A spark plug named Sara Field hockey: Severna Park's Sara Zuckerman may stand only 4-11, but the second-team All-America midfielder is hunting for another state championship.

September 17, 1998|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

After every season, Severna Park field hockey coach Lil Shelton hands out individual awards that best describe that particular player.

Following the Falcons' Class 4A state title -- a state record 10th -- last fall, it was only fitting midfielder Sara Zuckerman walked off with the Spark Plug Award.

"She's just that, our spark plug. She keeps us going. Without a spark plug, you don't have an engine," said Shelton.

The top-ranked Falcons have it revved up once again this season, having outscored opponents 21-0 in a 3-0 start. The defense is strong, as usual; the attack features speed on the wings and powerful finishers; the midfield links both with Zuckerman, a second-team All-American in 1997, the primary instigator.

"I play because I love it. Every day I wake up and want to play field hockey," she said. "Playing midfield, I get the best of both worlds. It's generally an offensive position, but you also can't let the other team get the ball down our way."

Since Zuckerman started playing field hockey in sixth grade, the 4-foot-11 senior has compiled a resume that, like her crafty stickwork, catches your attention.

She has played in the U.S. Field Hockey Association's Futures Program since 1995 and was on two Under-19 teams representing Maryland and Delaware that won gold medals.

In 1997, she played on an Under-16 U.S. team that played in Europe. The year before, she was the only sophomore selected to Team Maryland, which competed at the USFHA Festival in Palm Beach, Fla.

"You have to make your opportunities," said Shelton. "They don't just fall into your lap. Sara makes things happen. She's had a lot of opportunities to improve her game, and she's taken them. She's a student of field hockey."

After attending the Key School in Annapolis, Zuckerman entered Severna Park in the 10th grade. Her commitment to the game, combined with the school's rich field hockey tradition, proved a perfect match.

"I had no idea what I was getting into that first day of practice," she said. "I came from a really small school that had no tryouts to a team that had 75 players trying out. The tradition helps us set goals, and they're always high.

"You have to live up to the tradition, and it always makes us a high quality team."

Sophomore Nicki Barnes, who plays in front of Zuckerman at left wing, gives an idea of Severna Park field hockey and Zuckerman's role in recent years.

"It's an honor, really, to play with Sara," Barnes said. "She's helped me out so much. It's such a step up from JV to varsity -- there's so much more talent and more speed to the game. It's intimidating, but also a lot of fun knowing someone like Sara [is] there to back me up.

"She plays field hockey on grass like she's on turf. She's so quick, she moves it in and out of everybody."

At left midfield, Zuckerman always plays against the opponents' strong side. She's always up for the challenge.

"She goes to the ball well and leads our left wings perfectly," said Shelton. "She keeps things moving and opens the game up when we came move the ball out from the center of the field."

Zuckerman scored nine goals and assisted on seven more last season and already has two goals and three assists this season.

Ask what she tries to accomplish on the field, and she gives a simple, calculated reply: "I try to make something happen every time I touch the ball."

Zuckerman, with a 3.0 grade-point average, is undecided on a college.

"It seems to change every day," she said. James Madison University was her latest interest.

She's also focusing on enjoying her senior season with a second straight state title once again the familiar goal.

"We put in so much time that we all have a sense of urgency as seniors," she said. "These are the best friends I'll ever have, and that didn't hit me until now. You have to appreciate everyone and every moment."

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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