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Stem brings her success to South Carroll Former Liberty standout has lacrosse team in final


They tucked Stacy Stem's hair under her cap when she was 8 so she could blend in with the boys, bat third and drive in runs for the Orioles as the first girl to play in the Winfield Little League.

Later, they had to build extra shelves in the Liberty High trophy cases to accommodate all the trophies and awards Stem helped the new school win in the early 1980s when she and Sandy Wilson were the first three-sport stars at the school.

Stem excelled in field hockey, basketball and softball at Liberty.

Salisbury State created a field hockey midfield position for Stem.

Stem, 28, became the first female athlete to have her jersey retired at Salisbury State. Those ceremonies in May 1987 brought tears to the eyes of her father, Ricky, and mother, Nancy.

No field hockey or female lacrosse player will wear No. 10 again at Salisbury.

She was a three-time All-American in field hockey, a two-time All-American in lacrosse, captain of the lacrosse team for three years and captain of the field hockey team as a junior.

She holds the school career assist record in field hockey with 27.

Stem was a force on Salisbury's first NCAA Division III national championship team in 1987. That team went 21-0 and beat Bloomsburg State for the national title.

Three years ago, Stem got a chance to coach field hockey and girls lacrosse at South Carroll, and she quickly has become one of the most successful young coaches in the state.

In three field hockey seasons, she has won a state title and finished second.

In her fourth lacrosse season this spring, Stem pulled off one of the most amazing coaching jobs ever in Carroll County.

She has taken a group of girls who were laid back at the start othe season and willed them to a state regional 3A-4A championship, an upset 15-14 victory over previously unbeaten C. Milton Wright in the state semifinals Saturday night and a berth in the state 3A-4A championship game tomorrow against third-ranked and unbeaten Severna Park at Catonsville Community College at 7 p.m.

When she first greeted this team, the sometimes fiery coacwondered if the Cavaliers would do any better than fourth of four teams in Carroll County.

As Stem heads up the ladder toward what she hopes will be a field hockey or lacrosse coaching job at a Division III college, she has gained the respect of her peers and her players.

"I love my kids, and I hope they feel the same about me," she said. "I'd do anything for them. I think I can relate to them, and I try to teach them that they can overcome a lot of weaknesses if they play an intelligent game."

She knows the game, whatever the sport, from field hockey to the Orioles, Colts, Washington Redskins, Maryland basketball or the Washington Capitals.

"I love basketball, but I'm too short [5 feet 3]," said Stem. "I was a point guard in high school, and the Salisbury State basketball coach [Diane Cain] asked me twice to play basketball."

And it all started in a smallish Little League program in southern Carroll County when Stem dared to be a trendsetter.

"I wore my hair up and tried to hide it because I thought the guys might pick on me if they knew I was a girl," she said. "No girls ever played before. There was no law against it. It would be sexist. What could they say? I was one of the best players."

Stem's father loves to talk about the Little League days. Her brother Ricky batted second.

"Stacy always drove Ricky home," said the elder Stem. "She could always find a hole to hit the ball in. She played first base and pitched."

In high school, Stem helped make Liberty a winner immediately in field hockey, basketball and softball. In her junior year, the school's second year of existence, the Lions won the state field hockey title.

As a senior, Stem and the Lions went to the state finals in all three sports.

So when Stem delivers a halftime speech to her field hockey or lacrosse team, the South Carroll players know the coach is speaking from experience and success.

"I instill in my players that it has to come from the heart, that they have to work hard," Stem said. "I get upset the most when a player does something dumb. I think my kids have a lot of respect for me. They don't want to be treated like kids."

Stem is content to aim for Division III.

She was the same way as a high school player choosing a college.

"I might have been able to play at a Division I school," said Stem. "But I might have been sitting on the bench. Salisbury State coach Karen Weaver showed a lot of interest in me for field hockey, and I liked that.

"I've said before, I'd rather be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in a big pond."

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