Century tandem nears end of run

Girls lacrosse: Kelly Kasper and Lauren Schwarzmann, teammates for most of their lives, will play lacrosse at different colleges.

High Schools

May 19, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Kelly Kasper and Lauren Schwarzmann don't look too much beyond their upcoming graduation from Century High School and their drive for a state girls lacrosse title.

Thinking too far ahead forces them to face an unpleasant reality: This will be the last week they spend together as teammates.

After leading the Knights to two state soccer titles and what they hope will be a state lacrosse title next week, Kasper and Schwarzmann will go their separate ways in the fall. Kasper will play lacrosse at Maryland; Schwarzmann will play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins.

"It's going to be rough - her in the blue and me in the red," said Kasper. "It'll be fun, because we won't see each other for a long time and then that game, we'll see each other again, but I don't want to see her on the other team. I always want her to be on my team."

For now they remain teammates on a No. 11 Century team favored to win the state Class 2A-1A title after falling in the final a year ago. Tonight, the Knights go for their second straight regional crown at 6 p.m. at South Carroll.

Except for their sophomore year in high school when Schwarzmann went to the brand new Century High in Sykesville and Kasper remained at nearby South Carroll, they have been teammates since they began playing soccer together at 5 years old.

They met through their sisters, Jenny Kasper and Ashley Schwarzmann, who are two years older and best friends. One day when Jenny arrived at the Schwarzmanns' to visit Ashley, Kelly came, too.

"After we met, we started playing sports together and we went everywhere together," said Kelly Kasper.

Both tomboys back then, they played pretty much every sport offered by the Freedom Recreation Council in Sykesville, coached for a long time by their fathers. Their friendship grew, and so did their connection on the field.

"You don't really see them making eye contact. They just know where the other person is out there," said Century soccer coach Vanessa Ozimek.

Kasper and Schwarzmann, both 18, have emerged as the marquee players in the Knights' growth into a state power in girls soccer and lacrosse.

All-Metro selections in both sports, they combine exceptional talent and leadership skills with support for each other and their teammates.

"They are the most unselfish players there could ever be," said Century lacrosse coach Rose Pentz. "They're looking to assist everyone else more than they're looking to take the ball and put it in the net. However, when they need to, they're going to be aggressive."

With just one ball to go around and two aggressive players, animosity could easily develop, but Kasper and Schwarzmann remain the best of friends.

"People ask us, `Are you better or are you better?' " said Schwarzmann, "but we don't think about it. That's what makes us such good friends. We don't worry about that stuff."

"There's no competition between us," said Kasper. "If I have a bad game, Lauren steps up and she'll pick up the team. It's never Lauren vs. me. It's our team vs. the other team."

Opponents have discovered just how difficult stopping the two midfielders can be. So far this lacrosse season, Kasper has 55 goals and 36 assists, while Schwarzmann has 46 goals and 50 assists.

"They're an incredible combination," said C. Milton Wright coach Carl Greenberg, whose team slipped by the Knights, 10-6, two weeks ago.

"It put a lot of pressure on us, especially in the midfield where you can't get a good matchup on them. When they get into a settled offense, you have to switch a little bit on them, which is tough when they move the ball so well."

Their skills made them both highly recruited college prospects. At first, Kasper wanted to go far away - maybe Cal-Berkeley. Then she liked Ohio State and Penn State. Schwarzmann liked Penn State, but she also looked at Loyola and Maryland.

They never looked for a place to go together, taking all of their official visits separately.

Kasper, who carries a 4.0 weighted grade-point average and plans to be a kinesiology major, wanted a large school with big-time football. Schwarzmann, who has a 4.25 weighted GPA and wants a career in public health, preferred a smaller school.

In the end, however, they made separate choices based on the same criteria - being close to their families and playing for coaches they really liked.

Schwarzmann said she wanted to play with her sister Ashley at Johns Hopkins. Kasper looked at UMBC, where Jenny plays, but had always followed her sister and, she said, felt the time had come to choose her own path, opting for Maryland.

As they prepare to move on after helping lay a strong foundation in the Knights' first two seasons as a varsity program, Kasper and Schwarzmann leave a legacy that future classes may find hard to match.

"We're going to miss them," said Pentz, "but my hope is they're going to leave behind a tradition that other players are going to be able to pick up where they left off and continue to build the program. They'll leave behind some things that will make these other players want to aspire to be a Kelly or a Lauren."

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