Three county boys soccer players, including two from North County, recently were selected to the Olympic Development Program's Maryland State Team.
Junior Shawn Moyer and sophomore Chris Cosentino of North County and freshman Brian Zaks of Severn School received congratulatory letters last week informing them of their selection to the poolof 25 players in their age groups.
Moyer will represent the state in under-17 competition, while Cosentino and Zaks will play on the 16-and-under and 15-and-under teams,respectively.
"I couldn't believe it when I got the letter telling me I made the
team," said Zaks, a goalkeeper for the Admirals who recorded 100 saves and yielded only 25 goals in 16 games last season in the highly competitive Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference.
"I tried out once before and I've seen a lot of quality people try out and not make it, so it really surprised me when I found outI did. I'm looking forward to it. It should help me get affiliated with better competition."
The Olympic Development Program, sponsored by the U.S. Soccer Federation, should do that and more.
The program was created to identify the best soccer talent in the country andto develop that talent to represent the United States in World Cup competition.
Keith Tabatznik, director of Maryland's six state ODP teams, says the benefits derived through the program are "several-fold," but believes the biggest advantage is the exposure the players will receive from college scouts.
"It gives them exposure to collegerecruiters and to the highest level of competition," said Tabatznik,head coach of the men's soccer team at Georgetown University.
"Inhigh school or club ball they are playing against the top players inthe area, but in the ODP they are playing against the top players inthe state and the region."
Zaks' coach at Severn, Rick Lenfest, saw his keeper mature as the season progressed and believes the freshman's involvement
in the program will be nothing but positive for him, and residually, his Severn squad.
"The Olympic Development Program will give him the specialized training he needs from some of thebest coaches in the game," said Lenfest. "It's a terrific opportunity for him. As a coach, it's comforting to know your goalie is coming back the next three years."
Of the 25 players on each squad, 16 to18 of them will be chosen to compete against regional, national and international teams.
Every player, however, will travel to either Rider College or Penn State University July 11-16 for Identification Week, where they will battle for a spot on the Eastern Regional Team.
All state teams will begin practicing in various areas around thestate in February, gearing up for a summer of competition. The under-15 and under-16 teams will attend a three-day mini-camp at Mount St.Mary's, where they will receive intense individual and team training.
"The mini-camp is probably the most beneficial part of the wholeprogram," said Tabatznik.
North County boys soccer coach Steve Malone said, "I think it's a great thing for them. It's something they've worked for for a long time, so I'm happy for them. It's their own personal achievement and I definitely think they will be better for it."