Winning the State Cup earlier this month was just the beginning of ajam-packed soccer summer for Hannah Flatau and Wendy Kanely.
The two Harford County teens play for the Greater Baltimore Soccer Club, a team composed mainly of girls from central Baltimore County.
Center halfback Flatau and striker Kanely helped the club win itsfirst-ever State Cup, in the new Under 17 division. The club had lost to the powerful Columbia Crusaders for the past four years, but Columbia didn't have a team in the new age group this year. GBSC beat the Potomac Blast, 2-0, June 2 to take the Cup.
"Our name is the first one engraved on the trophy," said Flatau, who lives in Bel Air andwill be a senior this fall at St. Paul's School for Girls in Baltimore County. "That's a great feeling to know you'll always be the firstones to win it."
The victory made all the travel time the two putin running back and forth to Northern High School in Baltimore City worth it. They practice three times a week, year-round.
But hour-long round trips to practice are nothing compared to their summer schedule. First, they'll head for Amherst, Mass. to play in the regional soccer tournament beginning July 3. A strong showing there could win them a spot in the national tournament in Omaha, Neb., in late July -- but the competition will be exceptionally tough.
In between, theteam will head to Minnesota for the USA Cup 91, an international tournament which has become the highlight of the year for most of the girls on the Greater Baltimore Club. The event, complete with Olympic-style opening ceremonies in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, offers competition for boys and girls from all over the world on several age levels.
"Everyone there is always playing soccer," said Kanely, a sophomore at Fallston High. "Even on breaks, you could go outside the dorms and find people kicking a ball around, and you could just join up with them.
"I met so many people, some from Hawaii and Korea. There was a team on our floor from Alaska. I'm really looking forward to seeing some people again this year."
The USA Cup is soccer heaven for players like Flatau and Kanely. Not only do they get to compete without a lot of pressure, but they also can watch and talk soccer allday.
Both were bitten by the soccer bug early. Flatau started kicking a ball with brothers Ben, 21, and George, 19, when she was just a tot. Kanely joined a recreation team in elementary school.
They each played for years on recreation teams and also for their high school varsity teams. Flatau heard about the Greater Baltimore Club at school and tried out five years ago. And Kanely's mom heard about an opening on the team from Flatau's mother about a year ago.
Both girls hope to play soccer in college. They would rather play soccer thanjust about anything else, and do it all year. If you think the NBA season is long, you haven't followed youth soccer.
Their club team does get a vacation every year -- one week off after the State Cup competition.
Don't they ever get tired of it?
Kanely's answer is a resounding no, but Flatau admits that the practice grind gets to her once in a while. "At one point this season, I started to get burnedout," said Flatau, who also plays lacrosse and field hockey at St. Paul's.
"But once you get out and start playing games, you just know it's what you want to do."