Always after new goals

Christine Nairn, the No. 1 Archbishop Spalding soccer team's leader on offense, continues to add to her impressive scoring repertoire.

October 19, 2005|By GLENN GRAHAM | GLENN GRAHAM,SUN REPORTER

One of the latest soccer projects that Archbishop Spalding sophomore Christine Nairn has worked on is being able to bend a ball inside the far post from near the end line.

It's no easy task, with the shot taken at a tough angle and the room to place it minimal, but that's fine. Having all the basics down long ago, Nairn, who has been playing soccer since she was 4, can afford to spend time on such luxuries.

Whether it's in her backyard in Bowie, at a nearby school or wherever she may be, there's a good chance a soccer ball is right there with her.

"Two things that have really stuck out with Christine are [that] she has fun playing the game and she has always had an internal drive that if she sees something she wants to be able to do, she would spend hours working on it so she could do it," said her father, Tommy.

As the offensive catalyst of the area's top-ranked team, Nairn, who has 10 goals and five assists, has plenty of highlights to choose from with the Cavaliers boasting an 11-2 record that includes an 8-0 mark in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.

The first one she mentions is the team's season-opening win over South River, a 2-0 final in which she scored both goals. Included was a bender from the right flank that found the top far post.

"Some things may not be all that fun at first. But once you get it down, it becomes natural. And then when you're out on the field, you can see that the work is paying off," Nairn said.

People have taken notice of Nairn's work, with proof coming by the constant double teams she draws.

A center midfielder for her club team, the Freestate Shooters, and during her freshman year, Nairn has been making an adjustment to the front line this season. She works quick combinations with her midfielders, challenges defenders with her ball skills and can thread a delicate through ball as well as firing a cannon shot.

"I think what separates Christine is her awareness, the field vision she has and the ability to execute," Spalding coach Bob Dieterle said. "Some kids will have the right ideas, but when they play it - it doesn't get there. Knowing and executing - Christine takes it all in and delivers."

As for scoring goals, Nairn delivers from just about anywhere.

Dieterle and assistant coach Bob Wagner were reflecting on some of Nairn's work before a recent practice when one goal in particular - a game-winner against Catholic last season - came to the forefront.

"It had to be from 35 yards, at least," Dieterle said.

Added Wagner: "It was a lightning bolt."

Dieterle continued: "That thing had steam on it. The keeper saw it, but she just couldn't stop it. We just looked at each other and were like, `Oh my God, did we just see that?' "

Spalding sophomore goalkeeper Karen Blocker has been in the way of plenty of Nairn's shots in practice and can attest to the claim.

"Christine has a wicked shot," Blocker said. "I love going against her because it challenges you to be your best. She can place the ball anywhere on goal she wants."

Nairn's awareness and competitive drive comes from being part of a sports-oriented family. Both her parents played sports and she has two older brothers who play soccer - T.J., a former Spalding standout, is playing at Salisbury University, while Kevin is a senior for the Cavaliers.

The two provided plenty of positive lessons in the backyard over the years to help Nairn become the player she is today.

"I grew up with it around me, so I just had to play," said Nairn, who has played in Maryland's Olympic Development Program since she was 9. "It was fun playing with them back then, but it was also very frustrating because they were stronger than me. I know that's better for me now because I learned how to play a certain way."

That certain way just may help carry a talented Spalding team to its first IAAM A Conference crown.

"This season's been a lot of fun," said Nairn, who also plays basketball. "The hard work is there, the effort is there and we're winning games. We just have real good team chemistry which helps us play better, play as a unit and not as individuals."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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