Girls soccer looks to grow in Baltimore City

October 02, 2012|By Glenn Graham

Sarah Bowyer and Gledys Laguna-Lopez -- two freshmen on the Digital Harbor girls soccer team -- zigged and zagged their way through Dunbar's defense in a game Monday.

The two players combined to score six goals as the more experienced Rams won the game comfortably, but there were no losers in the matchup at Swann Park.

Digital Harbor is celebrating its 10th year of varsity soccer with its finest season ever. The Rams are now 6-0, including a win over Baltimore City perennial power Western.

Dunbar is in its first season and while the overwhelming majority of the Poets are brand new to soccer, they showed determination, teamwork and eagerness to learn the game. 

"It's pretty cool," said Poets senior Codi Chavis, who initiated the petition to start a program at the school. "It's been a fun experience and great that we have so many girls come out for soccer. Our record is not that bad. We're 3-2 so far."

While the level of play in the city is still a notch or two below most other areas, consistent strides are being made. Eight schools now have girls soccer programs in the city, and more youth programs are emerging to give players a head start.

"Generally, kids have always joined the team because they want to have fun, be a part of something and they've never played before," Digital Harbor coach Lisa Martin said. "This year, we have a few freshmen come in that have played before, and that has definitely helped us."

Chavis is the only Dunbar player with an extensive soccer background, having played as a youth in Catonsville. When she approached Dunbar athletic director Dana Johnson with the idea to start a program, she got full support that has continued through the inaugural season.    

The school's research librarian Mike Schemm, who coached a couple years in the Poly boys program, is the Poets coach and has enjoyed the challenge of teaching soccer.

With most of the players also participating in other sports -- many on Dunbar's powerhouse basketball team -- they already came with a competitive fire and an ability to quickly pick up strategies. Trapping, shooting, positioning and heading have all improved with constant repetition in practice.

"It's just a little bit of progress you make each day and that little bit of progress is like an ingredient and pretty soon you get done putting it all together and you've got a meal," Schemm said. 

Jonell Scott and the Poets are still learning the rules as they go. In Monday's game, the referee gave a quick lesson on proper throw-ins and goal kicks. And each day at practice finds something new to improve.

"There's definitely a lot of rules to it," Scott said.  "But it's fun and being part of a team is awesome."

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