Columbia Spirit is magnet for soccer players, wins

November 17, 1992|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

The word is out on the Columbia Spirit. It's been the best girls soccer team in the state for the past three years competing at under-12, under-13 and under-14.

And the Columbia Spirit's getting even better.

In addition to being a three-time defending state cup champ, the Spirit captured the Division I WAGS championship this fall. It's a rare feat for a Maryland team to beat top Virginia teams in the younger age brackets in the fall.

Such performances have turned the Spirit into a magnet for many of the top young players in the Baltimore area.

Fourteen of the 16 team members are freshmen. Thirteen of those players started or played a lot for their high school teams. Several were impact players for teams that had outstanding seasons.

One of the players is still in eighth grade, one is a sophomore and one freshman attends a school that plays a winter soccer schedule instead of fall. Of the 16 girls, 13 are state Olympic Development players. Two are in the ODP regional pool.

Though most are from Howard County schools, some come from Fallston, Towson, Perry Hall and Sykesville to take advantage of what the Spirit offers.

Meg Giorno travels 80 miles round trip from Fallston four or five days a week to practice with the Spirit.

"It's most definitely worth it," she said. "There's no team like this near where I live."

Her John Carroll High School team won the Catholic League championship and went 12-1-3. She played 50 percent of the time at either halfback or stopper.

Abby Bausman of Dulaney makes a 60-mile round trip from Cockeysville. The sophomore center-halfback was one of Dulaney's top scorers this fall. The Lions are 14-1-0 and in the Class 4A-3A finals Saturday against Centennial.

Another Dulaney player, freshman starting striker Alison Schuch, is also a Spirit team member.

Most of the girls are looking for a club team that takes soccer seriously and the Spirit fulfills that desire.

"I used to play for Glyndon, but most of the girls didn't really care much about how we did, so I joined the Spirit last winter," said Jaime Baier, a Sykesville resident who played this fall for South Carroll High.

The Cavaliers lost in the state semifinals and finished with a 12-2-1 record. Baier was a freshman stopper. But last spring she scored two of the Spirit's three goals in the state cup final.

The majority of the girls play on such Howard County teams as Centennial, Wilde Lake, Hammond, Atholton, Howard and Mount Hebron.

Shannon Otto was an impact player for Mount Hebron as a freshman striker, scoring 13 goals as the Vikings made it to the state semifinals for the first time.

Julie Kickham, a sweeper, joined Otto as freshmen starters for Mount Hebron.

Michelle Clare made just as large an impact as starting striker for the defending state champion Centennial Eagles, who are in the finals Saturday against Dulaney.

Clare is one of Centennial's top two scorers with 12 goals and seven assists. She has played for the Spirit since she was 9 and is a member of the ODP regional pool.

Goalkeeper Rima Sidhu and starting Eagles defender Tania Riismandel are also Centennial freshmen with Spirit backgrounds.

The rest of the Spirit team includes: Meg Cronin (Howard), Jackie Jamaris (Notre Dame Prep), Lauren Molinaro (Dunloggin Middle), Jessa Phoebus (Perry Hall), Amanda Robins (Atholton) and Ashley Decker (Hammond).

"We have the potential to be as good as any Maryland girls team ever," said coach John Bagrosky.

The team practices at Harper's Choice Middle School, the same practice field that produced three national champion boys teams, the United, the Kick and the Jays.

The Spirit will play in two December tournaments, one in North Carolina, and one in Florida.

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