Foreign exchange yields strong bond on, off field

South Carroll: The Cavaliers' Liz Fries and German teen Ela Tarlan share a love of field hockey. Now, thanks to a Web site, the two girls are close friends - and teammates.

Field Hockey

September 02, 2004|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

The posting on the field hockey Web site a little over a year ago originated 4,000 miles away from Liz Fries' Mount Airy home, but the message seemed tailor-made for her.

Ela Tarlan, a German teenager, wanted to find a hockey-playing high school girl from another part of the world interested in spending a year studying abroad and playing club ball.

"Within minutes of seeing it, I said, `I'm going.' Maybe a few days later, I told my parents," said Fries, who as a sophomore All-Metro midfielder in the fall of 2002 helped the South Carroll field hockey team win the state Class 3A state title.

The two families were soon in contact and Tarlan made a short trip to the United States in July 2002. She carried her field hockey stick with her, so that Fries could pick her out at the airport.

The bond was instant, and in mid-August, Fries took off for KM-vnigstein, about 20 minutes from Frankfurt. Their friendship, fueled by a mutual love for field hockey, grew so strong that Tarlan decided to follow Fries back to South Carroll for a year.

"In Germany, we have 13 years of school and normally the 11th year gives the opportunity to pupils to travel," said Tarlan, 16. "My mom had this idea that, `You can go over to her house.' It was perfect."

The duo is a welcome addition to an already loaded Cavaliers team that reached the state semifinal last season, falling to Hereford in a shootout.

"They know a lot about the game and we've learned a lot of new techniques from them. On the field, they're very helpful," said senior Britt Woodfield, part of an outstanding Cavaliers midfield that includes Fries and 2003 All-Metro first-team pick Stephanie Kisic.

When they met, Fries and Tarlan already were riding a higher learning curve than most public high school players. Their Cavaliers teammates began playing as freshmen, but Fries started in the fourth grade and Tarlan as a 6-year old.

Fries, 17, a regular at the U.S. Field Hockey Association's National Futures Tournament since 2000, was a Junior Olympian in 2003 and played in the U.S.A.-Canada Challenge tournament this past summer.

Tarlan's club team, RM-|sselsheimer Ruder Klub (RRK), won national age-group championships in 2001 and, with Fries, in 2003.

"They had the Brazilian Olympic coach as their [RRK club] coach," said Cavaliers coach Erin Soulen, "so they are bringing back a lot of information.

"I'm learning things and the girls love it, too. It's exciting to have that dimension added to the team this year."

For all the success they've enjoyed in the sport, both girls admit to having to make adjustments when playing in the other's country. Both said the U.S. game is more physical while the German game is more efficient and quicker, largely because the Germans play on turf while local high school players play on grass, a rougher surface that neutralizes many of the intricate stick skills.

Fries, who is being recruited by several Division I programs, including defending national champion Wake Forest and Maryland, said she was surprised by how well the German teens played.

"I said, `Do you want me to play with younger kids, maybe 14-year-olds?' " said Fries, with a laugh. "Indoors, I started for their second team, but by the end of the season, I was on the first team, sometimes starting."

Tarlan, who has had only a few weeks to get used to the grass and the high school game, is enjoying celebrity status among the Cavaliers.

"It's cool. Even when I don't hit that hard, what I'm used to, they say, `Oh, that's awesome.' I feel like a queen, like an idol," said Tarlan.

Tarlan also is enjoying playing on the line. A sweeper at home, she scored several goals in scrimmages last week.

She has become a key component in South Carroll's offensive penalty corners. Fitting right in because she had a similar role on corner plays for her RRK club team, Tarlan gives the Cavaliers a wide variety of corner options. A big hitter, she often gets a stop from Fries and then slams it home, but Woodfield and Kisic are also strong on corners and the four of them provide tremendous diversity.

In just a few weeks, Tarlan has slipped easily into the Cavaliers' game and into budding friendships she hopes will last a lifetime. Woodfield and Kisic both said Tarlan had no trouble fitting in.

After this experience, Fries and Tarlan surely will stay in touch, but, as rising talents on the national scene in their respective countries, they have one primary goal - to meet again on the field, but on opposite sides.

"In 2012, we want to see each other in the Olympics," said Fries, who helped Tarlan celebrate Germany's Olympic gold medal victory last week over the Netherlands.

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