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Curley's Ivins waiting to strike out Stopper dreams of offensive glory


Just minutes have passed since Chris Ivins helped Curley earn its ninth shutout, 3-0, over Division II rival Friends.

Long after his soccer teammates have hit the showers, Ivins, the Friars' stopper, has lingered on Curley's vacant field. As the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder stares across at one of the empty goal areas, he is thinking the thoughts of a striker.

"If I was a striker, I'd make a lot more runs -- some great runs," said Ivins, 17. "I'd do a lot of head-balls on set plays, like corner kicks, throw-ins. I'd come up a lot more if I wasn't a defensive player."

But on defense -- more specifically, at stopper -- is where Ivins has remained ever since his father and then-coach Brian placed him there as a 5-year-old in the Overlea recreation program.

Since then, he has been a near impenetrable force as the defensive point man.

As a stopper, Ivins made the Olympic Developmental Program's under-15 State Team but elected to remain with FC Baltimore, which recently became the Soccer Club of Baltimore.

As a stopper, he has teamed with Calvert Hall defender Mike Spath and Fallston's Shane Dougherty in helping FC Baltimore win the State Cup title once and finish runner-up twice.

And as a stopper, Ivins enters his third year as a varsity starter, helping sweeper Mike Libber in the back. He started as a sweeper at Cardinal Gibbons during his freshman season.

He and players like striker Antonio Celenza (14 goals, three assists) and midfielder Mike Gizzi (nine goals, three assists) are the reason the Friars are 14-1 overall and 12-0 atop the Maryland Scholastic Association's Division II.

"With him in the back, Gizzi in the middle and Herc [Celenza] up front, we're very strong up the middle," said Curley coach Pep Perrella, whose Friars play St. Mary's Thursday in their final regular-season game before the start of the playoffs Nov. 3.

"As long as he stays home defensively and picks up the rest of the plays, he'll control the tempo."

Ivins did just that in the Friars 3-0 win over Gilman Saturday, the team's 10th shutout of the year. Ivins scored the final goal after earlier banging a header off the cross bar.

He also made a nice bicycle kick save when a ball got past keeper Dennis Merryman, and had a long throw-in which was headed in by Giorgio Szabo for Szabo's second goal in the game.

"Personally, I know I can do more," said Ivins, who plays club ball for Post 38. "But coach tells me to do what's best for the team, so I do it."

Ivins, who has five assists, is still a threat from the back. He can boot the ball three quarters of the length of a regulation soccer field (120 yards) and heave a pinpoint throw-in to the opposite post from just beyond midfield.

"On the set plays, he's the one who usually lines everyone up. His experience and the way he reads the game helps the whole team," said Perrella. "He's most effective when he plays simple. He knows when to make a short pass and he starts a lot of our offense by distributing from the back.

"But sometimes he wants to get fancy," said Perrella, whose club has allowed just six goals. "When other teams have scored, it's because he's got caught in transition after making a run. I let him come up, but I don't want him near the 18, so sometimes, I have to put a harness on him."

Ivins' ability to think like an offensive player, not to mention his formidable speed, size and versatility, complement his defensive expertise.

"He's particularly good in the air, and just comes to the ball very well," said Mount St. Joseph coach Mike Dolan, whose Gaels have lost twice to Curley (2-0 and 2-1). "He's just a very solid defender."

So solid, in fact, that college programs like Wake Forest, Boston College, Loyola, UMBC, Towson, Frostburg and Salisbury are seeking his talents.

Not bad for a guy who says he used to trip over his own two feet as a youngster. "I was real clumsy," said Ivins, a Rosedale resident. "I had to grow into my size 11 shoes."

And as always, his father, the coach at Catonsville Community College, is Ivins' greatest critic.

"He's pretty quick," said Brian Ivins. "For a big boy."

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