At age 16, Howard High School goalkeeper Megan Boehm already has had her share of ups and downs in the soccer world. But she still believes that if you work hard you can accomplish anything.
And her selection last week to the Eastern Regional under-16 pool gives credence to her theory.
Boehm beat the odds to become one of three goalies selected to represent an area that includes Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire Pennsylvania and New York.
"There was so much competition that I really didn't expect to be spotted at all," she said. "But I guess it shows you what hard work can do for you."
The 5-foot-11 sophomore, whose strength is in the air because of her height, might have made the pool a year ago except for a freak eye injury suffered during competition in Canada a week before the regional camp.
"I was kicked in the face and my eye bled over the right retina so I wasn't allowed to attend regional camp last year," Boehm said.
The eye healed quickly enough to allow her to play varsity soccer as a freshman last fall, but she had to play back-up to an established senior keeper.
She also started as a varsity basketball player at Howard and then played club soccer for the Columbia Spirit last spring. The Spirit made it to the Eastern Regional semifinals on Fourth of July weekend but lost to Virginia, 3-1.
Boehm, who grew up in Columbia and has played goalie for eight years, trains hard to perfect her craft.
Since last fall she has attended the UMBRO Goalkeeping Academy coached by Mike Curry, who is in his 19th year of coaching Columbia athletes. UMBRO sponsors 12 goalkeeping academies around the country, including one in Maryland.
Boehm was honored this May as the Maryland branch's Goalkeeper of the Year.
That honor was supposed to include an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington state for a week-long goalkeeping camp with some renowned coaches.
But the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, which governs the state's high school athletics, ruled that Boehm could not accept the UMBRO offer without forfeiting her amateur status. So she had to forgo the camp, which was held this week.
"I was disappointed and kind of angry because it would have been a good experience and given me some national exposure," Boehm said.
Being picked as Goalkeeper of the Year was enough of an honor in itself.
"I was surprised I was picked because there are so many quality goalkeepers at the academy," she said.
Curry picked Boehm based on her work ethic, commitment and leadership, as well as her athletic ability.
"She exemplifies success," Curry said. "She's tough with quick footwork, great hands and great attitude. You can be comfortable that she'll make the big play when you need it in the waning moments of a game when the rest of the team may be feeling a little tired."
Curry describes the UMBRO academy as a place for truly committed athletes, not for everyday players.
It has 38 participants in its inaugural year and includes goalkeepers as young as 10.
The academy has held about 25 group training sessions, and members can receive individual evaluations from Curry any time they need one.
Boehm also has helped Curry train Soccer Association of Columbia neighborhood coaches and players in goalkeeping techniques.
"She's a great role model for the younger players," Curry said.