Severna Park junior goalie Mike Gvozden was a little kid in the outfield when he fell in love with lacrosse.
"I was in the second grade, actually playing baseball that year, and I'd just be sitting out there watching my friends' lacrosse team playing on another field," said Gvozden, a two-time All-County selection for the defending Class 4A-3A state champion Falcons.
"It's funny because when I first started, I was not very good. But I just kept playing and playing because I was having so much fun. And then I realized maybe this could take me somewhere, so I started working really hard."
Gvozden's hard work has taken him to two state title games. When he was a freshman, the Falcons lost in the title game in overtime to four-time defending champ Dulaney, 13-12.
Last year, they avenged the loss to end Dulaney's reign with a 10-9 double-overtime win in the semifinals before knocking off Westminster in the championship game.
"In my freshman year, it was nerve-racking for me, but at the same time I was, like, `OK, this is as hard as it's going to get for these four years, so I've got to step up and rise to the occasion,' " he said.
Severna Park coach Jim Beardmore, an All-Metro goalie at Severn and an All-American at Maryland, has seen Gvozden come a long way in a short time.
"Mike is a sponge - so coachable," said Beardmore. "To have a kid that by the time he is a junior, he's already been in the state championship game twice, and won it once - the experience is invaluable. The most impressive thing about Mike is his work ethic. He does all the intangibles to improve his game."
Talk a little lacrosse with Gvozden and his enthusiasm for the game seeps through the telephone line. All the hard work is nothing to him because he enjoys it so much.
In the summer, he plays four or five days a week for his club team. In the fall, he scrounges up friends to rip shots at him whenever he can. In the winter, it's indoor lacrosse.
"My life begins on March 1," he said, referring to the first day of lacrosse practice.
"This season, one of my goals is to become more of a leader. I've realized over the past few years what a team game lacrosse is. You don't win unless your whole team can do it, so I'm trying to give it my all to help the other guys find the same passion I have."
Teammates have taken notice and feed off Gvozden's positive energy.
"He makes you want to play better," said attackman Frank Taglienti. "He's always been the one to step up in the huddle and say some good words to keep everyone working hard. He just gets us all pumped up."
Gvozden's actions on the field speak louder than his words. Beardmore said his goalie holds his ground well in the cage and his clears have improved significantly with the time he's spent in the cage.
"And, more importantly, he makes the big saves when we need him to," Beardmore added. "Any goalie can make some saves, but can you make the save when you absolutely need one, when we're up by two goals and the next goal will make the other team feel like they're in the game? That is when Mike is at his best."
In earning All-County honors last spring, Gvozden finished with 208 saves - a combined 55 in the region final, state semifinal and championship game.
All that success starts with those days gathering up the neighborhood.
"We usually grab about five neighbors and go up to Shipley's Choice Elementary, so you can see us carrying my net up with all the equipment on it. They just fire away and fire away on me," he said. "It takes a lot of practice, and you can't think about playing goalie when you're in the goal. Things are going too fast and too quick, so it has to be second nature."
While lacrosse has taken him to two state championship games, Gvozden - who carries a 4.0 grade point average - knows where he wants it to take him next.
In December, he made an oral commitment to Johns Hopkins University.
"You can ask anyone that has known me since I was 8 years old, that's all I've talked about - Hopkins lacrosse," he said. "It's the only sports team I've really liked. I'm not into the Ravens or the Orioles, just Hopkins lacrosse. I started going to games when I was in the sixth grade and always had my shirt off with a big `H' on my stomach thinking I was cool and stuff."
"We tried to push her out a lot, but it was kind of like going up against a brick wall. I used all my strength to try to box her out and did all I could. I'm kind of worn out right now, but I still feel good because I gave it my best effort."
Kelley Chubb, South River's 5-10 junior center, on guarding Eleanor Roosevelt's 6-5 junior center Selena Nwude in Saturday's Class 4A girls state championship game. The Seahawks employed a packed-in zone with a defender in back and front of Nwude to limit her to 12 points. The Raiders came away with a 54-37 victory.
Combined state championships won by Anne Arundel County softball teams since the tournament began in 1976. Northeast leads the way with a Maryland-best nine crowns.
25 YEARS AGO
Tim McMullen and Mel Montgomery, both members of the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, were preparing their respective high school baseball teams, Brooklyn Park and Old Mill, for the 1980 season that would conclude with each school winning its first state title in the sport. McMullen's Bees won the B title, and Montgomery's Patriots captured the AA title.