For area's best, sport is never out of season

Commitment: Soccer is a year-round activity for advanced club players.

Girls Soccer

September 02, 2004|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

John Carroll seniors Jamie Zimmerman, Ashley Myers and Rachel Layer are using their weekdays to focus on leading the No. 1 Patriots to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown that barely eluded them last fall.

On the weekends, the three scatter to play more soccer.

It's how the best get better.

Zimmerman travels a couple hours to Virginia to get a practice session in with her Reston Milan club team; Myers treks to Bethesda to get in touches with the highly touted Excel program; and Layer takes a jaunt up Route 1 to Philadelphia to work with her FC Delco club, practicing on Saturday and playing games on Sunday.

So when was the last time a day went by when they didn't touch a soccer ball?

"Oh, gosh," said Zimmerman, a brief pause and laugh following. "I really don't know - it's been a while. But this is what I love doing."

For the advanced club players, who dominate most private school rosters and are also prominent among the better public school teams, soccer is a year-round commitment with club play, the Olympic Development Program and, for a few in the area, youth national teams.

And in their busy soccer schedules, there's always time made in the fall to play for their respective high schools.

"Playing for your high school is a different atmosphere," said Centennial senior Hayley Siegel, a Parade All-American who plays club with Excel.

"You develop friendships that maybe you normally wouldn't and it's every day after school, so everyone is on the same page. When you get a group of girls that are really committed, it's exciting because you want to win for each other, your school and community."

Notre Dame Prep senior Beth Koloup, who plays with Layer for FC Delco, said the club aspect is more business. Practice sessions are more competitive, with players trying to keep their spots or beat out others. Games and tournaments provide a showcase for college coaches to scout.

High school play has its own competitive feel, but there's also room for fun and a different kind of responsibility players learn.

Dulaney senior Meagan Holmes, a pool player for the U.S. under-19 national team, just returned from a two-week stint playing in China and will likely miss chunks of the high school season with other national team duties. When she's home, she'll be sure to be on the field for the Lions.

"It adds a lot to my schedule, but I like the experience, and it's something fun to do," she said. "Playing for Dulaney is relaxing and enjoyable. The girls look up to me and soccer is fun in that environment."

Can it be too much soccer? Many high school coaches think so, and they are guarded when it comes to practice time.

The highly regarded WAGS (Washington Area Girls Soccer) Tournament takes place over a weekend in October when the high school season is in high gear. A week of high school soccer is preceded by up to five games over the weekend.

"Combined, it's too much," said John Carroll coach Gary Lynch, who gives his players time off going into and out of the WAGS weekend along with other opportune times over the course of the high school season. "The body can only take so much, and I think you see a lot of wear injuries late in the season because the kids are doing so much."

Myers and the rest are used to the grind and accept it for the love of the game.

"It can be draining emotionally, but if you love it as much as I do, you want to be out there. I make sure to relax on my time away from soccer and find a balance," she said.

Rivalries - both team-wise and individually -are another element the high school competition brings. Layer and Koloup will share a car to practice for FC Delco each weekend, but it's all business when John Carroll meets Notre Dame Prep. Anyone who saw the Blazers beat the Patriots, 5-4, in overtime of last year's IAAM championship can attest to that.

"I'd say 50 percent of our student body came out to that game and NDP had all their fans, too. It was awesome," said Layer. "That's a lot of fun and to get that notoriety in your school is great. Everybody knows you're on the soccer team."

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