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Laurel High boys soccer gearing up for postseason run

Laurel High's Kelly Marah, right, has emerged as the leading scorer on the varsity squad this season with 20 goals
Laurel High's Kelly Marah, right, has emerged as the leading scorer on the varsity squad this season with 20 goals (Jen Rynda, The Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Laurel High boys soccer team has worked its way up the ladder in recent seasons to be included among the best among public schools in Prince George's County.

Last season the Spartans were 8-1-1 and this year Laurel was 9-1-1 going into its regular season finale on Oct. 21 against DuVal.

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But there is one more step the team would like to take: playing meaningful games in late October and maybe even early November.

A year ago Laurel had a fantastic regular season but, after a first-round bye in the playoffs, was sent packing with a 4-1 playoff loss to Northwestern of Hyattsville.

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"We don't want that to happen again," said Kelly Marah, a senior striker and the team's top scorer this season.

Veteran head coach Eric Ferguson, now in his eighth season, has emphasized the importance of post-season play.

"The kids respond well and are having fun right now," Ferguson said. "I told them during the season it is all good and fine but we have to playing good late in October when it really matters. I try to get them to understand that. They have been playing very, very well. They have confidence."

Laurel was unbeaten at home going into the Du Val match and the Spartans knocked off Bowie on the road while tying Roosevelt in Greenbelt. The only loss through the first 11 games was to High Point.

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"This year we are successful (due to) commitment," Marah said. "We play as a team, we play as a family and we play as brother. During the summer we worked hard every single day. We want to be one of the best teams in Prince George's County."

They have certainly done that, with wins over Northwestern, Parkdale and Flowers, among others. And that is part due to the leadership of Marah.

"Kelly is having a great season as a striker; he is up to 20 goals for the season," Ferguson said. "My defense has been very stingy. The middle is always playing well. We are having a good season overall. The kids are really determined to have a good season."

What impresses Ferguson about Marah? "The way he works on the pitch, the way he hustles. He plays with passion," said Ferguson, who is from Granada. "That is what I like about him. His teammates feed off his passion. Every game I expect 100 percent from him."

Laurel lost about six starters from last year's team so the continued success in 2014 was not a given.

"It is a little bit of a surprise," said Ferguson, who has six senior starters this year. "Some of my young players have really stepped up. Some of my second-season players have stepped up."

Laurel got its ninth win on Oct. 16 with a 4-0 decision over Flowers after leading by just one goal at halftime. "I thought we played well considering the conditions of the field," Ferguson said. "The field was slippery. It was hard to possess the ball. We still played well; it was an interesting game."

As is usually the case the team is made up of natives of several countries, and this year that list includes American-born players and those from El Salvador, Honduras, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

Ferguson has rotated two goalies this year; one of them is Vincenzo Santoro. "Vinny played the whole game against Flowers," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said Oct. 20 he is waiting to hear when and where Laurel will play in the playoffs that could begin as soon as Oct. 24.

Laurel residents thrive in college

Laurel resident Katlyn Axenfeld (Reservoir) is a senior midfielder for the women's soccer team at Division I Towson. She started in a 2-2 tie at Drexel on Oct. 19 in Colonial Athletic Association action.

The roster of the Division III women's soccer team at McDaniel College in Carroll County includes Laurel resident Paola Rosa, a freshman forward/midfielder from Reservoir High. She had one goal in her first six games of action this season.

Laurel resident Nicole DeVos (Meade High) is a freshman midfielder on the women's team at Division III Stevenson in Baltimore County.

She played in 10 of the first 14 games.

Laurel resident Lauren Pettyjohn-Robin (Roosevelt High) is a sophomore midfielder/forward for Hood College in Frederick. She played in three of the first 16 games with one start.

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