Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Falcons soccer tandem readies for Division I

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Dan Gross⁄The Gazette
Good Counsel seniors Lauren Kelly (left) and Sarah Chapman have already committed to play Division I college soccer next season; Chapman, of Silver Spring, at the University of Florida.
It seems only fitting that Good Counsel midfielders Sarah Chapman and Lauren Kelly would someday find themselves anchoring the Falcons’ midfield together. Two girls from completely separate worlds — Chapman was adopted from an orphanage in Siberia when she was 3, Kelly’s a Columbia (Md.) native — they met six years ago at age 12 and in their first year with the Maryland Olympic Development Program and formed an unbreakable bond over their love for soccer.

Three years ago when it was time for high school, the two unknowingly chose the same one. And, fittingly, the pair became the first two Falcons this year to verbally commit to NCAA Division I programs — Chapman, 17 of Silver Spring, will play at University of Florida (14-6-4 in 2006) and Kelly (who still lives in Columbia) at Gardner-Webb (11-9-2 in 2006) in North Carolina.

But first on Kelly and Chapman’s list of priorities is getting Good Counsel (16-6-2 last year) its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title since it won four straight from 1998-2001. The two have compiled a combined 21 goals and 25 assists the last two years. Chapman, who will be a four-year starter when the season begins, added eight goals and six assists as a freshman.

‘‘We were at ODP and I was just like, so, ‘Where are you going to high school?’” Kelly, 17, said. ‘‘And Sarah was just like, ‘Good Counsel.’ And I was like, ‘Wait, I’m going to go Good Counsel.’ And it’s just been great.”

College soccer is a big jump from high school. But even though Chapman (5-foot-4) and Kelly (5-2) are usually among the smaller players on the field, they’ve got a lot to offer: speed, tenacity and pure skill.

Chapman, who scored a goal while playing with the U.S. National 16U Team in Holland last March, has instilled fear in many a defender. She’s quick, feisty and has impeccable field vision, always able to find the open space. She can take it to the goal, scoring 14 goals for the Falcons last two years and giving her 22 for career, but she also plays to her teammates just as well (she’s tallied nine assists each of the last two years and has 24 for her career). And despite her size, or lack thereof, she’s nearly unbeatable in the air.

Kelly’s a deceiving player. She thrives off her ability to effortless glide around the field and slip through breaks in opponents’ defenses. And she plays to her teammates’ strengths.

‘‘Chapman is maybe one of the best midfielders I’ve had here at Good Counsel,” 19-year Falcons coach Jim Bruno said. ‘‘She has great movement off the ball. She has a tendency to pick out spots on the field better than anyone. In the air, she can beat anyone. And she’s not up there making mistakes, she’s making the plays. I think she’s going to be an impact player at Florida because of her physicality and her ability to get up in the air better than a lot of the girls.”

Competitive by nature, Chapman and Kelly thrive off a good challenge. And they’re ready to see what they can do at the next level. Both could make immediate impacts at their respective schools next year, but it’ll require a lot of work. And that’s what keeps them motivated — Chapman has started running two miles before school every day and the two plan to lift weights together this year to be stronger for college.

‘‘The level at Florida is so ridiculous,” said Chapman, who plans to pursue a professional career after college. ‘‘I don’t expect myself to just go in and start. I’ll have to play my best to get playing time in. I understand that. I know I have to work. But that’s the mentality. I knew that was the highest level I could probably play at and that’s what I wanted.”

And though this year is bittersweet for Chapman and Kelly as it’s their last playing together, they definitely share a friendship that’s benefited Good Counsel, and one that’ll only continue to grow.

‘‘We’ll definitely stay in touch,” Chapman said. ‘‘I can’t wait to hear about all the great thing’s Lauren’s doing at Gardner-Webb.”