The ingredients for any successful sports team are no mystery; it takes talented players, good coaching and luck.
When the Baltimore Spirit, a team heavily flavored with Columbia players and coaches, won the Snickers U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Region I under-19 championship last weekend, that combination was present.
The Spirit played extremely well, but may have had a few extra measures of luck.
The championship game was tied 1-1 with five minutes to play when Spirit sweeper Chris Eatough received a red card. His team had to play a man down.
The Spirit managed to survive regulation and then score two straight controversial man-down goals in overtime to go up 3-1. J.J. Kremer (Calvert Hall) scored both those goals, one on a penalty shot and one on which he was accused of a handball violation by Spirit opponent Colonia, N.J., FC Raiders.
Two New Jersey players were ejected for protesting after that third goal, so the Spirit suddenly found itself a man up and outscored Colonia 2-1 the rest of the way to win, 5-2.
"We played well but we were very lucky," said Spirit coach Dave Nesbitt. "We had a favorable draw and we escaped injuries."
Nesbitt, 53, is also the boys varsity head coach at Wilde Lake, which was a state high school finalist last fall. His Spirit assistant coach is Josh Flyr, 24, a former outstanding player at Wilde Lake.
The Spirit won five straight games and outscored its regional opponents, 35-4. The team is a who's who of outstanding college players mostly from UMBC, the University of Maryland, George Washington, Towson and Loyola.
Howard County players included: Matt Nesbitt (Wilde Lake, George Washington), Josh Baer (Centennial, James Madison), Dan Gaertner (Glenelg, Mount St. Mary's), Russell Payne (Glenelg, University of Maryland) and Jeremy Baker (Calvert Hall).
The core of the team has played together for seven years, and this was its fourth trip to regionals without a previous regional title.
This was Nesbitt's first year as the Spirit's head coach.
"After we lost in the regionals last summer I made a commitment to coach them this season," Nesbitt said. "Everyone stepped up at regionals. Eleven of our 17 players scored a goal."
"I think the coach made a difference," said Gaertner, one of five new players on the team.
Gaertner, a midfielder who came off the bench, scored the final goal in the championship game. He was one of five college freshmen on the Spirit. The rest were sophomores.
Now they'll shoot for a national championship -- the under-19 McGuire Cup, in Blaine, Minn. July 27-31.
L The Spirit will play its two games on the 29th and the 31st.
The last Columbia team to win a national title was the under-16 Columbia City United in 1987. The under-19 Columbia Jays won the national championship in 1985, and the Columbia Kick won the under-16 North American championship in 1982.
Appleby resigns from Hebron
Seven-year Mount Hebron baseball coach Dave Appleby has stepped down after a second straight season in which the Vikings failed to reach their full expectations.
The Vikings were 11-9 overall and 7-7 in league play, despite an injury to key player Greg Hylock, who signed with UMBC. The Vikings went 9-8 and 8-5 the previous season.
Appleby took over the program when it was in disarray, and after two seasons he restored it to respectability. But the Vikings could never quite achieve championship form.
"You have to weigh the demands and the returns, and when the demands outweigh the returns you have to know when to let go," Appleby said.
Appleby, an elementary school guidance counselor, is also the varsity boys basketball coach at Oakland Mills where his teams usually have achieved at a high level.
Grubb playing in Erie, Pa.
Chris Grubb (Mount Hebron, Elizabethtown College) is batting .310 and playing second base for the Erie Sailors in the Frontier League.
Grubb, drafted by Montreal in 1993, played one year for the Jamestown Expos but was dropped at the end of the season.
The Frontier League is part of the 2-year-old Independent Minor Leagues and is the equivalent of Class A ball. The eight-team league plays a 68-game schedule that ends in late August.
The teams are located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.
High school golfers sought
Any high school golfers interested in playing for the Howard County Golf Club next fall should contact the school representatives: Centennial, Roger Sexton, (410) 997-0693; Glenelg, Joyce Beddingfield, (410) 854-6157; Hammond, Don Masters, (410) 381-2549; Mount Hebron, Mike Sniscak, (410) 461-6541; Oakland Mills, Ben Clements, (410) 730-3152; Wilde Lake, Ann Wood, (410) 730-1494. Atholton and Howard have no representative.
For general questions, call Mike Mongelli, (410) 997-0324.