Despite Maryland State Cup final defeat, Baltimore Celtic hopeful of future success
The Maryland Under-18 State Cup final on May 31 brought together two of the state’s powerhouse youth teams as Olney Rangers faced Baltimore Celtic at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, Maryland.
Baltimore Celtic overcame Bayshore Soccer Club, Bethesda Revolution and SAC Pre-Academy in the previous rounds of the State Cup without conceding a goal, a run that took them to the final game and a shot at the 2014 US Youth Soccer Region I Championships.
Rangers would come out on top by a final score of 2-1, and Celtic head coach Brandon Quaranta was quick to praise Olney and their coach Matthew Pilkington after their fifth straight State Cup victory.
“I thought prior to the game we had a good week of training and preparation,” Quaranta told SoccerWire.com. “I’m not sure if it carried itself over into the game. It’s all credit to Olney, I thought they were the better team on the day, I thought they deserved to win the game.
“I’m not sure that we had our best overall performance, I would say particularly to start the game in the first 20 minutes and then again the first 20 minutes of the second half. We just didn’t seem to have the energy that you need to play in a State Cup final to be successful. I was a little disappointed in that area, but again a lot of it had to do with the opponent and what they did to limit us in the game.
“Matthew Pilkington is a tremendous coach. To win five years in a row is quite a credit in a state like Maryland to be able to do that. They’ll be fantastic representatives for the state in upcoming competitions. We have a ton of respect for Olney.”
Despite the loss, the defeated finalists are hopeful that they can make a return to the final stages of the showpiece tournament again next year as well as other top tournaments like the Dallas Cup and the Disney Showcase as they return all but two of their players from this year’s team.
This year’s roster was formed largely from players who had previously represented Baltimore Bays in the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA), but moved to Celtic as they wished to play soccer at the high school level, something that it not permitted by the USSDA.
“Most of the players and coaches moved [to Baltimore Celtic] for various reasons, but one was as they wanted to play high school soccer and obviously the USSDA is not allowing that currently. It’s a group that’s been together for a while. The team that actually played, all but two of the players were Under-17 players.
Quaranta and his colleagues at Baltimore Celtic believes that desire to play high school soccer was why many former Baltimore Bays players chose to make the switch. He went on to suggest that the USSDA’s policy of not allowing its players to play for their high schools is not helpful for their development.
“Obviously I work at McDonogh School, I coach there and I’m very personally invested in high school soccer,” Quaranta said. “I think all our players and coaching staff feel the same way.
“Each player can determine their own path and the steps for them, whether it’s high school, USSDA, [United States Youth Soccer], whatever it is. We just believe that each player should have that personal decision in their hands. For me, high school soccer in a place like the [Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association] is good soccer with good programs and then you get quality games.
“In other conferences where maybe the league is not as strong, I still think there’s a lot of things you can pull from high school soccer, most of it’s in the character department. I think leadership is one of the big things you can pull out of high school soccer.
“Guys maybe are able to play more primary roles with their high school team than maybe the role they play in the USSDA system or anything else. It gives them an opportunity to experience something different and be a leader and a prime player in that group.
“I think there’s tonnes of values in high school soccer and I think the motivation of playing for your school and representing that institution that’s important to you, I think all those things are benefits. To try and tell players they don’t have a choice to do that, for me is a little short-sighted.”
Quaranta believes the future looks bright for Baltimore Celtic not only at the Under-18 age group but in the younger sections also. Their most senior side will lose just two players from this year’s roster — NSCAA High School Player of the Year George Campbell and Sam Wancowocz — while all others are eligible to return next year. With such continuity, Celtic believe they have what it takes to continue competing.
“We fell a little bit short of our goals this year but the group that’s coming back is a group that’s achieved a lot in their careers, knows how to play attractive soccer, been very successful from a group standpoint, so I think from just a quality group perspective, they’re going to be very high level.
“More importantly, this year acts as a motivation. Coming back next year, realising that we fell a little bit short of what we wanted to accomplish and that we probably need to crank it up an extra notch to not let that happen again next year.
“We’ve got guys who have come up through the ranks with our coaching staff and have developed into being top level players. I think those guys who are juniors and sophomores have learned from those guys four or five years older than them who have gone on to successful college careers and some pro careers and have seen how they carry themselves and handle themselves on the field and off the field.
“Our hope is those guys over the next year or two can pass that on to our Under-12s, Under-13s and Under-14s. We believe that our Under-12s and Under-13s in particular are some of the strongest groups we’ve ever had at those age groups and that the future is really bright there. There are some talented groups, hard-working groups.”
This ability to recruit players and develop them into some of the top prospects in both Maryland and the United States comes in part from Baltimore Celtic’s emphasis on team play over individual skill. As part of their mission statement, Celtic ensure at a young age that players buy into these principles of teamwork, and they are rewarded with strong results at all age groups.
“One of the main staples of our organization and one of the reasons we develop it is team camaraderie, you’re playing for something bigger than yourself, it’s always been a staple of the teams and programs we’ve tried to put together,” Quaranta said. “We’re tyring to put a real emphasis on it.
“I think it’s just good for character building, and I think if you’re really trying to produce a top notch organization, if each individual improves and each collective team improves, that club improves.
“Our guys try to have them be selfless and put their personal goals and personal ambitions to the side and then really strive to put the team at the forefront and achieve team goals. It’s critical to what we do, we try to have guys who put an emphasis on creating relationships with one another, both teammates and coaches.
“We’re very big on age groups being comfortable and familiar with each other, we’re always pushing young guys to play up, always pushing the older guys to give back to the younger players. That’s something we try to build in every day and every week into our training environment. I think the more successful we can be in that department, the more successful we’ll be as a club as we move forward.”