Zammichieli's net work boosts No. 6 Hammond

Girls soccer: Three-sport star Tara Zammichieli's stellar performance in goal has helped the county champion Golden Bears go from 7-9 last season to 13-1-1.

October 28, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Hammond's Tara Zammichieli can't remember the last time a day went by that she didn't have to be somewhere.

No complaints, of course. Three-sport standout high school athletes simply aren't made that way. But if you wanted to paint a picture of her average week, you couldn't pull it off without making it a collage. A collage teeming with penalty kicks, three-pointers, sacrifice bunts, drop kicks, free throws and stolen bases.

"It seems like I'm doing sports every day," says Zammicheili, a three-year starter in goal for Hammond, as well as an all-county point guard and shortstop for the Golden Bears. "I'm not joking. There's always somewhere to be. I've brought my soccer cleats to basketball games just not thinking about it."

It might be the only time you'll catch Zammicheili in a mental lapse. Though soccer has never been her primary sport, the 5-foot-8 senior has been outstanding in net this season, helping lead Hammond to a 13-1-1 record, the No. 6 ranking and its first county championship since 1998.

"Tara has been an absolute rock," says Bears coach Pete DiMarco. "I can't tell you how many balls she saves that look like they're in the net. I'm a defensive coach, so to me, seeing her make a big save is like us scoring a goal. You never hear about how many times she comes out of nowhere to make a stop or grab a corner kick."

Few, if any, outside of Hammond expected the Bears to elbow their way to the top of a balanced county race, considering they went 7-9 a year ago and scored only 25 goals all season, 10 of those coming in a playoff win against Lackey.

But with Melissa Workman scoring this season in bunches (her 16 goals lead the league), Hammond has stood tall against traditional powers like Centennial, River Hill and Wilde Lake. Hammond's only loss this season came against Mount Hebron, when Zammichieli withstood a barrage of shots before the Bears finally succumbed to a late Vikings' rally.

"For every goal that Melissa scored, that's how many goals Tara stopped," DiMarco says. "She did for us defensively what Melissa did for us offensively. I really believe that. See has an uncanny ability to see the ball and to track it early like very few goalies do."

Says Zammichieli: "People always say, `As long as you're having fun, it's OK.' But it's pretty obvious that you're only having fun when you're winning. This year has been so much more fun because of that. We've won big games, and everyone has done their part. Our offense has played so well that it's taken a lot of pressure off our defense. We know we don't have to shut people out every time."

Still, Zammichieli has shut out teams this year anyway, eight times to be exact. Against Atholton, in a game Hammond needed to win to clinch the county title, Zammichieli made 14 saves and snagged numerous corner kicks, more often than not leaping out of a crowd to grab the ball only to come crashing back to earth in sea of enemy jerseys.

"Even in our blowouts, Tara has had to play because she's our only goalie," DiMarco says. "I think every other starter has gotten some rest at some point, but every minute of every game and every practice, Tara has been in there. It shows you how tough she is."

Not that DiMarco could drag her off the field even if he wanted to. In basketball, Zammichieli was the do-everything point guard and helped the Bears go 12-12 last season, scoring 30 points in a win over Wilde Lake. In softball, she was one of the county's best, leading the much-improved Bears in hits (37), doubles (nine), batting average (.487), on-base percentage (.512) and slugging percentage (.605).

The focus now is undoubtedly on soccer, as Hammond begins its quest for a Class 2A state title Tuesday at Atholton, which continued its impressive season by beating Glenelg in a shootout Friday.

Zammichieli, the team jokester, also knows it will be up to her to keep her teammates loose in the playoffs, when tight games are often decided on penalty kicks. And if it comes down to that and the entire team's hopes fall on her shoulders, so be it.

"If it comes down to it, I'd rather have the game [in penalty kicks] because I know we can put it into the net and I know I'd make the stops," Zammichieli says. "I'd want the game in my control if we were going to win or lose. Winning states would cap off everything perfectly, and anything less would definitely be a disappointment."

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