While watching Erik Washington play club ball last summer, Towson State University men's soccer coach Frank Olszewski set a goal to get him into a Tigers uniform.

And thanks to the Meade senior's acceptance of the full soccer scholarship Olszewski offered him last week, the coach will get his wish next fall.

"Erik was a priority in our recruiting," said Olszewski, whose Tigers won their third straight East Coast Conference title last fall with a school-record 14 victories against four losses and three ties.

Among the Tigers' victories were wins over such top-notch teams asformer National Collegiate Athletic Association champion American University and former NCAA runner-up Howard University. The Tigers alsodefeated the University of Maryland, another well-respected program.

The Tigers join the nine-team Big South Conference next fall, where they'll compete against programs like Radford University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Olszewski, who first saw Washington when the budding star played for the state's Olympic Developmental soccer team, said, "We think he'll fit right in at the higherlevel."

Washington played five different positions for the Mustangs, leading them to the Region IV title with an 11-4 record. He was the major spark in an offense that was the county's most prolific, scoring 33 goals, and anchored a defense that was among the county's stingiest, allowing just .92 goals against county foes.

"At Meade this year, I really had an opportunity to show how well I was capable ofplaying," said Washington, who tallied seven goals with eight assists.

Washington, a first-team All-Metro selection, also considered such schools as UMBC and North Carolina State University, but said, "I've watched Towson play and I like their style.

"I went on a college visit and stayed the weekend. Plus, I know a couple of guys on theteam, like (Meade graduate) Kevin Wise and Ryan Burke, who played onmy ODP team."

Washington, who maintained a B average and scored 900 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test, added, "I'm going to major in physical therapy and I like Towson's academic program."

Washington played the stopper, midfield and forward positions under Mustangs' coach Mike Dey, the Anne Arundel County Sun's 1991 Coach of the Year.

"He was the hinge to the gate between the offense and the defense," Dey said of Washington, the Anne Arundel County Sun's 1991 Player of the Year.

Washington produced from whatever position he played, often contributing offensively while simultaneously marking an opposing player.

As a center midfielder, for example, he scored his second and third goals of the season in a 2-1 victory over Southern that raised the Mustangs' record to 3-0.

Playing stopper in the Mustangs' 2-1 overtime victory over Atholton, the 6-foot-1, 155-pound Washington limited Atholton's top scorer, Tony Dedmond, to just three shots. Dedmond, a former 400-meter county champ, was coming off an 18-goal, 13-assist season.

In a 3-1 victory over Chesapeake in the first round of the Region IV playoffs, Washington assisted on all three goals from the striker position.

And Brian Peterson, Severna Park's all-time leading scorer with 42 goals and 19 assists, was shut out by Washington in both of the Mustangs' 1-0 victories over the Falcons this year.

"There wasn't just one particular game we saw that impressedus about him, but he's just a top-notch player and an excellent student," said Olszewski.

Although defense was just one aspect of Washington's game, Olszewski said, "We think Erik's one of the premiere defenders to come out of the area this year."

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