Top row (L-R): Alyssa Crabbe, Ashlyn Bancroft, Carmaya Bowman, Avery D'Agati, Carlie Rosewag, Sydnee Smith, Joanne Barksdale, Ella Bonney, Erin Herrold. Bottom Row: Grace Wunder, Hannah Clark, Emma Youngling, Abby Kindle, Ashley Owens, Olivia Fuller, Evyn Bass.
Top row (L-R): Alyssa Crabbe, Ashlyn Bancroft, Carmaya Bowman, Avery D'Agati, Carlie Rosewag, Sydnee Smith, Joanne Barksdale, Ella Bonney, Erin Herrold. Bottom Row: Grace Wunder, Hannah Clark, Emma Youngling, Abby Kindle, Ashley Owens, Olivia Fuller, Evyn Bass. (Courtesy photo)

The fates have sabotaged the Wildcats girls travel soccer team over the past year. But this fall, their talents brought them back.In its recently-concluded season, the North Carroll Soccer Club squad recovered from a rough fall, 2016, and went undefeated to win the Central Maryland Soccer Association’s (CMSA) Saturday division under-14 girls title.

The team goes back a good way. Some girls have been with the Wildcats since they were seven.


However, the recent directive by soccer leadership to organize teams by age instead of grade hit the Wildcats hard. They lost many players who had to move to older teams. That decision devastated the team last fall, and it won only once. Five more players moved on this past June, leaving coach Larry Smith with only nine girls as the fall season approached.

Then he got lucky when five experienced players came over from another team, boosting his numbers significantly. However, none of the five had played on offense, and they lacked training in skills such dribbling and passing.

Smith and his assistant coaches Scott Bonney and Chris Wunder felt they had a lot of work to do and set about doing it.

“We had them work on skills,” Smith said. “They learned to pass and dribble, and we gave them as many touches as possible.”

And while he could see the improvement in their play during last summer’s practices, their head coach wasn’t terribly upbeat about his girls’ chances in the upcoming fall season.

“We didn't have a whole lot of hope. If we came out of the season with a few wins, we would have been happy with that," Smith recalled.

However, that didn’t stop Smith from looking for the best competition he could find. Feeling the players would not improve by playing against so-so opponents, he requested a B classification for his team from CMSA. Then, he placed it in a Saturday division featuring both Class C and B teams.

While he expected that this would do their won-lost record no good, Smith believed it would prepare the girls better for high school play.

As it turned out, North Carroll finished first with a 6-0-2 record.

The season opened on Sept. 9 against Central Carroll and the match ended in a scoreless tie.

But the offense came alive the following week against Fallston. North Carroll, with its biggest goal output of the season, won 5-2.

“Girls scored who had never scored a goal before,” Smith said. “They realized they could play as a team.”

In their next match, the Wildcats were behind 1-0 at halftime against Hereford. But they shut Hereford out and scored three goals in the second half to win 3-1.

Smith credited his girls superior conditioning for their second half dominance. He explained that many are multi sport athletes who are usually in better shape than their opponents. In the second half of matches, his team simply wore down the others.


Game 4 saw North Carroll beat Harford Football Club (HFC) United 2-1. Smith's daughter Sydnee, the goalie, even got an assist. A strong kicker, the youngster booted the ball far downfield to a teammate who scored the tying goal. The Wildcats got the winning goal with about three minutes left in the game.

North Carroll then edged St. Ursula’s, the second-place team, 2-1.

Then came a 1-0 win over Central Carroll, the team the Wildcats had tied in the season’s opener. This was a game in which their superior depth showed.

“We were minus four girls and had to move some attackers back to defense,” the coach said. “That was probably our weakest offensive game, and I was glad to come out of that game with a win.”

Next came another easy win over Fallston, this by a 3-0 score.

“This was a well-coordinated game, defensively and offensively,” Smith said. “Their goalie kept them in the game; it could have been 7-0 or 8-0.”

The final game of the season was a 1-1 tie with HFC, the team Smith felt was closest in talent level to his own.

CMSA does not hold postseason tournaments.

“I would like to have seen that,” Smith said. “I think we would have fared well against any of the teams we faced. We could have held our own against anybody.”

Defensively, the team was top-notch, yielding only six goals in its eight games.

“On defense, we were outstanding,” Smith said. “We played a tough, physical defense, and it was hard getting the ball past us.”

Despite the influx of new players and the unsettled condition of the roster, the Wildcats won because the players quickly blended together well and developed strong teamwork, he added.

There were also other beneficial intangibles.

Said Smith: “The girls had a great attitude; they had a lot of heart, and they never gave up in any of their games.”

He will lose about half his team to graduation in June. The remainder are seventh-graders who have another year of youth soccer eligibility before hitting high school. Smith wants prepare them for high school and will again put his team in a competitive league this coming fall.

“I don't want to play down,” Smith said. “It’s always beneficial for kids who want to play in high school soccer to compete at a higher level so they are forced to step up their game.”

And if they can “step up” their game the way they did this season, they will be welcome additions to those high school teams when their time comes.