Severna Park senior Tina Riley always finds herself on the defensive. And not because people question her athletic ability.

It's just that the three-sport standout would rather prevent a shot than take one -- whether she's playing soccer, basketball or lacrosse.

"To know your guarding someone and that person only scores one ortwo goals, or none at all -- that's the best feeling," said Riley, 18, the Anne Arundel County Sun 1990-1991 Female Athlete of the Year.

Her passion for playing defense led the Severna Park girls soccer and lacrosse teams to state championships and the basketball team to a berth in the regional playoffs.

"She was absolutely the glue that held the defense together. She was the center of the flower," said Falcons soccer coach Joyce Stefancik, whose team only yielded seven goals this season with Riley at center-fullback.

Riley's biggest challenge came last November in the 4A-3A state final against Oakland Mills and All-Metro midfielder Mia Dammen, whose physical tactics had the Falcons leery before the title game.

"Mia's a very aggressive player and, hopefully, our defense will be tough enough not to let her get us upset or mad at ourselves," Riley said a few days before theshowdown.

"I want to play Oakland Mills very, very badly."

Riley backed up her words by helping to limit the Scorpions to one shot in the first half and shutting out Dammen (11 goals, eight assists) in Severna Park's 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

Riley's heroics this season weren't restricted to the defensive end. She scored three goals -- all on headers off corner kicks -- including the game-winner in a 2-0 victory over Broadneck in the regional finals last November.

"I think she was the only player that I never took out of game this year. If I did, it was just for a few minutes," Stefancik said.

Riley played halfback as a seventh- and eighth-grader at Severna ParkMiddle School before moving to fullback under the tutelage of formerFalcons junior varsity coach and varsity assistant Wayne Sanchez.

Sanchez, who completed his first season as Archbishop Spalding's varsity head coach last fall, figured that the 5-foot-9 Riley's "outstanding coordination, good size and outstanding aggressiveness" were better-suited for repelling goals, not scoring them.

"I put her in a position where she would get the most out of her attributes," he said.

Riley joined the varsity midway through her freshman season and became a mainstay on defense, as did her twin sister, Tami, who switched from halfback to goalie.

"I find people are losing sight of what wins soccer games," Sanchez said. "When you get someone who dominates the center of the field and wins the ball, you'll win games."

The Falcons' basketball team won 16 games and got as far as the regional semifinals before losing to eventual 4A state champion Old Mill, 45-32. And Riley played a major role in Severna Park's success, averaging more than six points and seven rebounds a game. She also made a team-leading 65 steals, handed out 37 assists and blocked 14 shots.

"She has a lot of athletic ability, and for that reason, a lot of the stuff she does isn't as noticeable because she's so smooth," CoachKevin McGrath said.

Riley also netted 18 three-pointers, but "she's not a kid who's going to fire the thing up all the time. Many times, I had to tell her to shoot," McGrath said.

"The thing that's most impressive about her is her rebounding. She had 18 against Old Mill at the end of the year. That's a 5-9 kid going against two girls over 6 foot, plus another one or two around 5-11. But she could do it. She can jump, run, and has a very strong competitive nature. That's what made her go."

That, and a series of injuries that necessitatedRiley's move from small forward to off-guard and placed greater importance on her offensive output.

McGrath "made me shoot a lot more than I was used to, which helped a lot," Riley said.

She already had mastered the art of rebounding, thanks to some valuable instruction obtained from a recreation basketball coach while living in Memphis, Tenn.

"The first thing he ever taught me was how to box out. I was 9 or 10, so I've been boxing out since I was a little kid. Then I moved here (in sixth grade), and it wasn't a big deal," she said.

McGrath said, "Some kids have to work harder on offense or defense. She just found it very easy to do the defensive part. It came natural for her."

So did her transitions from defensive wing to cover point to third man on the lacrosse team this season.

"We wanted her ontheir strongest player, wherever that was," said Coach Carin Peterson, whose team won its fifth straight 4A-3A state championship.

The"strongest players" Severna Park faced were Dulaney's Krissy Busse (63 goals) and Chesapeake's Diane McBee (74), who were limited to one goal each in the state playoffs.

"She was the main person on defense. She's the one who held it all together," Peterson said of Riley, who contributed two goals and one assist this spring.

"She's a very, very smart player. She knows exactly what she's doing back there. It's hard to find somebody who's equally good mentally and skill-wise. And she's also a very unselfish player. She thinks about everybody else before she thinks about herself."

Riley spent plenty of time thinking about McBee, who burned the Falcons' defense for eight goalsin Chesapeake's 17-16 overtime victory April 19.

"I knew Tina would eventually shine," Peterson said.

So did Tina.

"I wasn't really up for the first Chesapeake game. I don't

know why, but I madesure I was up for the second one. I concentrated a lot more this time," she said.

"I told myself she wasn't going to score eight goalsthis time. I got on myself whenever she caught the ball, like, 'I'm not going to let her catch it again,' and, 'I'm not going to let her score.' I was really upset after the first game."

Riley may have played her last lacrosse game. She'll attend North Carolina-Wesleyan College, which does not offer the sport.

"I hope to play soccer there. I know I'm going to miss lacrosse," she said. "If I miss it that much, I'll probably transfer."

Stefancik easily could have been speaking for all three of Riley's high school coaches this season when she said, "It's not just the fact she's such a good player -- she's also one of the nicest kids I've ever had the pleasure of coaching. And she always gives 100 percent, even on the worst of practice days. She's just always there."

At least until the fall season rolls around.

"I'm sorry to see Tina go, but I'm sure our opponents aren't,"Stefancik said. "She's not one you easily replace."

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