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Rec Sports Spotlight: Carroll youth soccer league's growth, progress

Soccer coach Keith Painter, left, and past Carroll County Youth Soccer League president and founder Linda Silfee are shown holding the league trophy.
Soccer coach Keith Painter, left, and past Carroll County Youth Soccer League president and founder Linda Silfee are shown holding the league trophy. (Submitted photo)

It was back around Labor Day in 1992, and Linda Silfee's ninth-grade son had just failed to make the Westminster High junior varsity soccer team.

He loved the sport and played it since he was 5. But now, there was no place else to play it — not for boys his age. It was either high school or bust.

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Silfee looked around and found that there were a lot of other boys in her son's shoes at that time. But instead of lamenting their misfortunes, the resident of Westminster went out and did something about it. She started a boys high school soccer league.

Of course it was aimed at kids who had been cut. But the nascent loop was also for boys who participated in other activities such as band or cross country that kept them from playing for their school soccer team.

Finally, it was an opportunity for those who have never played soccer but wanted to try it out.

The league began play just past Labor Day that year after high school cuts had been made. It started with four teams, primarily from Westminster and the Freedom area.

After a few years, it underwent a major change.

"We'd started a high school boys league for grades 9 through 12," said Silfee, who was league president from 1992-2011. "After a few years, the girls started knocking on the door so we let them in too and created a co-ed league. The only extra rule was that at least two girls had to be on the field at all times. That rule has been effect ever since."

That league is still around.

It's called the Carroll County Youth Soccer League, and it is now affiliated with the Westminster Soccer Association. At times, there have been as any as nine or 10 teams. There are seven teams this year.

They are in Freedom, Mount Airy, Charles Carroll, Central Carroll, Sacred Heart (Baltimore County), and two in Westminster.

If the player's local team is filled, arrangements can be made for that player to go to another team if he or she is willing to travel a bit.

But after the league began, Silfee did not simply say, "here we are." She actively pursued players.

For many years, she would be at Westminster High with her program circulars on cut day so she could corral the dejected players almost as soon as they got their bad news. The best news she gave them was that there are no try-outs or cuts on these co-ed teams. If you sign up, you're in.

"You're certain to get to play. It's just a bunch of folks who get together and play. It's a laid-back league," current league president John Neubert said.

Neubert took over in 2015, replacing Scott Demetrakis after Demetrakis had replaced Silfee.

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Once admitted, the girls quickly settled into their new soccer environment. Neubert says about 20-25 percent of the players are girls right now.

An admittedly unscientific survey of three of those girls indicates that playing against the boys doesn't bother the female set.

Neubert says that, "if you watch this, it's not a situation where a bunch of high school boys muscle the girls. Girls play anywhere from goalie to striker; teams don't try to hide them."

Westminster High sophomore Nicolette Frick's certainly doesn't hide. She's her team's goalie. Frick says she will try out for the Owls' varsity next year. But she has played soccer since was a little girl, and right now she's happy playing co-ed.

She says that having the boys around, "definitely makes it more challenging. The guys are faster, and it pushes me to play harder."

But she adds that she likes being in goal even though it's wider than the girls' net. She likes handling all those hard shots," because I get to help my team," Frick said.

Westminster High senior Alexa Quinley played for the Owls as a freshman and sophomore, but said it was hard getting playing time.

She has gotten more action with the Westminster "Purple" co-ed team the past two years. Quinley plays on offense. She says the girls are competitive with the male players, but indicates that some boys may not think so.

"There have been times when the boys don't pass me the ball as much, but that's not a problem this year," says Quinley, who has scored a goal.

Silfee said that a big obstacle to co-ed soccer is girls parents' concerns about their daughters getting hurt. This is particularly true for parents of ninth grade kids matching up against 17-year-old boys three years older.

Megan Harman says her parents felt that way.

"They didn't want me to get injuries that might affect softball," she said. "They want me to play in college. But I'm a pretty big girl, and I'm aggressive. [The boys] are the ones going down!"

She says she must try and be faster when guys are around. But she likes the rough and tumble of it all as a matter of fact.

"I knock them down, and they knock me down. I'd rather play against guys because they are more aggressive. It's easier to be aggressive with a guy and not get called."

This year's schedule ends soon and the postseason championship game will be played Nov. 6.

The teams will play for the "Linda W. Silfee Carroll County Cup." In fact, the past president has been invited to present it.

And as it turns out, the story of her son didn't end with his playing out his high school years in the Carroll County Youth Soccer League. He honed his soccer skills there for a couple of seasons and then tried out for the Westminster varsity as a junior.

He made it, and he played his final two years for the Owls.

410-857-7896

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