Freedom Soccer Club girls coach Kara Goff has trouble recalling the championships her Freedom 11-under Xtreme team has won over its three years of play.
She thinks instead about what she can do to improve her girls' soccer skills and prepare them for high school varsity competition. But when she recently looked up her girls' accomplishments since they began play as an 8-under team, she produced quite a resume.
Her Freedom Soccer Club Xtreme played in the Central Maryland Soccer Association (CMSA) for three years, winning two championships there and finishing second two other times.
As an under-10 team in CMSA last spring, Xtreme played up in an under-11 league and finished fifth with a 2-2-2 record. The kids have also won one indoor soccer title and finished second another time during their three wintertime indoor seasons.
This fall, Goff moved Xtreme to the EDP soccer league after its good run in CMSA. The EDP is considered by some to be the more competitive loop.
However, she felt her team was up to the challenge given the record it had amassed. Most of her girls were quite experienced soccer players by this time. Six of the 14 have been with Xtreme from the beginning, and they formed a seasoned core group.
There were only three new players to work into the team this fall season, and two of those were from other Freedom Soccer Club teams.
Goff hoped to get the season off to good start when she took her Xtreme to Baltimore County in late August to play in the Lutherville-Timonium Soccer Club's Challenge Cup soccer tournament.
"Coming in, I'd never seen any of those teams before, so it was hard to judge how we might do," Goff said. "I hoped we would be able to compete."
While she wanted her team to do well in the tournament and maybe win it, winning wasn't the real goal.
Coaching a Premier club team, Goff feels her first priority is to develop strong players who will some day play for their high school teams.That means not only playing them against the best competition to develop soccer skills; it also means character development.
"I tell the girls that they have to get better if the want to play in high school," Goff said. "But they also must learn to be good sports, win with class and lose with dignity."
They got to do all of those things in the LTSC tournament, but the "lose with dignity" part didn't come until the very last. Freedom played in the under-11 Premier Division's "B" Bracket.
The tournament opened Aug. 25 with Freedom pitted against the Harford FC United Fire.The game proved frustrating even though Freedom would finally prevail 1-0 on a second-half goal.
"We had opportunities to score, but we couldn't finish.We definitely played very well," Goff said. "We controlled the ball and the game. The final score doesn't represent how we dominated."
Her Xtreme had been perfect to that point. It was 3-0, had scored five goals and allowed none.
This season, Goff had four of her six most experienced players back on defense and another one playing as a defensive midfielder. And that was paying off.
"Our defense is really solid, and that really helps us," Goff said. "Our girls have really developed the ability to slow down opponents, get them to make a mistake and then take the ball away from them."
Xtreme would face LTSC Purple in a rematch for the championship. But Purple won 3-0 behind a singular weapon.
"They had a goalie who could punt the ball to midfield," Goff said. "I've never seen an 11-year-old girl do that. They scored two goals because we didn't get back on defense. Another goal bounced off one of our players. We had opportunities to score, but we couldn't convert.They are definitely a really good team."
Since then, Xtreme has played three games in the EDP. It won twice by a combined score of 5-1 but dropped the most recent game 3-1. When things go wrong and the team loses, Goff says she uses the loss as an object lesson.
She said, "when we lose, I and they discuss what we learned from that and what we need to do to improve."