Towson University sophomore Holly Noga thought about how nice it would be to play soccer at a big sports school like Tennessee. Also down south, UNC-Wilmington kept calling.
But when it came time to decide where the former Severna Park standout would be spending her next four years, it became more and more clear to her that she was meant to be a Tiger.
"They had my major, I liked the coaches, and on my visit, I felt real comfortable with the team," said Noga, a two-time Anne Arundel County Player of the Year. "And it also came down to I can't be away from my parents."
The reasons may vary, but a lot of the finest area high school players are choosing to play college ball right here - and Towson, UMBC, Loyola and Maryland are all happy to benefit.
"There's something about a Maryland player - not that some of the out-of-state players don't have it - but from the Baltimore area, there's a lot of pride in soccer. So when they get here, they have this attitude that they expect to be the best and expect to win. That's a mentality that's really strong here," said UMBC second-year coach Michelle Salmon, an Old Mill grad who enjoyed a fine career at Maryland.
Particularly with Towson and UMBC, there's always been a recruiting battle for the top local talent and now Loyola has turned its attention in that direction under fourth-year coach Joe Mallia.
"We've turned to local kids more in the past three or four years, and it's paid off for us," said Mallia, who has four freshmen from the area. "We find the Maryland players to come from pretty good club backgrounds, so they're all pretty technically good and tactically good. And we also find that they play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder with the right attitude."
Under third-year coach Leslie Wray, Towson has 13 locals on its roster, including last year's Metro Player of the Year, midfielder Shannon Jackson. At UMBC, Salmon is pleased with her recruiting class, led by Lauren Cunningham, a first-team All-Metro striker from Institute of Notre Dame. And Maryland usually has a say, this year boasting All-Metro striker Melissa Anderson from St. Mary's.
"I knew immediately Towson was for me," said Jackson, a River Hill grad who also considered Delaware and George Mason. "Everyone made me feel so much more welcome compared to the other visits. Plus, I wanted to stay home. That was a huge thing, because I want my parents to get the chance to see me play."
Cunningham, who had 25 goals and 11 assists last season at IND, wanted to stay close to home. UMBC won out over Towson.
"The advantage is, I can go home whenever I want, so I get the best of both worlds," she said. "As soon as I took my official visit at UMBC, I knew this is where I wanted to be. The team was more like me - I just felt like I fit in little better."
Terps' Biscoe near return
University of Maryland sophomore midfielder Jen Biscoe, who tore a knee ligament twice in the past year, could return soon.
The Sun's 1999 Metro Player of the Year from John Carroll started the first five games as a freshman last season before tearing her left anterior cruciate ligament in September. After surgery and rehabilation, Biscoe tore the same ACL again in February.
"She's still not cleared for contact, but she looks great and is getting more mobile every day," said Maryland coach Shannon Higgins-Cirovski. "We can't wait to get her back on the field, and we're hoping for around mid-September."
The Terps open their season at 7 tonight at home against Towson.
Hopkins strong again
Johns Hopkins, which closed last season on an 11-game winning streak to finish with an 18-3 mark (both program bests), has eight of its top 10 scorers returning in a bid to overtake Muhlenberg in the Centennial Conference.
In the Conference's preseason poll, the two teams were tied for first place with 93 points each, but Hopkins had the edge in first-place votes with six. Last season, Muhlenberg (8-1-1 in conference play) beat out Hopkins (8-2) atop the standings, despite losing to the Blue Jays, 1-0.
The inaugural Centennial Conference tournament will take place Oct. 27-28, with the top four teams competing.