The Atlantic Coast Conference reigns as the soccer league of choice for three of the county's top high school soccer players. And one other top player is leaning toward the ACC.

On Wednesday, the firstofficial signing day for high school athletes, Clint Peay, Malcolm Gillian and Jon Armstrong all decided to attend ACC schools next fall.

Peay and Gillian, The Howard County Sun's Co-Players of the Year, led Oakland Mills to the Class 3A championship.

Peay, who already had given a verbal commitment, signed with the University of Virginia. And Gillian picked the University of Maryland.

Both citedthe keen competition of the ACC as one of the reasons for their decisions.

"I'll be able to compete against Clint, and it's close tohome," said Gillian, who also was recruited by James Madison, Penn State and Virginia Tech.

Columbian Alden Shattuck coaches the Terps and swayed Gillian toward Maryland.

"He's a very good coach," Gillian said.

Armstrong, another top county player this year, chose the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"On my visit to North Carolina I really liked the team and seemed to fit in well," Armstrong said.

"I also liked the coach (Elmar Bolowich) who gave me a realistic, straightforward picture of the situation."

Armstrong, a 5-9, 160-pound defensive standout for Howard, will play either outside back or marking back for Bolowich.

The 17-year-old Armstrong was the fastest player in the county this season.

He was recruited by Notre Dame, George Washington, Loyola, James Madisonand Wake Forest.

He has a 3.44 GPA and will receive a half-scholarship to North Carolina.

Armstrong, an All-Met selection by The Sun and All-State by the Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer, plays for the Potomac Mustangs club.

He plans to major in sports medicine or physical therapy.

Peay will receive a scholarship that covers about 85 percent of his expenses at Virginia his freshman year and 100 percent the following three years.

The 6-1, 160pounder recently was named for the second straight year to the Parade magazine All-America team. Duke, Penn State and Notre Dame recruited him.

"I like the challenge of playing in the ACC. It's the best conference," Peay said.

The Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer All-State, All-South and All-America selection will major inbusiness.

During the high school season Peay scored 14 goals and had 12 assists while playing center-midfield.

For the past five years Virginia has ranked among the top five teams in the nation and won a national title in 1989.

Gillian, who had a phenomenal scoring season after moving from midfield to forward, will receive a full tuition ride to Maryland but didn't take away one of Maryland's soccer scholarships.

His father is assistant to the president at theuniversity, a position that allows his children to attend Maryland tuition-free.

Gillian scored 18 goals and had nine assists.

Hescored nine of the team's 12 goals in the regional and state playoffs.

And he tallied the game-winning goal six times, including both goals in 1-0 regional playoff wins over Howard and Centennial.

He was All-Met by The Sun and All-State by the Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer.

Steve Sietsema, a top midfielder for Howard who was selected as a Parade magazine All-American, has not made uphis mind on a college but is leaning toward North Carolina at ChapelHill.

He'd join Armstrong and another former Howard teammate, Todd Haskins, who graduated last year.

James Madison University also has recruited Sietsema.

Another Oakland Mills soccer player,Jason Kassoff, will attend Princeton University next fall and study engineering.

Ivy League schools do not award athletic scholarships, but Kassoff said he still hopes to play soccer there.

He was a starting outside fullback for the state champion Scorpions and played varsity two years.

Kassoff carries a 4.0 grade average.

Kori Hunter of Atholton, another of the top players this year, has not finalized his college plans yet.

"I'm still waiting to hear back from Notre Dame about money," Hunter said.

He was the goalie on Atholton's Class 2A state championship team this year.

Among the top girl soccer players, Centennial's Meg Caro will attendWilliam and Mary, a Division III school that does not grant athleticscholarships. She plans to play soccer there.

And Oakland Mills' Mia Dammen, The Howard County Sun's Player of the Year, has not yet finalized her college plans but hopes to attend Brown University.

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