Battle-Tested Bel Air Boys Soccer Wins MPSSAA 4A North Region
Few teams have traveled as challenging a road to winning a regional championship as Bel Air's boys soccer team has this season.
On Nov. 7, the Bobcats ended a game drawn 1-1 with Sherwood High School by burying all five of its penalty kicks in a shootout. Sherwood wasn't able to do the same, which gave Bel Air its first regional championship in boys soccer since 2007.
"Sherwood was a very talented team, lots of team speed and loved to play in the open field. This is different than any other team we've played this year. I thought we did a great job containing them and limiting their opportunities," head coach Dominic Rose said. "When it went to PK's, it's always stressful but, to see us make all five was a great sight. I was very proud of our young men!"
To think the penalty shootout against Sherwood was Bel Air's first tough test of the season would be foolish though.
The Bobcats played a brutal schedule throughout the regular season, and have responded by having an excellent campaign, currently holding an 13-4-1 record. Among the list of teams Bel Air topped this season is Anne Arundel County powerhouse Broadneck, another team which won a regional championship in Eastern Tech, and both teams that reached the MPSSAA 3A state final in 2015- Oakdale and C. Milton Wright.
The team's difficult regular season adequately prepared Bel Air for the gauntlet that was the Bobcats' list of opponents in the 4A North region. After beating Dulaney 2-0, Bel Air got past Baltimore County's champion, Catonsville, 3-1. Next came the defending 4A state champion, Perry Hall, which Bel Air beat 2-0.
After Perry Hall came the regional final against Sherwood.
"This has been one of the most balanced years I've ever coached in 23 years. We have a tremendous goalie and a stout defense. We give up less than one goal per game, less than five shots per game and have recorded nine shutouts to date," Rose said. "Our midfield is strong and can possess very well. Our forwards have also scored many goals this season."
As well-rounded as Bel Air has been, the team's success starts at the back.
The team's defense has been in fine form in the postseason, only allowing two goals in four games. As Rose said, it starts with senior goalkeeper Cameron Riley who has done an excellent job of marshaling the players in front of him. In the heart of that defense is senior center back Noah Rusinko, who has been a rock all year for Bel Air.
The midfield is run by two central midfielders- junior Vince Rose and senior Gray Harper. Up top, senior forward Ryan Albright has led the way with 13 goals and eight assists.
"We do not try to force the ball up and down the field," Rose said. "We try to play simple, and let opportunities present themselves off of that."
Next up for Bel Air is another difficult test in Severna Park. The Bobcats faced Severna Park earlier this year and dropped a 3-1 decision. Rose has great respect for the Falcons, and expects the semifinal to be an impressively technical match.
On the line for the Bobcats is a big opportunity to make school history, and nobody knows that better than their head coach. If the team's performances this year is any indication, Bel Air will be ready to confront the challenge head on.
"I don't think about winning a state title at this point. We take it one game at a time and try to stay in the moment," Rose said. "However, I've been at Bel Air since 1981 as a player for four years and started coaching in 1994. Bel Air has never won a men's soccer state championship since it's program began in 1968, and we've had some very talented teams over the years"
|November 9th, 2016||By: Wick Eisenberg|