The women's soccer team from Catonsville Community College made a rapid trip from the absolute bottom of the junior college ranks to being the nation's second-best team.
From 1983 to 1987, the Cardinals had one win, and that was a 1986 forfeit over Middlesex, N.J. Tom Taylor, who had successful soccer and lacrosse teams at Andover High, took over the program in the summer of 1990, but his first Catonsville team went 1-10.
Catonsville improved all the way to 12-9-1 this fall, and a series of upsets landed the Cardinals a spot in the NJCAA championship game. They were routed, 4-0, by St. Louis Community College at Meramec in Trenton, N.J., Sunday, but that did nothing to detract from a Cinderella turnaround.
"It's not like we out-recruited other people," Taylor said. "Several of our starters never played soccer until they got into high school. We don't have the blue-chip players, but we did get some with a blue-collar work ethic."
Amy Leishear, a sophomore striker, went to Laurel High at a time when Prince George's County didn't sponsor girls soccer. She had a school-record 12 goals; in their first five years in the sport, the Cardinals had managed to score only two.
Leishear was one of four Cardinals players named to the Region XX all-star team. Jen Stewart, a freshman from Catonsville High, scored nine goals. Freshman defender Brigid Hollywood and sophomore goalie Michelle Burns were also honored.
Burns, Hollywood and another freshman back, Kori Townsend, who was named Most Valuable Defender at the NJCAA tournament, all played last year for Seton Keough High. Taylor also recruited talent from northern Anne Arundel County: He got four starters from North County High, where he teaches.
Striker Angela Farace, midfielder Stephanie Meyer and back Colleen Morest are all freshmen out of North County High.
Catonsville was the fourth and final seed for the Region XX
tournament. Catonsville athletic director Gary Keedy requires his teams to have at least a .500 record to enter postseason play, and the Cardinals were 8-8-1 in the regular season.
"This program has gone so high so fast," Keedy said, "these women have nosebleeds."
* CROSS COUNTRY: Frostburg State junior Matt Larmore and Johns Hopkins senior John Robinson earned All-America status at the NCAA Division III championships in Newport News, Va., Saturday. Larmore was 17th, in 25 minutes, 1 second, while Robinson was 24th, in 25:08. Sandu Rebenciuc of Augustana, Ill., won the race in 24:26.
A5 Frostburg State placed 17th in the 21-team field.