Fallston star takes expectation in stride

September 06, 1992|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

The county high school soccer season hasn't really started yet, but Fallston High School, and more importantly it's senior star, Shane Dougherty, already are drawing attention.

The Cougars will be trying to extend a non-losing streak against county teams that has reached 14 (12-0-2) and two league titles over the last two years. With the streak comes the added pressure of knowing you're the No. 1 foe on opposing schedules.

Looking at the past few years, pressure seems to be the chief ingredient that drives Dougherty. The tougher it gets, the better he plays. This season he carries the additional tag of the county's best player.

It's a title not lightly tossed around, but one that has been hard-earned.

Dougherty, a four-year starter on the front line, cites his work in the Olympic Development program for sharpening his skills.

"I think it is probably more mental than physical," he said after practice one day last week. "We're only as good as the people around us, so playing with better players makes you improve."

It has been a steady rise for the Iowa native who started playing soccer at age 4 -- "My older brother played baseball, but he got me started," -- and moved into the area recreation programs when the family moved to Harford County eight years ago.

About the time he started high school, he began making an impression on outside observers.

The Olympic Development camp thrives on an elimination process that sorts out the best players at one level and pushes them to the next.

Thus, a regional team member moves on to a state team, in the case of Maryland, one of 13 in an East Coast region. From this, perhaps 30 to 40 players go into a regional pool from which 18 are chosen for a touring team.

Selection for this team has enabled Dougherty to play against teams from as close as Virginia and as far away (and varied) as New Mexico and England.

"In England last spring, our players, aged 15-17, played against older [19-under] English teams," Dougherty explained. "They were very aggressive and great in the air."

The overall experience taught the acrobatic 5-foot-7, 135-pounder a lot.

"It gave me more moves, because it made me dribble, made me be more aggressive, got me to be a finisher."

Last year, in a 2-0 win against Joppatowne that clinched the county title, Dougherty scored both goals. The second one was a side volley, a sideways version of the over-the-head scissors kick.

"Almost indefensible," losing coach Tom Dove called it.

Later, he scored Fallston's only goal in a state semifinal loss to Wilde Lake decided by a shootout to break a 1-1 tie.

At this point, the team's skills are probably not as solid as a year ago, but scrimmages have shown where work is needed, and coach Len Petrey is doing the rest.

"Our games should be tougher this season," Dougherty added, "but we should be OK."

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