Those who set the goal often deliver net results


Even early on, when they are playing in bunches, the special ones can still stand alone.

When Mike Tegeler signed up his daughter, Brittany, then 4 years old, for clinic soccer, he quickly recognized the familiar pattern: Wherever the ball went, a pack of tiny running legs was never far behind.

From there, another pattern followed.

"It was boys and girls mixed, they would all be just swarming to the ball and Brittany would always seem to come out with it and end up going to goal and scoring," Tegeler said. "Even when she was that little, she had a knack for it -- I don't know how to explain it."

Brittany Tegeler, now a McDonogh sophomore coming off a 20-goal freshman season last fall, is one of a number dangerous strikers in the area, all of whom have the unique recipe necessary for consistently scoring goals.

As for ingredients? There are plenty, including speed and quickness on the ball with the ability to finish with either foot, on the ground or in the air. But it always starts with that uncanny knack.

"Certain players look to take the initiative and are always looking to score. It's a sense of getting to the ball and always wanting to go to goal with it," said River Hill coach Joan Kelso Smedley, who has guided the Hawks to three straight Class 3A state crowns. "You can teach certain things -- how to turn on a ball and working with teammates to get a pass in the right place -- but there's definitely a mind-set that some girls already have in them."

If St. Mary's senior striker Mary Key doesn't score a goal, she's disappointed. And if it's a close game, not scoring the goal that could have made the difference can be simply be agonizing.

"That's my job, and if I don't do it, I feel I let my teammates down," said Key, whose 35 goals led the Saints in scoring the past two seasons. "If it's a close game and I didn't score, I'd be up that night thinking I had this chance and that chance. I hate losing, so in a way, being a forward, you kind of feel like you can control that a little bit more."

An attitude must develop in a striker inside the penalty area, where the cracks and crevices in a defense can be few, along with quality scoring chances.

"I think the most important thing is having confidence -- you definitely can't be a passive player," said Brittany Tegeler, who grew up watching McDonogh alum Laurie Schwoy, the most prominent of a number of standout scorers at the Owings Mills school.

"You have to have the confidence to take risks because the worst thing you can do is not take a shot when it's there. You also have to have the desire to put the ball in the net -- to be smart about it, always be unpredictable and have a feel for where you are on the field. You have to be able to take pressure well and be able to gather calmness."

Last season, Franklin junior Martha Mitchell had a day that all strikers dream about. In leading the Indians to the Westminster Tournament championship, she scored four goals in an opening win over LaPlata and came back later in the day to score four more goals in a 5-4 overtime win against Westminster in the title game -- including the game-winner.

Talk about efficiency: "I think my coach said I took nine shots and missed just one," said Mitchell, who finished the season with 18 goals. "I was just there and the crosses kept coming. I guess I was at the right place at the right time."

Field sense, composure, guts, consistency, borderline cockiness and support from teammates are all needed to be a successful finisher. Failing at times also comes with the territory.

"When you miss, you just got to think another chance will come. Your whole team depends on you a lot and you have to think about that, too," Tegeler said. "And when you score a goal, it's a great feeling that, after all that hard work, it has finally paid off."

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