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The ultimate team player


"Fullback is not what I do," said Mandy Robins. "It's not my true love."

Her first choice?

"Goalie is my first love in soccer," Robins said.

Always has been, always will be?

"Oh yes," she said.

For the last seven years, Robins has played goalie for the Columbia Spirit, a travel team. Next year she plans to play goalie at college, possibly at Salisbury State.

But in this her senior year at Atholton, she is a fullback.

Blame the coach.

Warren Michael, who began teaching at Atholton last year, took over its girls soccer team this season after coaching at Mount Hebron the last three years. He told Robins and Julie Kapcala, who shared the duties last year, that he would choose one goalie after the team's scrimmages.

"During the scrimmages, we weren't playing well in the back," said Michael. "I realized she [Robins] could help us there. After the last scrimmage, I made the decision to go with Julie."

It was not what Robins wanted to hear.

"At first I was kind of hurt," said Robins. "I had to swallow a little pride. He said he wasn't criticizing my play in goal, but that he really needed help on the defensive side.

"If it had been somebody else, a weaker keeper, I would have been really upset. But Julie is a great goalie. I'm comfortable with the decision."

"I think she took it pretty well," Kapcala said. "I don't think she holds a grudge. We get along just fine."

By selecting Kapcala, Michael gave Robins two choices: play ithe field or not at all.

"Somebody of a weaker stature would have quit," Michael said. "Here we are, asking a senior to play out of position. But she sacrificed her own personal goals for the team. She stepped up. That's what I'm proud of."

Michael is also pleased with the way Robins is playing for the 7-2-2 Raiders.

"She's got good feet, a good understanding of the game, and is extremely aggressive," said Michael, who moved Robins to forward for the second half against Wilde Lake and got a goal from her. "I know I can count on her when the situation gets tough."

For Robins, who still has goalie practice during the week, the situation right now isn't tough at all.

fine with the decision," she said. "I want to help the team. Actually, it's kind of fun playing on the field."

The fact that Atholton is winning also helps. "Mr. Michael has made us a better team," said Robins. "He's changed our whole attitude."

Speaking of changing attitudes, do not forget what Robins thought of Michael after they met for the first time last spring.

"I was angry," said Robins, who met Michael along with two other players. "I thought we weren't going to get along at all. I thought about quitting. It was his philosophy. I just couldn't except it."

A second meeting before the school year ended, this time between the two of them, resolved a few differences.

"After the second meeting," said Michael, "I told her that we had one good thing. That our relationship could only get better."

"That was so true," said Robins. "I still wasn't thrilled that he was going to be our coach."

But Robins came to practice in mid-August determined to show Michael everything she had. And the day after she was told she wasn't going to play goalie, Michael said Robins came back "ready to play." Somehow, their relationship improved.

"I think it's a good relationship," Robins said. "We like each other. We're friends. We're getting along. This is good."

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