Break makes heart grow fonder Girls soccer: North Carroll's Danielle Shearer, a year-round player for several years, distanced herself from the sport this summer. Now, with renewed perspective, the fire's burning again.

October 03, 1997|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

North Carroll's Danielle Shearer had played and loved the game of soccer since she was a little girl. But this summer, something was wrong.

"Soccer was losing its spark to me," she said. "I think I was getting tired of it." But she had been involved with the game year-round for the past several years.

"I asked myself, 'Why would I quit soccer?' " said Shearer. "Soccer's my love." But it became clear that a break was needed, an idea that simultaneously scared and made sense to her.

She took a summer job and went on soccer hiatus for two months. Shearer still worked with the ball and kicked it around informally but did not compete.

The absence, indeed, made her soccer heart grow fonder.

When fall practice began, the junior striker was re-energized and again felt like she was playing with spark.

"I was so excited to play," said Shearer.

If Shearer was a bit burned out, it was understandable. After all, soccer has been a big part of her schedule for a long time. She has played soccer year-round at least since middle school. She has competed on the high school, recreation and club circuits while constantly trying to improve her game. In fact, Shearer started for North Carroll in both her freshman and sophomore seasons. She had four goals and three assists as a freshman and improved to seven goals and four assists as a sophomore.

She scored four goals and added three assists in the first six games this season as North Carroll went 3-1-2. But now that she feels better, Shearer wants more.

She liked her two-goal, one-assist effort vs. Francis Scott Key and the two-assist performance she had against Frederick. Now she wants to keep it coming on a consistent basis.

"I think I've played OK," said Shearer. "I think I can play better than I have been."

Shearer said the time away helped her feel better about the game and herself. During the break, she dealt with the ticklish situation of self-confidence.

She made All-Carroll County and All-Central Maryland Conference last season and was her team's second-leading scorer. But this season, Shearer knew the Panthers would be looking to her on offense and felt pressure early.

"I think I was nervous at the beginning," said Shearer. "I had to live up to everybody's expectations, and then I was worried about people looking for me. I know now that I don't have to live up the expectations everybody puts on me."

Shearer eventually got past that and realized she just needed to worry about her own expectations -- and those were hard enough.

To that end, she wants to give her best effort on the field at all times. North Carroll coach Jim MacDonald said that's a Shearer trademark.

"She always plays extremely hard for any ball anywhere near her," said MacDonald. "She's looked good from day one [this season], from the soccer perspective."

Shearer's biggest goal is for the Panthers to have a solid season. The key to that is for the team to be able to win clutch games against good teams -- something that has eluded the Panthers in recent years.

North Carroll suffered a 1-0 loss to Franklin, one of Baltimore County's best. The Panthers also tied South Carroll and Urbana.

But the meat of their schedule is coming, and MacDonald said that's where the team needs Shearer to shine.

"She's a player we need to step up in the big games," he said. "We're counting on her, among a number of players we're relying on."

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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