A young, determined Columbia, Md., soccer team, which two years ago suffered disheartening defeat in its bid for a state championship, this weekend may be able to achieve its latest goal: the North American championship in its class.
Most members of the team, the Columbia KICK, were 13 when they were defeated in the Maryland State Championships in 1980, and many had a hard time accepting it gracefully.
But after two years of hard work they are scheduled to leave today for Victoria, British Columbia, to play in the seventh annual United Commercial Travelers' North American Youth Soccer Championship. The tournament, sponsored by the Order of United Commercial Travelers, a nonprofit fraternal organization, has been called the North American World Cup for youth.
"The most critical point in the history of this team was when it lost the under-14 regional championship two years ago," said Rudy Storch, the team's coach. "We could have folded then, everyone was so disappointed. But we met and decided to work hard, wait two more years, and try for the under-16 regionals."
"That was quite a decision for the team members, being so young," Storch added.
Eight regional championship "boys 16-and-under" teams from the United States and Canada are meeting in the playoffs Friday through Sunday.
KICK, the eastern U.S. regional champion, will play in a four-team playoff for the American championship. Other U.S. teams are from Michigan, California and Texas. The winner of the American playoff will play the winner of Canada's four-team playoff for the North American title.
KICK has a 27-2 record for 1982, its two losses coming in tournament play.
It captured the National Capital Soccer League title with a 9-0 record this spring, then went on to successfully defend its Maryland under-16 title, posting a 5-0 mark.
In regional play, KICK again went undefeated, 5-0, scoring a hard-fought victory over a tough Braddock Road team from Alexandria in the Region I final.
The team's only losses came in two different tournaments; it compiled 4-1 records in each.
Storch attributes his team's success to dedication, hard work and the rapport he has with his team.
Eight years ago Storch, an associate professor in ancient studies at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, didn't know the difference between a goal and the Greek letter pi.
"My son was interested in soccer and I naturally showed interest in what he was doing," Storch said. "About seven years ago, Columbia's soccer association asked me to coach a team, even though I knew nothing about the game."
Storch does not like defeat, nor does he like not knowing everything about a subject that has captured his interest, and he passed these traits on to his team.
"I grabbed every book I could find on the subject and read it. I became a book-learned expert on tbe subject," Storch said with pride. "I have just as large a library on soccer as I do on Greek and Roman history."
The defeat two years ago made the coach and his team determined to be great.
Matt Kern, a player on the team who was also on KICK two years ago, said it was the coach who persuaded the team to carry on.
"We were broken at the time. Many people quit. But the coach, who was like a father to us, convinced us to go on," Kern said. "We are really excited about the tournament; just going there is a major goal we set for ourselves."
Storch and his co-coach this year, Bill Stara, worked their team hard to prepare for this season.
"Most teams practice twice a week. We practice five times a week for two hours a day," Storch said. "The boys are tremendously dedicated. That is why we have a good shot at the championship."