With John Carroll's Zimmerman, Myers, it's talent - concentrated

On High Schools

High Schools

September 21, 2004|By MILTON KENT

ONE MISSISSIPPI. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Four Mississippi.

That's all it took for the John Carroll girls soccer team to lose the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland's A Conference title match to Notre Dame Prep last November in double overtime.

Is that how it works? Four lousy seconds wipe away three months of sweat equity, not to mention all the preparation beforehand? Hardly seems fair, does it?

Probably not, but those four ticks of the clock and a Zoey Bouchelle goal have sold the Patriots, the area's top-ranked team, on the lesson of taking every minute, every second seriously like nothing else could.

"Everyone feels it," said center midfielder Jamie Zimmerman. "We were so close before. With that much more focus and concentration for that much longer, we could have won. Our whole goal is to stay focused for the whole 90 minutes and for the whole overtime, so we can finish it off and win this season."

So far, the Patriots (6-0), ranked 10th in the most recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll with a new one due out today, may not be the greatest show on turf, but that ranking seems just a matter of time, if their recent play is an indicator.

Last week, John Carroll held off No. 6 River Hill, 1-0, two days after blasting St. Mary's, 7-0. In that game, forward Ashley Myers notched a hat trick, which is remarkable in and of itself in a soccer game.

What made the moment even more significant was that Myers, who had 20 goals last season, scored all three goals before halftime and didn't play in the second half.

Yesterday, Myers produced another hat trick during a 5-0 win over Perry Hall.

"That's like hitting four home runs in a baseball game," said John Carroll coach Gary Lynch. "It's done, but seasonally, it's not done that often. It takes a special person to do that."

Lynch has a group of special players, seven of them seniors, including Zimmerman and Myers. In fact, it's perhaps the most special group he has had in 30 years of coaching soccer, boys or girls, high school or college.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I did [ever have that much talent]," said Lynch. "We've had a lot of teams with a lot of desire, which this team has, but as far as absolute soccer knowledge and ability and talent that they bring to the table, this is a unique group. It's cyclical, and we happen to be at the best part of our cycle, and it's huge and it makes a huge difference."

Though senior Rachel Layer, who shifted to defense this year from midfield, is a gifted player, Myers and Zimmerman are the chief difference-makers, a Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant of the soccer set, if you will.

Myers, a Parade All-American last season, is the scorer. Her strength, according to Lynch, besides her great strength, is her knack at playing the game with her back to the goal, no small feat.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, the Harford County Player of the Year last season, is the playmaker, the distributor, with, as Lynch puts it, "a very, very high work rate" that allows her to roam from sideline to sideline, disrupting opposing defenses and setting up her team's attack.

"They are two different styles completely, but they complement each other," said Lynch. "And more importantly, when you have those two things, it really takes a lot of slack out of the rest of the players on the field. They can play their games because you have those two different styles. If you get it to the front, Ashley can hold it. If you get it to the middle, Jamie can advance it. So, in either event, you should be able to go forward, hopefully."

The Shaq-Kobe analogy may be apt because Myers and Zimmerman have each had to gradually warm to the presence of the other.

But unlike the former Lakers teammates, Zimmerman and Myers have been able to stay united behind a common goal. The feeling is that whatever differences they might have with each other, all they need to do to remember what they're fighting for is count to four.

"We can't have any lapses where we lose concentration," said Myers. "That's the major thing about that. Four seconds is such a little period of time to lose your concentration and lose the game. Last year was a good run and everyone did the best they could. I just think this year, every second that we play, we have to stay completely focused."

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