in eight CMSA matches and three tournaments, that squad won only four times.

Safley though, says last season was nevertheless important and beneficial in those girls' development as players.

"We lost a lot of one-goal games, but we stayed the course,” Safley said. “The girls developed their skills and learned other things they could use at the next level. That was the dividend.”

However, this year was a different story. It began when the better-prepared girls compiled a 2-0-1 record and won the Kickoff championship.

"That result surprised me,” Safley said. “I was pretty surprised at the progress we had made in a short time.I knew then we would be better than I'd thought.”

Later in August, Aftershock was even more impressive in going 5-0-1 and winning the Gettysburg Battlefield Blast tournament.

In October, the locals went 6-0-1 to win the Dillsburg (Pa.) Dual Shootout.

The girls' improvement was apparent almost from the beginning of their CMSA campaign.

Aftershock tied Sacred Heart/Glyndon 1-1 in September's opening CMSA match, but then it won four straight. The toughest might have been the 2-0 win over Overlea-based Evolution FC in its third match.

“It was a very physical game, but our girls shrugged off the physicality and didn't change their style,” Safley said. “They weren't rattled or intimidated; it was a very impressive performance.”

After a 4-1 win in its next match, Aftershock shut out its last four opponents, going 3-0-1. It allowed only three goals in eight CMSA matches this fall while scoring 16. The girls had five shutouts.

Overall, they scored 52 goals in their 24 matches and allowed only nine.


"We had no trouble stopping goals or scoring goals most of the time," Safley said.

And they had little trouble winning. Their overall record was 19-0-5.

He intends to keep the same girls next fall and plans to play the same sort of possession soccer they played this year. He feels that style will prepare them better for high school competition. And because these girls are showing so much potential, Safley plans to show off their talents to coaches from area public and private schools.

"We'll probably play some showcase tournaments now that we know what we have," he said.

The North Carroll boys went 5-2-1 and finished second as an under-14 CMSA team last year. They were close but not close enough.

This season, coach John Zeigenfuse had to replace six players who had moved on.

His team opened with August's Casa Tournament in Hanover where it finished third with a 2-1-1 record. But it broke loose later that month when it won its under-15 championship at the Gettysburg Battlefield Blast tournament with a sparkling 7-0 record.

"We felt pretty good after that. The new players made the team better than last year,” Zeigenfuse said .”We knew we'd be better even though we didn't know what the league would be like.”

North Carroll United opened on Sept. 9 with a 4-2 win over Cockeysville after jumping to a 4-0 lead. It played a scoreless tie with Bel Air in game two, although its coach says that shouldn't have happened.

"They only got on our side of the field three times the whole game. We got 30 shots on goal and couldn't get one in," he said.

They beat Sacred Heart/Glyndon 4-2 in the third match. That was particularly satisfying to the players because Glyndon beat them in last year's match and finished first.

After two easy shutout wins, North Carroll beat a tough Lutherville/Timonium team 3-1 and then edged Freedom 2-1. The local kids finished the season with a rousing 10-0 romp over Fallston.

When the season was over, North Carroll had moved up that one crucial spot in the CMSA standings, finishing first with a 7-0-1 record. Lutherville/Timonium was second at 6-1-1, thanks to North Carroll's win over that opponent in their crucial meeting .

The local team's record is somewhat amazing because Zeigenfuse rarely practiced with a full squad. The older players' first obligation was to their high school teams. One the other hand though, Zeigenfuse and Mike Yaede, his assistant coach, got to work a lot with the younger players and devote extra time to their development.

While it rarely got to practice as a unit, United played like one.

Goalkeeper Connor Yaede and defenders Matt Reynolds, Nic Maco, Carter Wohlschlegel, and Will Cellitto were a strong back line unit during their team's CMSA season. Logan Zeigenfuse, Abram Castanzo, Nick Antoshak, and Garrett Kane were the midfielders. The strikers were Hunter McQuaid, Aiden Neal and Brayan Manchame’.

Connor Ryan and Alex Cook played a number of positions.

All of his players will go next year with most going on to high school programs. But they and their coach will have a great memory of their short time together as a team.