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CSM volleyball reaches region final; men’s soccer unable to duplicate last year

By DALLAS COGLE

Staff writer

With 11 of their 12 players being freshmen, the College of Southern Maryland Hawks experienced their share of growing pains to start the volleyball season this fall. They dropped nine of their first 12 matches.

“We were pretty much starting off from scratch,” second-year head coach Pat Brewer said. “We had players from nine different [Southern Maryland] schools on our team, so it was a tough start. We had a difficult time gelling together at the beginning.”

The struggles included a three-games-to-none sweeping loss to Howard in the Hawks’ first Maryland Junior College Conference match on Sept. 5.

A few weeks later, however, they were enjoying their first winning streak of the season.

That set the stage Oct. 7 for the Hawks to shine impressively in revenge mode, returning the favor back to Howard with a 3-0 sweep in the Hagerstown tournament.

Though Brewer admitted that his club caught Howard at the right time with a new setter being implemented to its system after the starter had gotten hurt, this same Howard team went on to win the Maryland JUCO with a perfect 11-0 league mark as part of a lofty 21-2 overall tab.

And Howard has advanced all the way to the Minnesota-hosted nationals at the Division III junior college level where action begins today.

“They spanked us in three [games],” the CSM coach said about the first matchup with Howard on the road. “We faced them about a month later in the Hagerstown tournament and we beat them in three. That’s when the girls knew they could believe in each other, and they started playing better volleyball after that. All of them were playing their best ball at the end of the season.”

Ironically, Brewer indicated that his Hawks’ best performance of the year occurred in Saturday’s season-ending loss to perennial playoff nemesis Hagerstown in the Region XX final at Essex.

The Hawks were beaten in three gamess by Maryland JUCO runner-up Hagerstown (24-3, 10-1), resulting in 25-18, 25-16 and 25-19 outcomes, but Brewer noted that both teams were tied at 16 each time.

Hagerstown, the top seed in one of two pools involving regional teams while the Hawks were second in that same pool, found a way to register the bulk of the crucial late points of each game to escape victoriously and clinch a berth to play next week in the Division II national tournament, hosted in Ohio.

The Hawks finished with a 15-16 overall mark while posting a 7-3 league record, good enough for fourth in the 14-team Maryland JUCO.

“By far we played our best match versus Hagerstown in the regional finals,” Brewer said. “It was a battle every single game. They spanked us in a pool-play match when we played them [the day before] at regionals. We had just come off a tough match with Essex, [winning two games to one last Friday before playing Hagerstown in pool play]. So we were kind of worn out and kind of came out flat and they whipped us pretty good.”

By the next day, the Hawks were back on a winning note with a 3-2 victory over Allegany in the regional semifinals, setting up the rematch with Hagerstown that was much more competitive.

“When we were able to run our offense, we were a very tough team,” Brewer said.

Libero/defensive specialist Kim Brewer (Thomas Stone High School) and middle blocker Taylor White (North Point), both freshmen, earned nods to the second-team and honorable-mention All-Maryland JUCO teams respectively for the Hawks.

White and fellow middle blocker Eryn Fullard (La Plata) represented CSM on the Region XX All-Tournament teams.

Kim Brewer, White, Fullard and outside hitter Lexi Cox (La Plata) were the Hawks leaders throughout the season.

“I expected them [to finish the season the way we did],” Pat Brewer said about his players, which also hailed from each of the St. Mary’s County schools in St. Mary’s Ryken, Chopticon, Great Mills and Leonardtown along with Calvert of Calvert County. “We had lots of talent on the team. It’s just they come from so many systems that it was about training a lot of these girls to our system we have. We were getting better and better throughout the season.”

The Hawks went back and forth between their pair of setters in freshmen Kalynn Serman (Chopticon) and Kaci Lewis (Ryken) throughout the season, going with whatever one had the hot passing hand during the course of a given match.

“Both setters were very raw [going into the season],” Pat Brewer said. “If they passed the ball well, we were tough.”

Just because the Hawks boasted a wealth of talented freshmen this season is not an automatic assumption that all will be back next year.

“We’re hoping for about three-quarters of the team to return next year, which is a great number,” Brewer said. “We should be strong [next year]. We’ve been getting a lot of verbals [commitments] but with junior college, you never know.”

No encore for CSM men’s soccer

After finally breaking through last year with a berth in the national tournament, which had previously eluded the accomplished Hawks program throughout its rise to prominence since 2002, CSM men’s soccer team was unable to continue such lofty momentum during this fall campaign.

The Hawks finished the season at 8-6 overall, a fourth-place 8-3 in the league, for the program’s 11th straight year with a winning mark but fell short of their usual contending run at Maryland JUCO, regional and North-Central District crowns.

The Hawks season ended Oct. 24 in a 1-0 overtime loss to Essex in their first game of regionals. The so-close-yet-so-far outcome pretty much summed up the season.

“It was as challenging of a season as ever,” said Hawks head coach Derek Dyson, whose club took an unusual backseat this year at CSM to the women’s soccer team that finished as the regional runner-up. “Makes it hard when you only get two returners. We did a good deal of recruiting but many fell through to paperwork issues, so I wasn’t able to get the mix of foreign-exchange students with the local talent as in past years. I think the core of the local talent we brought in was still able to play at a high level and achieve some measure of success.”

He added after falling to an Essex team his Hawks had beaten at home by a 2-1 overtime outcome earlier in October, “With that unanticipated early exit [from the postseason], my job has turned into getting the sophomores into four-year schools and I am fielding calls and emails daily in that regard. After that, I will be concentrating on recruiting for a better performance [next year] to get back to where we were [last year].”

Dyson lauded the leadership and heart of Hawks returners Kyle Toepfer (Ryken) and Steve Njike. Toepfer was the team’s captain.

Returning Ryan Garvin (Stone) from the 2009 Hawks team provided a lift during the season.

“He played with even more skill and maturity than when he was here before,” Dyson noted.

Toepfer, Njike and Garvin were honored as selections to the first-team All-Maryland JUCO team, while Hawks goalie William “Pete” Thomas (North Point) earned second-team all-conference status.

dcogle@somdnews.com