The signs were there from the start.
Charles H. Flowers High School senior midfielder Shonte Moten’s foray into recreational league sports was in basketball when she was just 7.
But as her teammates enthusiastically dribbled the ball up and down the hardwood, Moten’s first instinct was to juggle the ball at her feet.
“I was good at basketball, but my coach would look at me juggling and was just like, ‘Why don’t you try to play soccer?’” Moten said. “My mom switched me over and I started playing soccer.”
Moten immediately felt at home on the field, she said, and quickly excelled.
By age 10, the Air Force Academy recruit was enrolled in high-level club soccer with the Freestate Soccer Alliance.
In a county and at a school where girls soccer is often overshadowed by the popularity and success of sports such as football and basketball — the Jaguars football team has made eight postseason appearances in nine years — Moten’s spectacular play has brought attention to the school’s soccer program.
“She is definitely someone any program would want to have. She makes a difference. She’s an asset. Whatever she does she is an asset to any team,” second-year Flowers coach Frazier Richmond said.
Moten scored 25 goals in leading Flowers to a top four seed in the 2011 Class 4A South Region tournament. The Jaguars lost to county champion and eventual region finalist Bowie in the quarterfinal round.
Behind Moten’s team-high 26 goals and eight assists this fall, Flowers earned the region’s No. 1 seed when the draw was released Monday.
Prince George’s 4A rivals Bowie and defending champion Eleanor Roosevelt have combined for 16 region titles in 17 years, including the past nine.
With Moten’s leadership and ability to control the midfield with sharp technical skills and high soccer intelligence, Flowers has established itself as a legitimate threat to end that reign.
The Jaguars (10-1) pushed Roosevelt to its limit in a 2-1 overtime loss on Oct. 8.
“People are always looking to Bowie and Roosevelt. No one ever says anything about Flowers or [Henry A.] Wise. A lot of the girls didn’t think we could play with them, but when we ended up tying after 90 minutes, it shows that next time we can hang with them. It gave our team a lot more confidence that we can do this,” Moten said.
Added Richmond: “It was a loss in the column, but it was a win for our team.”
While the overall level of high school soccer does not measure up to the club level Moten is used to playing or the Division I competition she will face next year, there are aspects of high school ball that have helped make Moten a better overall player, she said.
“High school has prepared me for the physicality of the game. People might not know the game as well, but they’re more aggressive. College is going to be more technical. It’s going to be faster pace and people will be more soccer smart, but high school has made me tougher,” Moten said.
As one of few players with club soccer experience, Moten has long been the focal point of the program. Though Richmond said Moten is quite capable of dribbling the ball from the backfield through a sea of defenders into the attacking third, Moten is also content setting her teammates up to shine.
Moten said she has relished the opportunity to be a primary player, to lead the team by example and to motivate her teammates to pursue higher levels of soccer, but she is eager to start anew next year.
As a true student of the game, Richmond said, Moten’s intelligence on and off the soccer field is one of her biggest strengths. Moten said she is eager to keep improving and evolving as a soccer player.
“I still want to work hard. I don’t want to start at the top. If you’re already at the top, you can only go down. I want to keep going up, I don’t want to stay at the same level,” Moten said.
A natural athlete, Moten was a fine basketball player when she was younger. But soccer was her true calling.
“To be honest, I started off playing basketball when I was 7 or 8. But every five seconds, the ball was at my feet,” Moten said.