If his sport was basketball, he might be Muggsy Bogues, dribbling like a maniac, darting through defenses then passing off to taller teammates for an easy score. If the game was football he might be Dave Meggett, using quick feet and speed to move around slower opponents, leaving them feeling undressed in the middle of the field.
But Howard High School's Stephen Sietsema plays soccer, and the 5-foot-5, 130-pound senior midfielder is just as electrifying as those other little men.
"Nobody can stop him," said his friend and teammate, Josh Smith, the Lions' leading scorer this year with seven goals. "He has great footwork. He can leave somebody standing around picking up their pants. And it's not a one-time thing. He does it every play."
"He creates an excitement in the crowd and the players every time he touches the ball," said Howard coach Rudy Storch. "He's so quick, you have to be afraid of how far he'll get into your goal . . . His value is he'll always be a high assist man, confusing the defense and setting up goals."
That role is fine with Sietsema, an All-America whose two-year experience on the U.S. national 16-and-under team and other all-star teams has exposed him to top level coaching and expanded his understanding of the game. "I enjoy dribbling," he said. "I'm not very big so I can't play physical or jump high to head the ball. Since I'm close to the ground and have small feet I have pretty good control of the ball."
A first-team All-Metro selection last year, Sietsema is one of six captains on this year's team. "He's a stabilizing influence," said Storch. "He's helpful teaching technique to the younger kids. He's a nice kid and they respect him. Another kid would go to him for advice when he wouldn't go to an adult . . . When the boys get together and make comments about soccer, Stephen's observations will be very acute."
In fact, what Sietsema enjoys most about the game is "just being around all my teammates," he said. "You get closer to all your friends."
Sietsema has played soccer in Columbia youth programs since he was 7, so he has plenty of friends, many playing at other county schools. The rivalries get very intense. "It adds to the excitement," he said. "Even playing together for club teams, we're talking about high school competition. . . After we kill each other in the high school season, we can be friends again."
That competitiveness can be viewed tomorrow night when second-ranked Howard (5-0) hosts top-ranked Oakland Mills (4-1) 6 p.m. "We'll definitely be the underdogs," Sietsema said. "This is one of the best teams they've had. They have the best talent in the state . . . It'll mean a lot for pride, but the loser will get another chance in the playoffs. We want the No. 1 ranking going into the regional playoffs."
Pride is certainly a motivator for him. With a 3.3 grade-point average, Sietsema could go to almost any college he wishes but, despite his size, he wants to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which many consider the nation's strongest soccer conference. Don't bet against him.
Josh Smith has been Sietsema's friend and neighbor since third grade. "He always dribbled a ball around the house," Smith said. "Everything he ever did had to do with soccer. It's paid off."