Mom's having a ball

Sport: A women's soccer group based in Columbia gives new meaning to `soccer moms,' as mothers and daughters play together.

Howard At Play

June 11, 2000|By Carol Sorgen | Carol Sorgen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"Will I ever get to retire?" moans Kelly Johnston-Chase. It sure doesn't look like it - at least not so long as her mother is out there sharing the field with her as players on the Litigators, a team that competes in the Women's Soccer Association of Columbia's A league.

"My mother is one of the fastest players on the team," says Johnston-Chase, of Hanover. "When I watch her, I feel like I have to keep playing as long as she does. I'll never be able to keep up her pace.

"No, seriously, though," Johnston-Chase adds with a laugh, "I am proud of her."

Anne Orthner and Johnston-Chase aren't the only mother-daughter act in the Columbia league - one of two in Maryland mainly for women. Dolores Roberts, 55, and her two daughters, Jennifer, 29, and Jannica, 23, all play for the C league Cruisers, for example.

There are several other pairs in the association's four leagues - A, B, C and D, the A league having the most skilled and experienced players.

Senior player

At 57, Orthner, of Annapolis, is the league's oldest player; the youngest is 17.

"I hope I'm that active when I'm her age," says league president Molly McDermott.

Orthner came to soccer about 18 years ago, tired of being left out of the dinner conversation between her husband, Hans, a soccer coach, and her two daughters, who played soccer in school.

"I'd always been athletically inclined," says Orthner, "but in my day, girls didn't learn sports the same way they do today."

That didn't get in Orthner's way. When her younger daughter, Kelly, started playing in the Columbia league, Orthner's interest was piqued.

"I saw all those gray-haired people on the team and said to myself, `If they can play, I can play.'"

And play she has, even returning to the game after the birth of her youngest daughter, who, at 16, is, to no one's great surprise, also a soccer player.

A mental break

Orthner loves her soccer time, saying that the weekly games give her a mental break, some needed exercise, a diverse group of friends of all ages and an outlet for a competitive streak she wasn't even sure she owned.

That competition isn't found on the playing field, though, say both Orthner and daughter Kelly. As a sweeper, the last defensive player in front of the goalkeeper, Kelly's job is to direct other defending players.

And, at least on the field, Orthner doesn't mind.

"Players need someone to do that," she says.

It might be a bit odd for a player to call out, "Hey, Mom," during a game, but Orthner has gotten used to it. On the other hand, daughter Kelly thinks "it's weird to call her `Mom,' but it would also be weird to call her 'Anne.'" So "Mom" it is.

Neither pregnancy nor back surgery nor a mastectomy has kept the eldest Roberts away from the soccer field for long.

Daughters Jennifer and Jannicaplayed as youngsters, and Dolores remembers thinking, "It seemed like fun, and what's more, it seemed easy."

In the Roberts households, weekends are "all soccer," says Dolores.

And the fact that she and her two daughters play on the same team and have the same schedule makes weekends much easier.

"I like playing with my mother and sister," adds Jennifer. "It's something fun we can all do together. It's also nice to be able to yell at them and not have them get mad at you at all."

"Yeah, on the field people are always yelling at each other," adds Jannica, "but that's normal."

About 400 women play in the Women's Soccer Association. Games take place Sundays during the two soccer seasons, spring and fall, at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia.

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