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Bouchelle goes from NDP to Penn State to Soccer Without Borders

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It happened six years ago, but the game and its dramatic final goal - scored by Zoey Bouchelle with four seconds left in double overtime - remains fresh in the minds of almost everybody associated with girls soccer at Notre Dame Prep.

When Bouchelle skillfully placed a shot underneath the John Carroll goalkeeper - the final touch of an illustrious high school career and her third goal of the game - the Blazers earned a thrilling 5-4 victory that brought the program's only Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship.

After a successful playing career at Penn State, from which she graduated with a degree in economics last year, Bouchelle is putting her passion for soccer toward a good cause.

Last month, she traveled to Granada, Nicaragua, and began an eight-month internship with Soccer Without Borders, a nonprofit organization that uses the sport as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of youths in third-world countries.

Every Wednesday through Friday, Bouchelle and her former Penn State teammate Kay Adami conduct an after-school program for girls that focuses on reading, writing, cultural activities and other important life skills. On Saturdays, they instruct soccer and play games. Between 50 and 60 girls participate in the program, and the numbers are rising.

Corresponding by e-mail, Bouchelle, who turns 24 in December, describes the experience as nothing short of incredible, with something new coming each day.

She wrote: "We are constantly surprised and excited with the people's enthusiasm to get involved. Living here, you feel so fortunate to be able to experience this new culture and feel at home with a new family and friends. When you're open and enthusiastic about learning, about understanding them, and forming these relationships, the experience is invaluable."

Bouchelle and Adami live with an extended family of seven. A nearby store sells the essentials: flour, bread, eggs, chips, soda, juices, shampoo and more. Bouchelle eats breakfast with her host family (usually a fried egg with beans and rice), lunch at the nearby market and dinner with another family down the road.

Her cost of living, between rent and food, averages about $6 per day; approximately 50 percent of the population of Nicaragua lives on less than $1 a day.

"Every day here is a new adventure. One day, it seems like you're breezing through - your Spanish functions well, you communicate effectively with the youth leaders and staff, and when your plate shows up at lunch it is exactly what you ordered," Bouchelle wrote. "But more often than not, you have to wake up and prepare yourself for the day's challenges. Kay and I live and work here knowing that this is an entirely different culture and that most projects take twice as long as you want and that most people show up twice as late as you expect them to."

Before leaving for the mission, Bouchelle spent time working with the Notre Dame Prep girls soccer team in preparation for the team's fall season. Moved by Bouchelle's coming project, the team organized a schoolwide equipment drive and also raised money for the cause. She arrived in Nicaragua with balls, cleats, shin guards, shorts, T-shirts, socks and more courtesy of the team's efforts.

"When Zoey was at Notre Dame Prep, she was very unique in that she was an amazing player on the field, but she also took the rest of her life very seriously. She had a caring spirit about her that was incredible," Notre Dame Prep coach Chris Lopez said. "Now she's really become one of the movers and shakers in the organization, and to hear her talk about the interactions she's had with the girls down there and the effect it's had on them and her, it's really exciting."

Bouchelle's last high school goal in the championship win gave her 54 in her four-year career at Notre Dame Prep as she earned All-Metro Player of the Year honors that year. While she was assisting the Blazers earlier in the fall, a number of current players mentioned the special game.

"I was surprised, and it also made me feel not so ancient. I was fortunate enough to go to the final four with Penn State my sophomore year, and I don't know if that game was even that exciting," Bouchelle wrote.

For certain, soccer has taken Bouchelle a long and productive way.

"Sports are a vehicle to meet new people, challenge yourself, learn what it takes to be committed, and travel if you're lucky. I have been fortunate to travel with soccer from a young age, and I think those trips gave me the courage to jump into this new adventure in Nicaragua right out of college," she wrote.

For more information about SWB, go to the organization's Web site at www.soccer withoutborders.org.

Alumni Report Each Friday, The Baltimore Sun will catch up with a former area high school sports figure. In the spotlight today is former Notre Dame Prep soccer player Zoey Bouchelle. To suggest former athletes or coaches to be considered for Alumni Report, please e-mail sports@baltsun.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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