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Criswell returns to his soccer roots


Chris Criswell has returned to the scene of his childhood soccer days at St. Mary's School in Annapolis and nothing much has changed.

He is still playing on the right wing, scoring goals and setting up teammates for goals.

"I've played soccer since I was 5 and I guess I could always score, but it's all been due to everybody else on my teams," said Criswell. "They get me the ball."

But don't get the idea that Criswell is nothing more than a lucky player.

He has speed, good size (5 feet 11) for a soccer player and is an exceptional athlete with the ability to adapt his game to his teammates wherever he plays.

It all began at St. Mary's Elementary School for Criswell, continued on the varsity soccer team at DeMatha when he was a freshman and sophomore, and he is now back at St. Mary's where he enrolled as a junior.

Now as a senior, Criswell is leading a charge by the Saints (8-2-1) for the MIAA B Conference championship.

He has scored eight goals and contributed six assists for the 7-1-1 St. Mary's team that trails first-place St. Paul's (8-1) by a half-game in the regular-season standings.

The title drive has special meaning for St. Mary's because it was ousted last season in the semifinals by Friends.

"We're out to prove something," said Criswell. "We're working well together, our coach [Jamie McNealey] is doing a great job and we have a special closeness on this team."

Criswell said four of his teammates deserve praise for their overall excellent play.

"Brad Topper has moved from forward to defense and has done a tremendous job for us," said Criswell. "That was a real team move by Brad. Justin Wells is also playing tough defense as a sweeper and Brian and Marcus Lachapelle have been super at midfield."

The Lachapelle twins and Topper are seniors and Wells is a junior. Topper had three goals and one assist before moving to defense. However, it has been Criswell who has come through time after time for the Saints.

Last Wednesday against Park School, he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Bruins.

When St. Mary's scored a 2-1 overtime decision over St. Paul's, it was Criswell who netted the game-winner off a deflection.

"The St. Paul's win was probably my biggest thrill in soccer," he said. "We were pumped up for them and to score in overtime is always exciting."

In the 2-1 win over Park, Criswell said his goals came off great passes from Brian Lachapelle and Adam Shiley.

According to McNealey, Criswell has returned the favors, by making outstanding passes to his teammates all season.

"He gives the ball up to other people, is an outstanding all-around athlete, has emerged as a leader and his maturity is better," said McNealey. "He's proven he can be a scorer this season after being a passer most of the time last year."

His all-around soccer skills were developed at an early age in the back yard of his Davidsonville home, said Criswell.

"My brother [John] and I were always out back playing soccer," he said. "That helped me a lot."

John Criswell was a standout soccer player at St. Mary's in 1988 and went to Mount St. Mary's, where he played a year before getting hurt.

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