Past has Curley's Libber looking ahead Wants to avenge loss to Calvert Hall


Sitting in history class at Archbishop Curley High School last spring, Mike Libber sometimes had trouble keeping his mind on the pilgrims.

Instead, his thoughts were on more recent history -- specifically last November. That's when his Friars lost to Calvert Hall in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference title game.

So excited was Libber -- "Libbs" to his teammates -- about the chance for redemption, he'd bug classmate and Curley goalie Dennis Merryman with his thoughts, even grabbing away his best friend's notebook to scribble the words "Champs next year" on one of the pages.

"I think Dennis was getting pretty tired of me bugging him," said Libber, "but I've been looking forward to this season ever since November."

Long in the shadow of perennial champion Calvert Hall, coach Pep Perrella's sixth-ranked team is looking to put aside all its past frustrations this season with an MSA A Conference championship.

Libber, Merryman and the rest of the Curley defense are at the forefront of that effort.

Through eight games, the Friars are 7-0-1, including 5-0-1 in the MSA A Conference Division II, and have given up just five goals. What's more, they've outshot opponents, 113-41, and defeated powerful Gilman, Friends and Clifton, N.J., in the process.

Although Libber leads the defense, it's been more than a one-man show.

Earlier this season, it was Chris Shanahan who shut down 1992 City Player of the Year Steve Matcuk in a 2-1 victory over Mount St. Joseph.

In last week's 2-1 overtime win against Friends, Merryman stepped to the forefront -- as he has for much of the last two seasons -- making seven saves in the second half, including several in acrobatic fashion.

Defenders David Baines and Greg Loftus have starred as well.

But it's Libber who's been the rock, working closely with Merryman to form the final, and usually insurmountable, line of defense.

The slender 6-footer, who last year earned second-team All-City honors after Curley shut out opponents 12 times, is the glue of one of the best backfields in the area.

The senior co-captain strives to live up to his own definition of what a great defender should be.

Said Libber: "He's someone who can read the field well. He knows when to go to the ball, and how to counter attack. He can read the play like a book, but he also knows when to stay help the goalie. Talking to the other players is also important since he can see the entire field."

And talk he does, usually quite loudly with Merryman. The two never seem to stop screaming at each other on the field, though neither takes it personally.

"Dennis and I are like enemies on the field," said Libber. "If I go too far up, he'll scream at the top of his lungs for me to get back. You don't take it personally. It's just that we know each other so well."

They should, since they've been playing with and against each other since age 6, starting on the St. Elizabeth's CYO team and advancing to PSM -- now the Soccer Club of Baltimore.

Most of Curley's team has played together in club ball for at least six years, making on-field communication an easy chore. That's especially true for Libber and Merryman.

"It's funny, but he knows what I'm going to do before I do it," said Merryman. "It makes the game a whole lot easier."

That's been especially important in recent weeks, as the team has gone through a mild offensive slump.

Libber and Merryman say they've felt extra pressure to stop opposing scoring chances, but that their close bond has helped immensely.

"It's got to help," said Perrella. "Since they're seniors, they can handle it a little better. We haven't been the most consistent team this year, but the defense is heady, and they know what they can do."

What they'd like to do is stop Calvert Hall. Even though his team has won three straight MSA titles, and 11 of the past 13, Cardinals coach Bill Karpovich isn't taking another title for granted.

"Merryman is outstanding and Libber is just a great back," said Karpovich. "They've got to be two of the best players in the area.

"I think there's a good chance we'll meet again."

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