Rec Sports Spotlight: Aftershock piling up soccer wins

The North Carroll Aftershock under-14 girls soccer team is unbeaten in Central Maryland Soccer Association play this season after winning 19 games in 2017.
The North Carroll Aftershock under-14 girls soccer team is unbeaten in Central Maryland Soccer Association play this season after winning 19 games in 2017. (Courtesy photo)

Jason Safley has a pretty good thing going.

He coaches in the North Carroll girls travel soccer program. When his players grow out of that, he's waiting for them at Manchester Valley High School, where he coaches the junior varsity.


At that point, he has already molded the young players to his high school specifications. One thing he teaches them is the need to become all-around soccer players, not positional specialists who must either make their high school team in that position or become a reserve.

Judging from his North Carroll Aftershock under-14 team’s record over the last two years, he’s also taught the girls how to win.

Last year, the girls went undefeated.

This year they are unbeaten in league play, with one tournament victory and a finals appearance in another.

The team was formed in 2016 as a U-13 squad, and those kids had a lot to learn. Safley and assistant coaches Julie Boden and Bill Meredith had their hands full as their girls struggled to become competitive.

“We played 25 games and only won four,” Safley said. “That was tough.”

But 2017 was a turnaround. The Aftershock went 19-0-5.

They won the Central Maryland Soccer Association’s Premier League. North Carroll also swept three tournaments — the HFC Kickoff Classic, Gettysburg Battlefield Blast, and the Dillsburg Dual Shootout.

This year, the coaches had to replace four players who had moved on.

They had no trouble finding the replacements, even though they do not actively recruit. The team’s successes are its best recruiting tool.

Most of its 16 girls are from Manchester-Hampstead area.

The team has continued to win this year.

It returned to Gettysburg and made it all the way to the finals before losing. It also dominated the Dillsburg Shootout for the second year in a row.

The Aftershock went 7-0, scoring 13 goals and allowing only one in the tournament.


They’re 4-0 in CMSA play so far, and 1-0 in an Eastern Development Program league.

Safley said he signed up for the latter because of its competitiveness.

"I thought at first that if we got out of there with a .500 record, we’d be in good shape,” he said. “But now, I don’t see why we can’t finish among the top three teams.”

The Aftershock's success starts on defense and works up through the strikers, Safley said.

Safley feels North Carroll is successful, however, for other reasons beyond their ability to pass, shoot and dribble.

“They show tremendous heart, even at practice where they don’t give less than 100 percent,” the coach said. “They have as strong a work ethic as any team I’ve ever coached.”

He calls the Aftershock “a special team.” And new players are quickly absorbed into that team ethic.

“Any new girl who comes in is influenced by the core of the team and becomes as consistent as they are,” he said.“That is definitely good from a confidence standpoint.”

All the winning helps, too.

But North Carroll’s coaches aren’t in this just to pile up wins in youth soccer leagues and tournaments. They want to prepare their girls for high school.

That means not only teaching them skills, but also the ability to use those skills in a versatile manner.

“I have 16 soccer players. They have to learn a position, but I also move them around. They have the ability to play anywhere,” Safley said. “You want to try out for high school as a soccer player, not just as a specialist. You need to be able to play elsewhere.”

This allows the player to get on the field in another spot if her prime position is already occupied.

When those girls do hit Manchester Valley, Safley has much more flexibility as a high school coach.

Safley is so happy with his team that he doesn’t want t give it up when the girls move into high school. He'll have a new emphasis for them at that point.

“I want to keep it together as long as I can,” he said. “I want to give them exposure to college coaches by entering them in showcase tournaments”

But he also enjoys coaching these girls who work hard in practice and play hard in their games.

“They leave it all out on the field,” Safley said, “and that’s all any coach can ask.”