It didn't take long for Todd Quenzer to realize that he had a special soccer team. It was three years ago in late-November that his 2007 CC Strikers, playing as a team for the first time, wrapped up an 8-0 season to win the under-8 C Division championship in the Central Maryland Soccer Association's under-8 C Division.
Quenzer said that even then, he and assistant coaches Tad Norfolk and Chris North knew they had something special in these players. Not only were those kids good; they had worked very hard to improve themselves. They were committed to soccer.
"We realized that we had special kids who would work hard and love the game," Quenzer said.
It's been the same every year since.The team, which is part of the Deer Park/Sandymount-based Central Carroll Soccer Club, has been an absolute soccer terror. Almost any rec coach would be proud to have just one first place trophy from his team displayed in a prominent place of honor in the living room.
But since 2014, Quenzer has taken home enough of these things to fill a new living room. After winning the Lebanon Valley Blast Tournament's under-11 title two weekends ago, his team has now won 10 championships in league and tournament play since it first took the field in fall, 2014.
This includes at least one league championship each year from 2014 to the present.
Quenzer credits a lot of his success to having virtually the same players he had the first day they stepped on the field. Eleven boys remain from the 2014 team, and that gives them a huge advantage in terms of cohesion.
"It helps when you can keep the same core.It helps grow your team. They grow a bond. They play off each other very well, and they come to count on each other," Quenzer explained.
The fact that he has virtually the same team he started with is helpful in other ways.Of course they work hard on fundamentals such as dribbling and passing. But they can also go beyond that stage of individual development when they practice.
"You can become more technical on offense and defense and make drills more complex. You can focus on team strategy and tactics and work on (reacting to) individual situations," Quenzer explained.
The coach says he doesn't recall any one championship as being more memorable or valuable to him than were the others. To him, championships aren't the important thing anyway.
He says he takes his pleasure not from the trophies but from simply being around and working with the kids on game weekends and during practice two nights per week.
He also appreciates the help he gets from the players' families.
"The parents are all very supportive of the team, and we couldn't do anything without them. If we didn't have them, we wouldn't be where we are now, that's for sure," he said.
This year, he has moved the Strikers to EDP — a competitive loop that covers several states — and their coach believes the youngsters are ready for that. They also need that challenge for their development. Quenzer also likes the idea that EDP allows teams to schedule extra matches with affiliated opponents in other states.
The kids now hold their own in their new league home.
Two weekends ago, they added their 10th first-place trophy when they went 4-0 to sweep the 33rd Annual Lebanon Valley SC Soccer Blast tournament in Hershey.
They beat FC Brandywine Elite 5-1 in Game 1. But the second match, against CVYSC-CV United, was a tough one. It was tied 1-1 at halftime, and the Strikers didn't break the tie until about five minutes remained in the game.
The 2-1 win put them in the semifinal match against the Electric City Shock Juniors. In a thoroughly wild game with a score more like that of a lacrosse match. the Strikers won 8-4.
"We led 4-1 at halftime, but they got back to 5-3 at one point," Quenzer said.
After scoring three more goals to put that game away, Central Carroll faced CVYSC-CV United in a rematch for the tournament title.
But this game was nothing like their previous one. The Strikers won 8-0.
I think the boys were excited at the prospect of getting another piece of hardware. They came out, got some early goals and never looked back," the coach said.
Quenzer hopes to keep this team together for as long as possible. He has ambitious plans for the future. He'd like to travel more with the team. In addition to scheduling out-of-state games through EDP, he'd like to take the boys to Florida to play in the Disney tournaments a year or two from now.