Holmes marks her time on international stage

High schools: Dulaney's Meagan Holmes, 16, got a step closer to playing in the World Cup when she joined the under-19 team to face the Russian national soccer team.

Soccer

October 14, 2003|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Meagan Holmes has often imagined what it would be like to play in a World Cup soccer match.

"That's what I want to do," said the Dulaney junior. "It's always been my goal to be on the women's national team and to play in the Olympics, too, when I get older."

Last month, Holmes took a big step toward that dream. In Carson, Calif., to train with the under-17 national team, Holmes was summoned to the under-19 team for a match against the Russian national team in town for the World Cup.

Playing three-quarters of the game, Holmes helped the United States to a 1-0 victory in her first experience against an elite national team.

"It was an experience I'll never forget," Holmes said. "I was just enjoying the moment, because you never know if that will be your last time playing a team like that. I just took it and had fun."

That match is unlikely to be the last international competition for Holmes, who rose from the under-16 national team to the under-17 national team to the under-19 national pool in a matter of months.

A veteran of the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, Holmes went to California on Sept. 13 for a combined under-17/under-19 national team training camp. The 16-year-old had trained only once before with the under-17 national team, so she did not expect to play an international match.

From the start of camp, however, Holmes caught the eye of under-19 national team coach Tracey Leone.

"The first thing we noticed was she was just getting forward. She was very dangerous attacking as a back," said Leone. "We noticed how athletic she is. It's very difficult to play at this level without having an athletic quality to you. She's very comfortable with the ball. We like to possess, so it's important that our defenders are comfortable with the ball."

A defender for her club team, the Bethesda Excel, Holmes is technically strong and tactically sharp, but she may be best known for her speed.

"Meagan's got so much speed that she's able to do things knowing that if it doesn't quite work out, she's fast enough to recover," said Dave Nolan, her club coach for 2 1/2 years. "I've yet to see a player get past her, and we've played against the best players in the country."

Holmes showed off her speed running for the Ed Waters Track Club between the ages of 7 and 9 as the athletically gifted youngster sampled several different sports. At 12, after a couple years of club soccer, she decided to focus on soccer.

A year later, her first attempt to make the state ODP team tested that commitment.

"She got down to the last cut, but they didn't pick her up," said her father, Carl Holmes. "She was stunned. She wanted to know why, and I didn't have an explanation. In retrospect, that was the best thing in the world for her. She didn't like that pain. The next year, she came back and made the team. Then, she made the regional team and there was no looking back."

Since then, Holmes has been a rising star on the national ODP scene.

Over the summer, she attended a national under-17 team training camp in Houston and played in Spain with her regional team. In July, she scored the only goal in regulation during the Excel's runner-up finish - a 5-4 loss in penalty kicks to the San Diego Surf - in the under-16 US Youth Soccer National Championship.

Nolan sees nothing in the way of Holmes' continuing her rapid rise.

"Meagan is about the closest thing I have to somebody who wants to get to the very top, playing for their country in a World Cup," Nolan said.

"She's got everything she needs. She has what you can't teach. The technical stuff and the tactical stuff, you can always teach people that, but you can never teach somebody to be faster and you can never teach somebody who's a soft player to be that kind of competitor."

Perhaps her biggest challenge is juggling her soccer schedule and her schoolwork.

After a few weeks at home, Holmes will be off again, leaving Oct. 24 for another weeklong U-19 training camp in California, then heading to Boca Raton, Fla., for the ODP Girls Thanksgiving Interregional, Nov. 22-29.

For the next two weeks, however, Holmes will live the life of an average high school student athlete. She'll do a lot of schoolwork to keep up her 3.39 grade point average that, she acknowledged, would be higher if she didn't miss the estimated 40 to 43 days this school year for soccer.

She also will help to keep the Lions (8-3) on a steady course toward the regional playoffs.

For Holmes, playing with the Lions is as much fun as training with the national team. She moves up to center midfield, where coach Steve Power can make sweeping use of her artistry, especially her ability to distribute the ball or finish.

On the high school level, Holmes could dominate, but she would rather blend in. The other Lions appreciate her exceptional talents as well as her desire to be just one of the girls.

"She has a very goofy sense of humor, and she is really well-liked by everyone on the team," said Lions co-captain Alice Hughey. "She is this dominant player, but she never comes off that that's how she views herself. She never considers herself better than us."

One of the top scorers in the area with 16 goals and eight assists, Holmes didn't score in an 11-0 romp over Woodlawn last month, passing up shots to feed teammates. In close games, she steps up.

"She's got a playful personality, but when she walks on the soccer field, she's all business," said Power. "It's very easy for the other teammates to admire her. They kid her, but that's mostly because they see an ordinary miracle. They see things they can't do."

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