Since she began playing soccer with boys as a 6-year-old, striker Laurie Schwoy has added polish to her finish.
The 14-year-old McDonogh freshman stands 5 feet tall and weighs 96 pounds, but there may not be another forward in the Catholic League with more skill, grit and determination to score goals.
"When she missed a goal or two early on, she'd go home and duplicate that shot against a fence 50 times until she felt she got it right," said McDonogh coach Ted Scocos, whose Eagles (13-2-1, 4-1-1) are the area's sixth-ranked team.
"She's also a great student. She's very demanding of herself both on the field and in the classroom."
For the past two years, Schwoy has honed her skills in the Olympic Developmental program, making the under-14 regional team over the summer. Two years ago, she helped her Shakedown club team of the Perry Hall area win a State Cup title. Schwoy joined the Glyndon Hotlegs last season.
Her reputation preceded her into the high school ranks. Before the Eagles faced Howard in a regular-season game, the Lions' two-time all-county forward, Shannon Bograsky, told her coach, Dave Vezzi: "We've got to watch No. 10. I'm telling you, she's got great skills."
Schwoy's late goal broke a 1-1 tie in a 3-1 victory over Howard.
"She's a small player," said St. Mary's coach Jerry Tobin before the start of this season. "But if she can withstand the physical play at this level, you're going to hear about her."
Schwoy is more than holding her own as the area's leading scorer with 16 goals and 11 assists. She is coming off a three-goal, three-assist effort in Saturday's 10-0 victory over St. Andrews Academy of Delaware.
She began learning what mental and physical toughness is all about while playing soccer with boys in the Overlea recreation program.
"The boys are so much more aggressive," said Schwoy. "I just carried that attitude over into girls soccer, winning balls, tackling, passing."
The experience has come in handy.
Despite special defensive marking from rival teams, which often means players double- and triple-team Schwoy, the Rosedale resident has scored game-winning goals seven times, including against Howard, IND (2-1) and defending league champion Mercy (2-0).
"I knew that she was an outstanding goal scorer," said Scocos. "She maneuvers through dangerous situations. She can just go through two or three players."
Schwoy has overcome some of the area's best defenders, including Howard's all-county sweeper Camille Powell, Mercy's all-league sweeper Shannon Davis and Fallston's all-county fullback Cindy Jenkins.
She takes particular pride in using her chicanery against players of superior size.
"Bigger players? I like to get them off balance," said Schwoy, "take them to one side, get them leaning, fake a shot, then cut to the other side. People like to look at my size, but I don't think that makes a difference."
As proof, she offers her skills as a basketball player, saying, "Believe it or not, I can play guard." Shortstop, widely viewed as the position requiring the most athletic ability in softball, is another position Schwoy has played.
"I think what helps me is my agility," Scwhoy said. "When I'm going up for a head ball or something, I just keep telling myself that size has nothing to do with it.
"If I get double-marked, then I know that I can just pass it off. I try to know where everyone is on the field so I can go to goal or do something else with the ball."
Schwoy attracts so much attention that her teammates -- Debbie Johnson (seven goals, four assists), Alison Schroeder (five, four), Sonia Chase (eight, one), Christina Coroneos (four, two) and Ann Kimberling (five, three) -- have benefited.
"She has a lot of assists, so she's also a playmaker. She works well with all of the other players," said Schroeder, a team co-captain with Johnson. "She definitely gives us something that we didn't have last year."