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For tournament space, soccer club looking east


IRONIC, IN a way, this thing about a shortage of fields in Howard County.

Just ask the Thunder Soccer Club, which despite a morning delay yesterday because of soggy fields, is conducting its season-ending Fall Bash tournament for boys this weekend and for girls next weekend, drawing 135 teams from as far as New York and Ohio.

"We're a western Howard County club, but most of our games are being played in the eastern part of the county," said Scott Maurer, who with Kim Clapp chairs the growing travel club's event.

The tournament for premier- and classic-level teams as young as under-9s and as old as under-17s will be headquartered both weekends at Alpha Ridge Park in Marriottsville, and teams also will compete at Glenwood Park.

But far more games will occur at the county rec department's fields behind the east Columbia library, at Oakland Mills Middle School, Hawthorn Park and Cedar Lane Park, all in Columbia, as well as Schooley Mill Park in Fulton, Rockburn Elementary School in Elkridge and Patapsco Middle School in Ellicott City.

"We really need that Western Regional Park," Maurer said, referring to the new rec department park, which is to include two lighted, synthetic-turf fields good for soccer, football and lacrosse when it opens next year.

This is the third try at a season-ending tournament for the Thunder; the first was rained out, and last year's event drew about 135 teams, Maurer said.

The Thunder broke its event into two weekends, flip-flopping girls and boys scheduling with another travel tournament conducted at the same times by the Bethesda Soccer Club.

Maurer was scurrying for referees last week. Make-ups of rainouts by many teams, including more than 100 games in Montgomery County, have thinned the supply, he said.

The Thunder tournament is being managed, by the way, by Premier Tournaments LLC of Nottingham. Mike Libber, boys coach at Oakland Mills High School, is part of the firm, which also conducts lacrosse, basketball and golf events.

MORE SOCCER: Having postponed yesterday its annual Simon Decker tournament until spring, the Soccer Association of Columbia-Howard County will begin focusing on finishing Covenant Park this winter.

"It's been a big success for the kids this fall," said Dave Procida, the organization's president and the man credited with moving the club's Northrop Fields from a dream to reality. "But it's been more difficult for the administration."

First, the association expects to move into its new clubhouse more or less in the heart of the eight-field complex off Centennial Lane, and out of its longtime Oakland Ridge Industrial Park digs, before Christmas.

By the time the spring season arrives, Procida said, expect to see more landscaping, steps replacing the hill from the parking lot down to the synthetic-turf fields, more signage, additional fencing and permanent kiosks to replace the temporary tents that serve as shelter and gathering points in the complex.

A couple of fields have drainage issues to be addressed, too.

"We're a little bit over in budget, but that's a good sign," said Procida, "especially when you understand that it's changed a lot from Day 1. We were thinking then about all grass fields, but now we have three synthetic fields, and we added lights."

SOCCER, AGAIN: The Howard County Women's League had a new entry this fall that turned some heads. That was a club team from the U.S. Naval Academy, which has a top-shelf women's varsity team.

The Mid Club stands third in the tough Sunday competition with a 6-1-1 record. The loss, 3-0, was to Camp Springs, a team with many league titles and two national over-40 championships.

YET MORE SOCCER: It didn't get any news play around here, but for you fans of what's called football everywhere else in the world, the Union of European Football Associations, the governing body of European play, approved use of synthetic turf last week.

Teams can plan on using the bladed version of synthetic turf - the kind installed locally at Covenant Park and about to be put down at Western Regional Park in Glenwood.

FIFA, the game's world governing body, approved use of the bladed turf in February.

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