Return performance

After spending her junior year at a soccer academy in Florida, Lily Boleyn is back and striving to lead Centennial to a state title.


To hear Centennial senior Lily Boleyn talk about her life passion - soccer - you would never imagine the rude introduction she had to the sport.

She started when she was 5, signing up with her twin brother, Zach, to play on a boys recreation team. All the boys would make fun of her because she was the only girl. Then she would have to listen to the opposing players chirp about how they were going to win because the other team had a girl.

For Boleyn, it was no fun at all.

"I would get so upset," she said. "Every game I would come home crying: `I don't want to do this, Mom.' So I quit for a year, but then I was like `Ah, I should get back into it.' "

Boleyn found a girls team and has been scoring goals, dishing out assists and having fun ever since. Right now, she's a team captain and the top scorer (seven goals, five assists) for the No. 3 Eagles, who went into the final week of the regular season with a 10-1-1 record and big plans for the playoffs.

Now, she can laugh off that first year of soccer.

"I don't know if I can picture myself not playing soccer - it would be weird. My life is soccer. I just love it and can't get enough of it," she said.

Boleyn's dedication took her to the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for her junior year.

The program is designed to further develop soccer skills and prepare players for the next level. During the week, she practiced from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. after school each day, hit the weights for an hour every Monday and Wednesday and played in games on the weekends.

"They say your junior year is the biggest recruiting year, so I felt going there would be beneficial and it was," Boleyn said. "I would sleep, go to school and play soccer every single day for a whole year. I've always been fast and quick, but my footwork and vision improved at IMG and I got stronger from the weight program."

The downside for Boleyn was being away from home. She missed hanging out with her high school teammates and playing for her Virginia-based SAC United club team on the weekends.

And while she was away last fall, the Eagles made a run to the Class 3A state championship game. She badly wanted to be there.

"After every game I would call her to tell her how we did and that everyone said `hi.' She was like, `Of course, the year I leave we make it to the state championship.' I'm so glad she's back," said fellow senior captain Danielle Rosanova, who has been best friends with Boleyn since the third grade.

Over the summer, Boleyn made two teams happy and had a smile on her face, too.

On Aug. 2, she spent her 17th birthday visiting her older brother in Los Angeles, where she shopped all day, enjoyed a good seafood meal on the beach and then phoned Clemson University coach Todd Bramble to inform him she was committing to play there.

Later that month, she confirmed that she was coming back to Centennial for her senior year. Eagles coach Mike Senisi called it "a nice, pleasant surprise."

The winning tradition at Centennial dates back to 1991 when the Eagles won the first of their six state titles. After capturing the Howard County title and then falling one goal short in the state final, the 2005 Eagles came into the season with the burden of replacing All-American midfielder Hayley Siegel and standout forwards Mandy Paizs and Rosie Goldberg.

The team, however, hasn't missed a beat. Looking for scoring punch, Senisi moved Boleyn from her usual midfield spot to forward and she has responded with seven goals and five assists.

"She's one of the main reasons we are where we are today," said Senisi, who first brought Boleyn to the varsity late in her freshman season. "She's just a dominant player who attacks the goal, and with her speed and everything, I haven't really seen anybody able to stop her."

Glenelg coach Dean Sheridan can certainly attest to that.

Earlier this month, his Gladiators took a 7-0 record into their game against Centennial having not allowed a goal to that point. With five minutes left, Boleyn slipped behind the defense, side-stepped the goalie while nudging the ball forward and then caught up with it to put it in for the game's only goal.

"Physically, she's very strong now and you can't push her around," Sheridan said. "A lot of times you get girls that are really fast but you can negate it with physical contact. In Lily, she has the right combination of being able to accept the contact, keep the ball at her feet and then use her speed to put pressure on your backs."

With Boleyn making the successful adjustment to forward and the Eagles continuing their winning ways, it's like she had never left Centennial.

"I knew I had to be here for my senior year," she said. "I never felt like I wasn't a part of the team, so coming back was real easy. And I'm a captain, so I'm a leader and happy that people look up to me and come to me with anything they need help with. I'm loving it."

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