Commentary

Union-Endicott dynasty built on defense

Updated: October 21, 2009, 11:48 AM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

Much has been made of the amazing shutout streak by the boys' team at Hurricane (W.Va.), but a New York girls' team is inching higher on the all-time list, as well.

Union-Endicott (Endicott, N.Y.) completed regular-season play with a 4-0 victory over Ithaca to push its string of shutouts to 14.

The Tigers enter postseason play at 14-0 and have outscored their opponents 71-0.

"We have a very good keeper, and we limit shots," Union-Endicott coach Bill Stepanovsky said. "I believe the league is not as strong offensively [as in years' past], but at the same time, [14 straight shutouts] is not an easy task. They have to be right on all the time."

Senior Brittain Wagner is the starting goalkeeper, and she is getting interest from a range of colleges from Division III up to some Division I programs. The back four features seniors Danielle Mastro and Jenna Murphy, junior Mallory Foran and sophomore Mercedes Kendall.

Union-Endicott is no stranger to defensive soccer.

In Stepanovsky's 11 years as head coach, the program is 173-17-19 with 152 shutouts.

"We're not just talking five defensive players [a keeper and four backs]," Stepanovsky said. "Everyone on the team plays some defensive roll. We have a saying, if you can't play defense, you can't play for our team."

In the regular-season finale against Ithaca, Gina Baldwin scored three goals.

MORE CHAMPS: After three years of finishing No. 1 in North Dakota's East region but failing to reach the state final, the boys' soccer team at Fargo South (Fargo, N.D.) did one better Saturday  winning the state championship. Matt Keim's goal five minutes into the match lifted Fargo South to a 1-0 victory over Century (Bismarck, N.D.).

ON THE MOVE: The Art Firley Shootout in Jefferson City, Mo., has long been a staple of late-season tournaments for top Kansas and Missouri teams, but the wet weather moved the event nearly 150 miles east  to Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.) this past weekend. Jefferson City is located midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, making the venue a perfect middle ground. However, the move to St. Louis caused the event to be downsized to four teams playing a total of three matches. Jefferson City (Mo.) upset Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) in the opener, while Christian Brothers defeated Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) on Saturday and Jefferson City on Sunday.

TOUGH BREAK: Two Wisconsin schools had to forfeit playoff matches when the schools were closed due to high numbers of flu-related illnesses. The Wisconsin state association denied a request by Ashwaubenon (Wis.) to change the date of its match, resulting in a forfeit for Ashwaubenon. Wisconsin Dells (Dells, Wis.) also had to forfeit earlier in the week.

MILESTONES: Terry Michler, the nation's all-time winningest coach who has spent the last 39 seasons at Christian Brothers (St. Louis, Mo.) reached yet another coaching milestone, becoming the first coach to reach 800 career victories. CBC, a perennial FAB 50 program, defeated Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.), 1-0, for Michler's 800th victory. & Howell North (St. Charles, Mo.) boys' coach Vince Nowak picked up career win No. 400, making him the seventh Missouri coach to reach that figure. Nowak started the varsity program at Howell North in 1986, and according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, had a career record of 400-183-62 following a 2-1 victory over Timberland (Wentzville, Mo.).

Sheldon Shealer covers youth soccer for ESPNRISE.com. He can be reached at Sheldon.Shealer@espn.com.