Playing for eight years on Dundalk area recreation and club teams has given Western's Kerri Harman a decided edge over most of her defenders.
The freshman striker has a bullet shot and superior dribbling ability -- skills she developed through years of practice. That's something most players in the 2-year-old city program just haven't had.
Yesterday against visiting Patterson, Harman once again showed that practice makes perfect, scoring three goals to help the Doves to a 4-0 win in a Baltimore City League game.
There's no doubt that the 14-year-old has made a major impact on the fledgling Doves program. But without the attentive eye of coach Kellisue Loftus, she may not have even gone out for the team.
"She came as a breath of fresh air to us," said Loftus. "She didn't even come out in preseason. I saw her in phys-ed class and said, 'What are you doing [in the fall]?' She said, 'I play soccer,' so I said, 'Well, come play for us.' "
And play she has.
Through nine games, all Western wins, she has scored 32 goals, ranking her among the top scorers in the area. Come playoff time, she also may come as a major shock to unwitting opponents, who are apt to take city teams lightly.
Against Patterson (6-4, 6-2), Harman and the Doves controlled the ball for most of the game, outshooting the Clippers 24-9, including 16-4 in a lopsided first half.
Harman said it was just a matter of teamwork.
"We were just working together," said Harman, who said she never thought she'd be a prolific scorer. "Coming in this year, I really didn't expect to score that many."
The freshman notched all three of her goals in the first half. The first, a 15-yard rocket off a pass from Cathy Hicks, came 13:58 into the game to make it 1-0.
Minutes later, she made it 2-0. After teammate Kim Iafolla's shot bounced away from Clippers goalie Amy Sakowski, Harman got the rebound and put it in from 20 yards.
After a shot off the post, she scored goal No. 3 seconds before halftime, taking the ball at midfield, outracing her defender and deflecting a shot off Sakowski and into the goal.
"Given the opportunity, she gets the ball off," said Loftus. "But she's also a good field player. I can place her anywhere on the field, and she'll do it. She makes a good team player even though she's so young."
That should come in handy when the Doves compete in the regional playoffs, where last year they suffered a humbling first-round loss to South Carroll.
Loftus said her team will know what to expect in terms of the competition this time. But Patterson coach Ed Brzozowski said if Western's opponents aren't careful, they may not know what hit them.
"The difference in this game was Kerri," said Brzozowski. "The girl is very experienced, plays very well for a freshman, she has a lot of moxie and savvy and she was the total difference in the game."
What's more, Western moved a step closer to securing a spot in the Class 4A state playoffs.