These high school athletes do whatever it takes

C. Milton Wright senior Jenna Bowen would have never guessed that she would be wearing yellow, not the Mustangs' traditional Carolina blue, during her final high school soccer season.

But last year, the Mustangs were loaded with talented forwards — the position Bowen has played since she was 4 — and coach Paul Austin felt her athleticism and work ethic could better serve the team as the back-up goalkeeper.

A bit reluctant at first, Bowen went on to accept the challenge and dug in. By the end of last season, Austin said he would have been just as confident using Bowen in goal as the team's senior starter. This season — after extensive offseason training to further polish her new craft — the goalie job belongs to Bowen.

"In the end, I got a position out of it and that means the world to me," said Bowen, whose favorite color is yellow, which made for an easy choice when shopping for a goalie jersey. "Just playing anywhere on the field, as long as I'm out there with the girls that I love playing with, it's great."

Every team in every sport has players that make sacrifices, provide added enthusiasm and take extra measures for the betterment of their teams.

Austin, whose Mustangs are ranked No. 10 in The Baltimore Sun's preseason poll, is thankful to have one in Bowen.

"Jenna just wants to play, wants to be part of the program with the girls and contribute," he said. "We've always been very fortunate to have the feeder system that we have. But the key to our success is everybody buying into the team concept and really coming together to play as a team. Her willingness to do that is a real good example."

In Howard County football circles, it would be easy for Atholton senior tight end/safety Adam D'Amico to get overlooked. He's all of 5 feet 9 and 180 pounds, lining up next to the Raiders' 6-4, 290-pound senior right tackle, Adam Brown, on the offensive line and regularly surrendering 100 pounds against the opponents he's blocking.

Instead, it's the opposite.

Known in the county as "the little tight end," D'Amico gets the most of his abilities with a non-stop work rate that starts in the weight room, continues in practice and then shines on game day.

"I've seen him go up against linemen twice his size and he's driving them 10 yards down the field," Atholton coach Kyle Schmitt said. "I've never really seen the kid show any pain. He's a guy that you try just about everything to break him and he just won't break."

Schmitt added that D'Amico's presence helps keep the upperclassmen hungry and sets an invaluable example for the younger players. He's the player that is first to finish every drill, last to leave the weight room and a model student in the classroom.

D'Amico wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'm always striving to get better," said D'Amico, who would like to play football at the Naval Academy. "I don't want to sit back and be content with just being all right. I want to be the best there is. So I work hard at practice because I know if I can give 100 percent every single play, the next play I'll be able to do even better. If I'm not tired by the end of practice, I feel like I didn't work hard enough."

It didn't take long for D'Amico to make an impact. In his first game on varsity last season, a tight end screen was called from the sideline. With fine blocking downfield from teammates, D'Amico took care of the rest.

"First game, first catch and first touchdown on varsity — I was just so happy," said Damico, who scampered about 35 yards for the score. "I saw my tackle and my guard out there blocking for me and I just followed them and used my speed. Everyone was happy for me. I was celebrating with my teammates and it was a great feeling."

Bryn Mawr senior Amanda Matz remembers the positive influence older players made on her when she first began playing field hockey in the sixth grade.

A veteran on varsity for two-plus years, Matz, the Mawrtians' sweeper on defense, is now the one who makes the lasting impression on teammates.

Often times it comes out loud and clear, whether the team is playing in a game, practicing or in the midst of a long run.

"Whether she's in the front of the pack, in the middle or in the back, she's always cheering and motivating and inspiring the girls," Bryn Mawr coach Jeanette Budzik said. "So wherever she is and with whatever energy she has left, it comes out. It's something that's almost subtle now. If you hear a voice cheering in the background, it's Amanda."

The Mawrtians have enjoyed plenty of success, capturing last year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship. And while the wins are important, Matz believes there is much more that comes with being part of a team and growing into a leader. It's a role she cherishes.

"Winning games is really important, but I think values that you learn — like being a leader and being a good teammate and, most importantly, a good friend — those are big. And if you maintain those relationships, that's what is most important," Matz said.

At Severna Park, senior volleyball standout Carli Converse was expected to do a lot of things for the Falcons this coming season, and the list is growing.

Mostly the team's defensive specialist at libero the past two seasons, Converse is set to be the team's top outside hitter after fellow senior Sam Henke — a second-team All-Metro selection last year — was lost for this season due to a shoulder injury.

Without Henke, a young team got younger, with Converse taking on the primary leadership role as team captain.

"So now, I'm really looking to her to not only take that captain's role, but also to step up her personal game as she becomes our No. 1 outside hitter," Severna Park coach Dave Verostic said. "She just got a lot bigger load on her, and I couldn't ask for her to be doing any more. Her game is right where I want it to be."

Converse has embraced the challenge and expects the Falcons to maintain the lofty standards they have enjoyed as one of the perennial powers in Anne Arundel County.

"Sam has been a huge contributor since her freshman year, and I followed in her footsteps and pushed to try to keep up with her," Converse said. "I know I have some big shoes to fill. I know I have to get everybody going and keep my composure out there to show the younger players."

For the Eastern Tech boys soccer team, junior Austin Reisig has always let his actions speak louder than his words.

That is changing some this season. Reisig started as a midfielder on the junior varsity as a freshman, but willingly moved back on defense for varsity as a sophomore. His sound play and commitment to the team prompted coach Peter Glaudemans to move him to central defense this season, which will require him to become more of a vocal leader to keep the Mavericks organized in the back.

"Everybody always says that I'm the quiet one, but my coach says I always put in the extra effort and my work rate is really good. I just try to encourage my teammates," Reisig said. "I also enjoy the support I get from teammates and am just having fun."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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