The Columbia Darby formed this year to combine the talents of two rival teams, the Hornets and the United, and strengthen the chances of winning a state and regional soccer championship.
Although doubts surfaced about the individual talents not playing as a unit, the Darby (under-15 boys) united to dominate in its state and regional campaigns.
"It felt after the first game at the regionals, everybody's fears of not being up to the challenge as a team were gone," said Darby goalie Luke Timmins, who allowed only three goals in more than 30 games this season.
After breezing through the state cup undefeated and unscored upon, the Darby, which is an English word for "local rivalry," duplicated that success to win the Eastern Regional championship last weekend at Rider College in New Jersey.
In the first bracket, the Darby defeated Delaware, New York-West and Maine by a combined score of 14-0 to head into the semifinals.
The Darby edged New Jersey, 1-0, in the semifinals, for the right to meet Massachusetts in the championship.
The title game was a defensive stalemate until Jason Lockerman of the Darby scored with three minutes remaining for the 1-0 victory.
"The final goal was a cross to me. I headed the ball past the defender and just had to kick the ball with my left foot past the goalie," said Lockerman of Bel Air, who also scored the winning goal against New Jersey.
Timmins was named the regional's Most Valuable Player for boys 15-and-under.
"I think Luke came up big for us in the semifinals and the final," headcoach Bill Stara said. "He had the luxury of playing for a team that has the ability to score and score often. But after the games in the first bracket, we knew when we scored, it was up to Luke to do the rest."
Timmins was on the Hornets team that won the regionals two years ago, but savors this year's title more.
"When the Hornets won, it was a lot easier. The teams were not as tough," Timmins said. "This year we had to fight and battle. It felt better winning this year because it was so much tougher."
Besides the Darby, three other soccer teams from Columbia competed in regionals after qualifying through the state cup.
Even with a tough draw and a devastating injury, the Spirit (under-15 girls) managed to advance into the Eastern Regional semifinals.
The Spirit was eliminated by Virginia, 3-1, in the semifinals. Virginia won its fourth straight regional title with a 4-0 victory over Massachusetts.
"We felt good about advancing into the semifinals with the toughness of the teams we played against," Spirit head coach John Bagrosky said. "But we were still disappointed about not making the finals."
The run was accomplished without starting outside halfback Allison Schuch, who injured her ankle in a first-round 0-0 tie with Connecticut.
After the Connecticut game, the Spirit dominated New York, 6-1. New York's score was on a penalty kick.
With the tie against Connecticut, the Spirit needed to defeat New Jersey by two goals in the final game of the first round to move into the semifinals. The Spirit had lost to New Jersey, 2-0, in a Memorial Day tournament.
"Because of that earlier loss, we knew we had a tough assignment,"Bagrosky said. "When it was 2-1 at the half with them, we knew we could go home even with an undefeated record. And from halftime, the girls responded."
The Spirit scored the next four goals for a 6-1 win over New Jersey, advancing to the semifinal against defending champion Virginia.
The Crusaders (under-19 girls) became the third Columbia team to make it into the semifinals of the Eastern Regionals. They beat New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York-East in the preliminary bracket, but fell to Massachusetts, 2-0, in the semifinals.
After the first three wins, the Crusaders were without Thori Staples, who left to play for the U.S. National team in Canada. The Crusaders found themselves down to one substitute after Staple's departure because Amy Vaughn of Dulaney High School had mononucleosis.
"Some would think of getting to the semifinals as a success, but we thought we could win it," head coach Roy Andersch said. "It was our third bronze, and we thought we could move one step forward."
The Chargers (under-17 girls) rallied after a slow start in their first two games for a 3-0 win over New Hampshire. They qualified for regionals as a wild card after finishing second to Bethesda in the state cup, but had lost two players to prior commitments.
In their first two contests, the Chargers lost to Eastern New York, 5-0, and Eastern Pennsylvania, 2-1. Against the Eastern Pennsylvania champs, the Chargers led 1-0 after 15 minutes, but could not stop two straight goals.
"We've been to the regionals before," head coach Leo Weil said. "So, I was a little disappointed in our slow start, but overall we played well in two of the three games."