Gilman soccer aims to overcome injuries, scoring woes

Staying near the top of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference soccer standings has been difficult for Gilman in the early portion of the season.

The senior-laden Greyhounds, who were runners-up the past two years and champions in 2010, started 2-3 in league play for the first time since 2009.

Injuries to three starters — junior defender Fabio Beltran (foot stress fracture), senior defender and captain Sean O'Donnell (shin splints) and junior midfielder Jake Waxter (strained foot ligament) — have undermined Gilman's bid for a strong start.

"We are starting to get guys back, but we are probably not going to be healthy until mid-October," Gilman's 10th-year coach, Jon Seal, said. "It seems like when we get one person back, something else happens. It seems like it has hit us all at once. What we are trying to do is just work as hard we can and survive this bit of adversity."

With a modest two-game upswing recently, Seal's squad might be on the road to recovery earlier than anticipated.

The Greyhounds edged Archbishop Curley, 1-0, on Sept. 25 thanks to senior midfielder Andrew Gemma's goal and nine saves from senior goalie Chase Wittich.

"Every time we play Gilman, they are going to give 110 percent and fight and scrap," Curley coach Barry Stitz said. "They have ability to score goals in the box when the ball is bouncing around. They did it to us again. They consistently do it. It's not luck. It's effort."

Two days later, Gilman deadlocked defending champion Loyola Blakefield, 1-1, in Towson.

Even so, the Greyhounds (5-3-1 overall, 3-3-1 conference) continue to have scoring woes, having been shutout twice and scoring single goals four times in their first eight games.

Senior defender Sam Wancowicz (4 goals), senior forward Brendan Barger and Gemma (3) have scored their share of goals so far, although having contributions from other players would help.

"We are struggling right now to score goals," Seal said. "We are manufacturing scoring opportunities through our work rate. We basically have non-soccer players trying to make soccer plays. When you have you have a team that is comprised of great athletes, but not necessarily refined soccer players, you will go through a stretch like this."

Seal is pleased to have Wittich between the pipes, considering that consistency is the two-year starter's biggest asset. The senior's communication skills are also lifting his game.

"I really hope as the season goes on, he gets the attention he deserves," Seal said of Wittich, who will play lacrosse at Colegate University next year. "He is really a great goalkeeper. I really can't think of a goal in the last couple of weeks that was his fault."

The Greyhounds also count heavily on Wancowicz, a University of Pennsylvania recruit and four-year starter.

"When you have a guy like Sam, you are always going to be in games," Seal said. "He's that good. All it takes is one shot from him. You can be right back in a game or steal a game. That's the beauty of having someone like Sam."

Wittich thinks his team will playing its best soccer in mid-to-late October. The Greyhounds have nine league games left.

"It's just been a hard year, I guess," he said. "We haven't caught our stride. We should be stepping up and we are not at that point yet, but we are getting really close."

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