During the 1995-96 academic year, The Sun is tracking the progress of six local high school seniors -- both in sports and in the classroom -- as they strive to meet the NCAA's tougher
As far back as Annette Schwoy can remember, her daughter, Laurie, has refused to be denied.
"She hated to lose at anything, even Monopoly," said Annette. "She even won the election for president of her eighth-grade class, and she beat the most popular boy. She played soccer in a boys league when she was 6. She's just always been a tough, strong-willed little person."
Schwoy still is getting her way. While other seniors sweat out the recruiting process and struggle to improve grades and standardized test scores to meet the NCAA's tougher standards for freshman eligibility, Schwoy has it made.
Last month, her grades at McDonogh and her soccer skills landed her a scholarship offer from North Carolina, which has won 13 of the past 14 NCAA women's soccer championships.
It was the offer Schwoy, 17, was waiting for. Before she orally committed to the Tar Heels, Schwoy was averaging four calls a night from recruiters. Notre Dame, Michigan, Santa Clara, Washington State, Maryland, Virginia, Clemson, Duke, George Mason and William & Mary were after her.
"I didn't even visit any schools, because, by that point, I had had it from people calling all night," Schwoy said. "I had had enough of trying to plan these trips around a soccer schedule and school. I was kind of feeling like if you've seen one school, you've seen them all."
Last month, after a quick visit from North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance, Schwoy committed to the Tar Heels. "The worst part of it all was having to tell the other schools that I had committed," she said. "That's when I found out it was more of a business. Some recruiters turned real cold all of a sudden."
Schwoy credits McDonogh's college counseling program with preparing her for her senior season. She was registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse after her junior season, maintains a 3.0 grade-point average over 13 core courses and scored 1,110 on her Scholastic Assessment Test -- easily meeting the NCAA's Proposition 16 requirements. Under the new sliding scale, which applies to students entering college in fall 1996, someone with a 2.0 GPA needs a 900 SAT score; someone with a 2.5 GPA can be eligible with a 700 SAT score.
"She took the PSAT her sophomore year and felt confident that she would qualify by those," said Annette Schwoy, 41, who is divorced and raised Laurie and her older brother, Chris, as a single parent for the past 14 years. "We had a problem figuring out the core subjects during her junior year, but an appointment with McDonogh's college counselor [Libet Ottinger] remedied that. She told her then and there what to do, step-by-step, and that reassured Laurie that she had everything she'd need."
NCAA rules prohibit Dorrance from talking about Schwoy until she signs in November. But her profile is in line with others in his program. "We go after players with powerful psychological dimensions and attacking personalities," Dorrance said.
"The young women we recruit are wonderfully responsible academically, and they're very ambitious," said Dorrance. "We look for tenacious athletes with the capacity to win games on their own. We like to score a lot of goals, and we need the kinds of kids who can score at all costs."
Over 3 1/2 years at McDonogh, Schwoy, 5 feet 4, 123 pounds, has been the area's top scorer and has been held scoreless just twice. She's a two-time All-Metro pick and was last year's Baltimore Sun Player of the Year.
With Schwoy (170 career goals with 71 assists) in the lineup, McDonogh (10-2-1) twice has won Catholic League crowns, been ranked as high as No. 3 nationally and posted a 67-5-4 record.
"In some ways, I feel like I've done all I can do in high school," said Schwoy. "But I also want to be a leader, a team captain and show the younger players what it's like to be on a great team. I want to go out blazing, not fizzle out."
Two weeks ago, a slight cartilage tear in her right knee forced Schwoy (24 goals, 13 assists this year) to miss the first game of her career -- a 3-2 loss to Mercy.
"That was hard to take, because Laurie's no wimp," Annette said. "She's had pulled hamstrings, sprained ankles and bruises, yet never cried or had to be carried off the field. Never anything seriously damaging.
"Last March, she even wrapped her Hyundai around a telephone pole and didn't get a scratch."
Doctors said she could return to action one day later, and Schwoy began a five-game, 13-goal, seven-assist scoring spree.
Just like that, her aura of invincibility was restored.
"She's just a phenom. I mean, she's bionic," said McDonogh coach Maurice Boylan. "She's been double- and triple-teamed since she's been here, but she's still our go-to girl. That's what's made this year such a tremendous challenge: Sometimes, she just saddles this team on her back and carries it."
Schwoy is thinking big, hoping in time to be mentioned in the same breath as players on the U.S. women's 1991 World Cup championship squad.
Her goal is possible, according to U.S. team coach Tony DiCicco, whom she impressed during the Olympic Festival in July.
"Laurie has some uncommon qualities: She's a very creative player, a scorer and an excellent dribbler," said DiCicco, who expects to invite Schwoy and about 25 others to a 12-day tryout in December. "She's an exciting player to watch, and she's got a great future ahead of her."
Sometimes, Schwoy returns to her past. She occasionally ventures alone to a nearby park to play against imaginary opponents, as she did as a child.
"Just like a little kid, I'll run around celebrating a goal with my hands in the air. People walk by and see me, but I just don't care. I'm totally in my own world," Schwoy said.
"I guess you could say that I'm obsessed, and it's an addiction. But when I'm playing soccer, I feel like I'm in complete control. I've done all the moves before, I'm used to the routine and when I'm all alone, my mind is the clearest. It's the best part of my day."
Senior Journal update
Duane Fisher, C. Milton Wright, football: Fisher, an All-Metro wide receiver and defensive back, has scored 980 on his SAT and has a 2.64 in his core courses. He expects "mostly B's" on his first report card, and also is busy as the state vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America. "It's kind of hectic with all the phone calls from recruiters, and it's hard to get a read on where you fit on their depth charts with the other recruits. The schools aren't very specific about that," said Fisher, who led the area with 11 interceptions last year and wants to sign early. Fisher, 6 feet 4, 190 pounds, ranks sixth among Harford County scorers with 33 points, third in receptions (10) and touchdown receptions (four) and fourth in receiving yards (194). He is second in the county with three interceptions, has 25 tackles (15 solo), and a fumble recovery for a 70-yard touchdown. Wake Forest, Virginia, Maryland, Boston College and the University of Maryland are the schools most interested in Fisher.