Alyssa Parker comes running across the field with joy in every stride. When she gets to the sideline, the Glenelg senior catches her breath and before anyone can say anything, she asks, "Do you know that bees are born full grown?"
She loves trivia like that — and the laughs she draws from imparting such nuggets.
Parker, one of the most talented players to ever play field hockey in Maryland, isn't shy off the field. And one would think she wouldn't be shy on the field either, given that she's about to become only the second player in National Federation history to score 100 goals and 100 assists in a high school career.
But her coach, Ginger Kincaid, says Parker is anything but the typical high school sports star.
"I think she is unimpressed with herself," Kincaid said. "She doesn't like to be out in front. She likes to have everyone around her, and she likes to give her teammates opportunities. She had 38 assists last year, so you know she passes the ball."
In fact, Parker has 96 assists for her career to go along with 105 goals, putting her in rare company as the No. 1 Gladiators (13-0) finish their regular season Thursday against Towson before beginning the postseason next week. Only Chantae Miller, of Buffalo, N.Y., broke the century mark in both categories, totaling 126 goals and 117 assists from 2004 to 2007.
Among Parker's many highlights, Kincaid remembers a time when Parker was out in front of the opposing team's goal and stopped to look around. Seeing her teammate Meghan Milani, who hadn't scored, Parker passed her the ball.
"Megan passed it back and Alyssa passed it to her again," Kincaid said. "It was almost in slow motion. 'You shoot. No, you shoot.' I've seen her do that, and I've been on her to just touch it in. Circle and take the shot at the top. She'd prefer to pass it.
"She could put 10 balls in the goal herself, but for her it wouldn't be any fun."
While helping teammates is clearly enjoyable to Parker, she isn't only like that on the field. Ask her what her biggest accomplishment is and she hardly takes time to think.
"I taught my next door neighbor Maddy Kerwin, who is a big girl now at age 5, how to swim," Parker said. "That's my biggest accomplishment. I like babies, little kids and old people — and field hockey. I babysit little kids in my neighborhood, work part time at Mater Amoris and my friend [and teammate] Mary Kate Olson and I coach a third and fourth-grade team together."
Parker is excited about her future, which will include playing at the University of Maryland, playing with the Bethesda Chevy Chase club team and being part of the Junior Olympic program, which provides the possibility of a Canadian Tour in April and other international events.
But she barely mentions the 100-100 milestone. Her goal for the season is to lead the Gladiators to a second consecutive Class 2A state championship.
"I've never played for a stat," she said. "If it happens, cool."
For those keeping track, Parker scored three times Monday in the Gladiators' 7-0 victory over Mount Hebron to pass the 100-goal mark, and she added two more Tuesday in a 6-0 win against Howard.
That production isn't unusual for Glenelg — which has outscored opponents 115-4 this season — or, obviously, for Parker, who started the season with career totals of 77 goals and 72 assists.
"Alyssa Parker has raised the bar for her team and the entire state," former University of Maryland player and current Holy Cross coach Jenna Ries said after her team lost, 6-0, to Glenelg this season. "I'm proud to be from Maryland and have someone like that playing field hockey like she is. She's changing her whole team, and that makes everyone who plays against them or sees her play want to play like she does."
For Parker, field hockey wasn't love at first try. When she was 6 it was too slow of a game for her. The ball didn't really go anywhere when she hit it, as opposed to soccer, which was much better suited to her lively nature.
"As I got older, I tried field hockey again and the ball went faster," said Parker, who also plays lacrosse. "Now, I love the speed of it and the challenge of finesse. Coach Kincaid says I don't have any finesse — but I'm working on it."
What Kincaid said is that Parker "is like a bull" on the field, "a much better dodger, carrying the ball downfield, running around, through or over defenders. There's no finesse."
But what Parker has, Kincaid said, is unteachable.
"She's a natural," the coach said. "She's Alyssa. She has some athletic cunning that can't be copied. She makes things happen. She turns something into nothing. It's nothing I can coach. And it's nothing she practices. It's just the things she does."
Parker said she is always innovating, trying new things.
"I just try to have fun and give my all," she said. "It sounds corny. My mom played field hockey at Mount Hebron, and she gives pointers. The biggest thing she says is never stop trying new things. Don't be afraid to mess up. I mess up a lot, but without that I wouldn't keep getting better. It takes time."
Ries said one of the things Parker does best is read her opponents.
"She has a real knack for understanding her opponents," Ries said. "She sizes you up. She's not just beating you. She comprehends you. She knows when you're going to take a shot. It's not an ordinary thing for a player at this level."
It's not ordinary, and it's not something other players can easily emulate. Katie Corcoran, who coaches No. 3 South River, has tried to tell her players not to watch Parker, but that's something admirers of field hockey find hard to do.
"She's phenomenal," said Corcoran, who saw Glenelg win the South River Invitational Tournament this season. "You're intrigued by her and you want to follow her all the time with your eyes. We tell our players not to watch her. But she's fun to watch. The moves she makes on the field. Her intensity. Her skill. Everyone wants to watch her play."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun