Severna Park senior Samantha Young, the county Player of the Year last season, learned quick moves in backyard scrums with her brothers

Raised on soccer

Varsity

September 20, 2006|By Alejandro Danois | Alejandro Danois,special to the sun

The youngest of six children, Severna Park senior midfielder Samantha Young grew up cheering for her siblings, all of whom played soccer for the Falcons.

"I looked up to my brothers and sisters, wanting to be just like them," Young said. "When I was little, the field and the stadium felt so big and the games seemed like such a big deal."

Young, the returning Anne Arundel County Player of the Year, is the big deal now.

A varsity starter since her freshman year, the 17-year-old has amassed a three-year total of 36 goals and 20 assists. With an arsenal of skills enhanced by speed and agility, Young has also distinguished herself with a rugged brand of play that is more closely associated with the boys game.

From the moment she took her first steps, Young inserted herself into the daily scrums in the family's backyard. Two brothers -- Thomas, now a 21-year-old student in film school, and 18-year-old Taylor, who attends La Salle University on a soccer scholarship -- were closest to her in age. She was quick with the ball early on, which helped her escape from her brothers on the family lawn.

During those competitive backyard contests, Young was not cut any slack because she was the youngest and a girl. Soccer in the Young household was played one way: with fire, intensity and bruises.

"She had to play, or they would have used her as a ball," said her father, Stephen Young. "And because of being very close in age to her brothers, she played the way that they did."

Samantha Young was soft-spoken during her first high school season, and her teammates warmed to her right away.

One day before hitting the practice field during her freshman year, the team gathered to watch film of its most recent game. The coaches were struck by the way Young controlled the ball, confounding defenders before sending precise passes to her teammates.

In one of the film sequences, Young brought the ball down on a 40-yard run, racing past four defenders and gliding into seemingly impenetrable spaces that opened up the instant she got there. Approaching the net, she perfectly analyzed the goalie's position and momentum, flicking the ball off her foot and into the net.

"Her moves are instinctual," Severna Park coach Gary Lam said. "She automatically knows where spaces will open up based on the flow of the game and her peripheral vision."

The Falcons were defending state champions during Young's freshman season. But when two talented upperclassmen succumbed to ligament injuries, hopes of another title did not seem realistic.

Young, however, stepped up. In the county finals against Chesapeake, with the game tied 1-1, a teammate crossed the ball toward her as she came running from the back of the box.

Rising amid two bigger defenders, she met the floating ball in midair and headed it into the net, right beyond the outstretched arms of Chesapeake's diving goalie. It was the game's winning goal, and the Falcons went on to repeat as state champs, finishing with a record of 17-1.

"Samantha is a natural goal scorer who should play up top, but sometimes, we need her to play in the back or midfield," Lam said. "It's rare to have a player with her talent and skills that puts the team in front of herself. She gives everything she can for the good of the group."

As a sophomore, Young was a second-team All-Metro forward on a Falcons team that captured a regional championship. Last year, she spent most of the season as a center midfielder, sacrificing personal statistics for the team.

Playing in the middle of the field, Young is unafraid to go airborne and challenge on high balls. She consistently digs out balls, pushing them ahead to streaking teammates. Although she's capable of putting up prolific scoring numbers, she enthusiastically does the important, but less glamorous, little things.

"In girls soccer, owning the middle of the field predicates the success of the team," Lam said. "Samantha is one of the best I've ever coached and she truly is a team player."

In the family's backyard, Young still hones her skills during her free time. She's often there juggling, practicing footwork, trying out new moves and blasting shots against the 6-foot-tall pine fence.

Young, who has orally committed to Towson, is looking to add to her impressive resume of two county titles, one regional and one state championship. When talking about what she hopes to accomplish this season, statistics and wins are not mentioned.

"I just want to provide leadership and give my heart to the game," Young said.

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