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Rec Sports Spotlight: Freedom Soccer Club having a Blast

The Freedom Soccer Club's Blast Red under-14 girls travel team has beaten almost all of its opponents over the past few years.

But one opponent you can never beat is Mother Nature, although Freedom did give it a good shot at the Virginia Beach Spring Classic a couple of months ago. The local girls had utterly overwhelmed two teams in their bracket March 18.

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But Sunday, the weather was terrible. After mudding their way through the semifinal game and winning, the Blast was ready to play for the title, rain or no rain.

But to the kids' consternation, the tournament management called things after their semifinal, and the title game was never played.

Wet, cold and disconsolate, the girls and coaches packed their things and headed home to Carroll County.

However, head coach Erik Johnson is anything but disconsolate. In fact,he and his assistant coaches Tracey Bauer, Mark McDaniels and Alan Vandenberg along with team manager Lisa Hollinger are thoroughly proud of their girls' considerable accomplishments in recent years.

Freedom Blast Red, a Premier team which is part of the Freedom Soccer Club, has been around awhile. It was started in 2013 as an under-9 team. Johnson originally formed the squad to give his daughter an opportunity to play travel soccer. He had also coached soccer teams on which his older daughter and son played.

Many of the players, who come primarily from South Carroll communities such as Eldersburg and Sykesville, have been on the team at least a couple of years now. About 10 of them have been on the team since its formation.

They have learned to play pretty well together, which is one reason for their successes. And those successes have been considerable.

In spring of 2015, Freedom opened play in the Washington Area Girls' Soccer League (WAGS) which featured teams from Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. It was one of the more competitive girls' soccer leagues around.

Freedom started as an under-12 team in Division 4, one of the lower divisions in the loop. Only the Blast Red didn't play like a lower division team.

The Blast went 6-0-3 to take first and was second in the division in goals scored with 34.

That fall, it was moved up to Division 3 as an under-13 team. Freedom won that one too, going 7-1. It took first place from another 7-1 team on a tie-breaker.

The Blast allowed only four goals in its eight games, the best in the league.

The league directors moved it up to Division 2 in spring of 2016, but that didn't stop the Blast, either. It again went unbeaten, going 8-0-2 and finishing first. It was second in goals scored with 22, and the team allowed a virtually microscopic three scores.

Johnson says defense has always been a team trademark. And in recent years, the offense has caught up with the defense.

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"The last two years, we've gotten much better in scoring. We score a lot more goals than we used to," Johnson said.

Freedom exited WAGS after those three seasons with three first place finishes and a combined record of 21 wins, five ties and exactly one loss.

In fall of 2016, Freedom moved on the under-14 EDP Premier South 1 Division. Things began a bit rough, the the Blast started 0-2, But it went 6-0-2 thereafter and finished up in second place with a record of 6-2-1.

"They are a great team, and they all work hard. They are well-balanced on offense, at midfield and back on defense," Johnson said. "A lot of teams depend on one or two scorers., We don't have just one or two girls scoring. In our last [league] game, we won 4-0, and four different girls scored goals."*

In March, Freedom traveled to Virginia Beach for the Spring Classic.

The first day, they won easily by 4-0 over the Chesapeake CSC Fire and 6-0 over Yorktowne FC Liberty. But the following day, the weather had turned miserable.

"Sunday there was a driving rain, the wind was gusty and it was in the low-40's. The conditions were horrendous. The girls looked like bodybuilders because they were wearing their coats under their shirts," Johnson recalled, laughing. "It was early in the season, and I expected them to be rusty, but they played very well against a pretty good team."

Despite the miserable weather, Freedom prevailed over Beach FC 03G White too, winning 4-0. It was now time for the championship game. Only, there wouldn't be a championship game. The tournament was called right then and there.

"I was kind of miffed. They shouldn't have played at all in those conditions if they weren't going to play the final game," Johnson said "Nobody was very happy."

Later on after they returned home, the players learned that they had been awarded the tournament championship by virtue of it's tiebreaker rules.

"They appreciated their championship medals, but it was kind of hollow because they didn't have to play for them," Johnson said.

They are back in the EDP League this spring where they are 2-2 so far. Normally, the Blast doesn't lose that many games in a season. However, Johnson explained that the team has been placed in a higher division this year, and acknowledged that the competition is tougher.

Most of the girls move on to high school this fall and will likely play for those school's programs. But Johnson wants to hold the team together at least during the spring after their school seasons have ended.

He also hopes something can even be worked out in the fall so the girls can also play together then.

"I'd take that every day of the week and twice on Sundays," he said.

Even if it occasionally rains on Sundays.

410-857-7896

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