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Field Hockey: Liberty’s Caitlynn Szarko headed to Under Armour showcase game

Field Hockey: Liberty’s Caitlynn Szarko headed to Under Armour showcase game
Liberty's Caitlynn Szarko and Century's Grace Bruce vie for the ball in the second half of the Lions' 1-0 win over the Knights in Eldersburg Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Field hockey is a year-round commitment for Caitlynn Szarko, and that dedication landed her a recent invitation to one of the country’s top youth showcases.

Szarko, an incoming sophomore at Liberty High School, was selected in the second wave of athletes who earned a “Golden Ticket” to compete in the Under Armour Select Game on July 25 at Boston College. These athletes were chosen from the Mid-Atlantic College Connection Showcase that took place June 28-30 at Lehigh University.

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The first wave of athletes was selected following the Northeast Showcase at UMass Amherst on June 14-16, and players were chosen at the conclusion of each tournament event.

“I’m really looking forward to the level of competition because I know everyone is going to be really good,” Szarko said. “A couple of my friends got selected and it will be really cool to experience that together.”

Szarko said the showcase at Lehigh gave the athletes a chance to see what the potential schedule for a college athlete could be like. They attended seminars, film sessions and played in tournaments all three days in front of the eyes of 70-80 college coaches.

Athletes were placed on teams based on their graduation class and position. Szarko, a midfielder, played in the 2021-2022 age group and said her team won the tournament for that group.

“When we were in game play, you knew you had to give it your best every time,” Szarko said. “That’s how you would get the ticket to Boston. It’s really cool and it prepared me to get a glimpse of what playing in college would feel like.”

Liberty's Riley Pardoe, right, tries to bring down a pass in front of South Carroll's Meghan Radnoff and Liberty's Caitlyn Szarko, left, during the second half of their game at Western Regional Park in Woodbine Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018.
Liberty's Riley Pardoe, right, tries to bring down a pass in front of South Carroll's Meghan Radnoff and Liberty's Caitlyn Szarko, left, during the second half of their game at Western Regional Park in Woodbine Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Szarko was chosen for the Underclassmen Game, which consists of athletes graduating in 2022, 2023, and 2024.

Szarko said she has been playing field hockey since she was in second grade and is in her eighth year. It started with the Freedom Area Rec Council, she said, a program that gave her and her teammates solid competition from other talented teams. She made the varsity team at Liberty as a freshman last fall, and helped the Lions capture their second state championship in three seasons.

She compiled eight goals and 10 assists for the Lions and her 26 points tied for seventh in the county in scoring.

“For the first part of the year, she was really getting her groove,” Lions coach Brenda Strohmer said. “I said [during the first part of the season] that we weren’t seeing much out of her. I wasn’t seeing any goals or assists and all of a sudden, she turned it on.

“She was a part of every goal somehow in the second half of the season whether she stole the ball or drew a corner. That’s just how she is, she’s like a sneak attack.”

Szarko said she gets about a three-week break from field hockey every year. When she isn’t playing for Liberty in the fall, she plays for Hymax Field Hockey Club, based in Owings Mills and run by Towson University coach Michelle Webber.

Strohmer said Szarko’s dad even built a small turf field in their backyard, sized well enough for Szarko to practice additional stick work whenever she chooses.

“I think she strives to get better, she works hard to get better and she makes everybody around her better,” Strohmer said. “She’s going to be a good leader someday and she’s going to dominate. You give that girl a chance and the sky’s the limit for her … she would be my someone to watch these next few years.”

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