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Girls' Soccer: Freshmen Creating a Stir

A quick glance toward the two sidelines after No. 3 Good Counsel’s 2-0 victory over No. 5 O’Connell revealed all the evidence needed to explain just how significant freshmen have become to the area’s girls’ soccer scene.

On the visitor’s end stood the smiling faces of freshmen Midge Purce and Hollie Byer. The two had a say in both Falcons goals in the second half. Purce assisted on the first, and Byer sealed the deal with a 15-yard strike with 17 minutes remaining.

The other end of the spectrum was the hushed voice of O’Connell freshman Morgan Reuther, who missed on three point-blank scoring opportunities in the first half and then clanked a shot off the post in the second stanza.

These three young players creating a majority of the memorable moments in a game pitting two of the best teams in the WCAC is a trend that has grown more prevalent recently with the increasing emphasis put on club soccer at earlier ages. Freshmen are entering high school with better developed skill sets, and as a result, are being thrust into prominent roles earlier than ever before.

“It’s hard when you’re playing against a senior who might get a scholarship,” said Reuthner.

“I’ve never played with girls older than me, so I was intimidated at first,” said Byer.

Good Counsel senior captain Crystal Koczot has seen both ends of this freshmen phenomenon. She was a freshman on the varsity team three years ago and was on the receiving end of a beautiful set-up from Purce that resulted in the Falcons’ first goal of the afternoon Tuesday.

She knows what her two dynamic teammates have gone through this first month of the season and has been impressed with how they’ve handled it all.

“I definitely remember being intimidated and wanting to aspire to play as well as [the older players] were. But it really doesn’t matter, and I think these two definitely come out here and kill everyone who they play. They have earned their position on the team.”

A freshman’s psyche is fragile, though, which is why O’Connell Coach Alberto Starace walked a fine line when talking with Reuthner. Lost amidst her four failed scoring chances was the fact Reuthner had created them all with nice runs and a deft touch against a talented Good Counsel defense.

“That’s why I’m not real hard on her, because she does get good looks,” said Starace. “I’m hoping she’ll mature enough by tournament time and that’s what we’re really shooting for.”

Sometimes, though, a freshman comes in and transforms a program. Cali Hutson, a 14-year-old striker at Paul VI Catholic, has drawn raves from opposing coaches for helping revitalize the Panthers. Paul VI is off to a 5-3-3 start, which included a 3-1 win over Good Counsel last week.

Hutson was a catalyst in her team’s 2-1 loss to The Potomac School (Va.) Monday night, very nearly scoring several times. Teaming with senior Casey Vornadore, the duo has ignited the Panthers, who haven’t won a WCAC title since 1998. Paul VI tied No. 9 Holy Cross on Tuesday night.

“Because of her experience, she’s kind of mature beyond her years,” said Coach Meg Ashley of Hutson, a member of the U-15 Olympic Development Program. “She’s not your typical freshman. The real adjustment has been more of a chemistry thing. But once [the team] saw how good Cali was, that went away quickly.”

“The older girls have just come to me,” said a confident Hutson, who shook off any suggestions that she was daunted taking the field with girls three and four years older than her. “When they don’t, I just jump into their conversations anyways.”

A leap of faith is what Potomac School Coach Ross McEwan took with current junior Campbell Millar two years ago. In her first game on the varsity, McEwan stuck Millar at center midfield, a position she hadn’t previously played and told her, “You’re gonna make a lot of mistakes, but when you’re a senior, you’re going to dominate.”

That day may have come sooner than expected. Millar’s fourth goal of her junior season was the game winner with less than two minutes remaining in Monday’s victory over Paul VI. Her strong play in the midfield has Potomac School off to a 4-0 start this season.

“It was tough because all my friends were on JV,” said Millar of her freshman season. “I was a little timid at first. I took what I could get from the older girls; you just try to get your name out there. It was scary, but I got comfortable as time wore on.”

By Mark Giannotto  |  September 23, 2009; 2:23 PM ET
Categories:  O'Connell , Paul VI , Potomac School (Va.) , WCAC , girls' soccer  
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