AACC WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM HOPES TO PASS MAJOR TEST TODAY

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Pardon Sandi Young of Anne Arundel Community College's women's soccer team if she doesn't use her head today when the Pioneers kick off a gala program.

This no doubt is going to be a big day at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold with the annual Fighting Pioneers bull roast for the benefit of the athletic program.

The day will be highlighted by the first-ever Hall of Fame inductions by the Pioneers as former athletic director Johnny Laycock and Jeff Herrick, the school's first All-American in football and baseball, are honored.

There could be another major highlight that would set the tempo for the festive day. That will happen if the Anne Arundel women's soccer team of Coach Mike Miles passes its "big test" at 11 a.m.

No, it won't be a physics test in the classroom, but rather a test out on the stadium field as defending national champion Monroe C.C. of Rochester, N.Y., comes calling. Monroe (11-1-1) currently is ranked No. 6 in the nation.

It was a year ago that Monroe kept Anne Arundel from its quest of winning its first national championship in women's soccer by claiming two, somewhat freakish, wins over the Pioneers. Monroe outlasted AACC, 1-0, in the first round of the nationals during hurricane-like conditions in Mercer County, N.J.

During the regular season, Monroe took a 2-1 decision over Anne Arundel on a bizarre goal. With the score tied at one in the waning moments, a Monroe player had her shot carom off the side of Young's head while Young was playing sweeper.

Unfortunately, what should have been merely a deflection, bounced off Young's head and into the AACC net for the winning goal.

"Believe me, the girls deserved to win that one and the national tournament game as well, but the girls haven't forgotten, especially Sandi," said Miles.

With what may very well be his "best all-around team" in his seven-year tenure, Miles is confident his girls are going to make a good showing.

"This is our biggest test of the year, and I expect us to do very well," said Miles, who expected his Pioneers to be ranked this week with their 8-4-2 record, but the rankings released Friday morning didn't include them.

"A loss certainly will not hurt us, because the game will help us get ready for the regional, but we can win," he said.

A victory today would enhance the Pioneers' chances of cracking next week's National Junior College Athletic Association Top 10 and go a long way toward a repeat regional title.

In what was its best season ever last fall under Miles (who is 82-29-11 overall), the Pioneers made their initial showing in the national tournament. AACC went 20-5 a year ago and the fifth loss came at the hands of Monroe in the nationals.

Miles is optimistic that his team is ready to start making its move toward winning the regional again, and this year that regional will be at AACC the weekend of Nov. 2-3. He's optimistic because of the way his players have started playing over the last two weeks, winning the last five in a row.

During that time, Anne Arundel has downed always tough Essex C.C., 2-0, on goals by Young (Andover grad) and Sharon Roe (South River). Thursday in its tune-up for today's big game, it defeated Montgomery-Rockville (2-5-1) by 4-2 with Young, Roe, Roxanne Elsey (Broadneck) and Megan McElhenny (South River) scoring.

"Those were the first two goals we've given up in our conference (Maryland JuCo) this season," said Miles, whose team has outscored conference foes, 23-2, in six games, and 36-14 overall in 14 contests.

"I'm not concerned that we gave up two goals to Montgomery because we had a few injuries and had move to some people around. The overall versatility has been our strength this year."

It's that versatility that makes this year's edition different from last year's powerhouse that featured a handful of individual stars like graduated Misty Parr, who could dominate a game.

"We don't really have any individual stars like last year. No one person dominates and does most of the scoring," said Miles. "We've had 11 different players score this season and Sandi is the leader with six goals.

Megan (McElhenny) is next with five goals and four assists, and after that the scoring is really spread around."

"I can go to the bench and there is no drop-off in the quality of play," said Miles.

That's so, because in searching for someone to be a dominate player in the early part of the season, Miles discovered he didn't have one, but instead realized he could spread the wealth around.

Besides Young and McElhenny, Miles has been getting equally outstanding play from other sophs such as Suzanne Price, Andy Farrell and Sarah Yates and freshmen Roe and Nicki Beall (Meade).

Price, a Severna Park High grad, has provided clutch offensive punch, while Yates is a defensive wizard. Yates, from Bowie High in Prince George's County, was an All-American fullback two years ago, but took a year off to get her grades in order. She has returned to the caliber of player she was in her rookie year.

"Andy (Farrell) has played every position on the field for us, even goalie which was a position she played at Annapolis," said Miles. "We've taught them to play anywhere, and that allows us to freely interchange players."

No question, the versatility gives the Pioneers a major strength that was called "deep depth" by former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver.

It goes without saying that moving a lot of people around takes a lot of time and coaching. Miles says he couldn't have done it without his six-year assistant coach Hillory Dean.

"Hillory and I work well together, and this season we've had a lot of fun with this team because of the many different looks it has," said Miles.

"We've tried to take advantage of their versatility."

That explains the slow start in which the Pioneers lost to Division I Navy, 1-0, and to two nationally ranked teams and later to still another top-10 team.

After Navy, AACC played in the Brevard, N.C., Invitational and dropped a 4-0 decision to 10th-ranked Meramec, St. Louis (7-4), and a 2-0 contest to host and fifth-ranked Brevard (6-1).

The fourth loss came at the hands of seventh-ranked Farmingdale (5-3) by 1-0 in the New York town of the same name. That was back on Sept. 29.

Five wins in a row have followed, and that tells Miles his team is gelling just at the right time to build momentum the rest of this month for the regional at their field.

Anne Arundel will play host to the JuCo regional with games at 5 and 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, and the championship at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.

The title game will be part of a doubleheader. The Pioneer men's team of Ken Wolfe will play host to their regional as well -- men play at 5 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, with the championship Sunday at 8 p.m.

"We sure hope to be in the region championship game that Sunday, and this game (today vs. Monroe) could go a long way toward us getting back to the nationals," said Miles.

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