Sass had never played the Herricanes and won. But on a recent muggy evening, they planned to change all that.
Members of the women's soccer team arrived at the Arlington field well before game time. Gatorade, ice cubes and friends were brought along for support. The Herricanes loomed large across the field, stretching and passing soccer balls and pounding one another's backs for encouragement.
Peter Azupitas, Sass's coach, gave his pre-game pep talk, which consisted of praising the team members and bawling them out at the same time. Once the game began, he paced the length of the field, back and forth, pleading with them to remember what he had taught them at practice:
"Call it, come on, communicate, let's go, I don't believe it. CALL IT, damn it! Very good; nice pass, Fran. Head, use your head, HEAD, Kathy."
As twilight fell, Sass lost to the Herricanes by a score of 2 to 1.
But things weren't so bad. "We made mistakes, but we keep improving," said Heather Grahame, who had to sit out much of the game after a first-quarter ankle twist.
"When our team first got together last year," she added, "we were ecstatic if five people showed up for practice. Now we play as a unit. We know we're a team."
"We were frustrated athletes when we started," said Fran Tomlinson, one of the co-captains. "Most of us had never played soccer before, and a few, even though they were athletic, had never even played on a team before."
The team grew as members invited their friends along, or as Tomlinson and Diane Moore, both judo coaches, urged their students to join them at soccer practice.
Maybe it's an unorthodox way to form a team, but it works. "When we started the Washington Area Women's Soccer League in 1976, we had five teams," said Mary White, who helped organize the Arlington league. "Last spring there were 250 women playing in Arlington alone and maybe four times that number throughout the region."
The core of a team in Montgomery County, called the Maryland Sports, consists of women whose husbands play softball together.
"I couldn't play softball," says Jeri Tavey, a graphic artist who serves as manager of the team. "In soccer, you don't have to worry about being in the outfield and missing the ball and having four runs score because of your mistake."
"Most of our team is over age 25 and not very athletic," she continued. "But we find ourselves really talking soccer, getting together after a game and going over every play that happened."
A lot of women who have never participated on a team sport before find themselves enjoyed the camaraderie of the group endeavor as much as the exercise.
"There's a spillover into the other parts of your life when you play on a team, which men have always done," said Donna Schmidt, and office manager and insurance agent in Fairfax County. "I find I'm more confident and can deal better in groups."
Schmidt had never played soccer until she spent a few seasons as a "soccer mother," watching her son from the sidelines. Now her team, the Blue Shooters, travels throughout Washington to compete and is participating in the Virginia State Cup, a statewide soccer contest for women.
"I was apprehensive at first about getting hit," she said. "I'm brusied right now. But most injuries occur in your first season, when you kick the person by accident, instead of the ball. Or they kick you."
"We get a little rough," conceded Sheila Jones, a lawyer and member of the Tidal Basin sBlues, a team that is now raising money for a soccer-playing trip to Belgium in August. "But you don't have time to be scared of the ball in a game, because you're just too busy playing."
GETTING YOUR KICKS IN
Teams play spring and fall seasons; a few also practice or hold skill clinics in the summer, too. Women interested in playing or coaching are welcome to join. Wear soccer shoes and shin guards, available at most sporting goods stores.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
DEPARTMENT OF RECREATION. Call 673-7627.
MONTGOMERY WOMEN'S SOCCER organizes supervised fun games through the summer, Saturdays, 10 a.m. in Rock Creek Park (behind the Jewish Community Center on East-West Highway). Team play will start in autumn. Call 530-9045.
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY. Call John Love, 277-2200, ext. 322.
ALEXANDRIA. Write Alexandria Soccer Association, P.O.Box 9246, Alexandria 22304.
ARLINGTON. Call Arlington Soccer Association, 979-5251.
FAIRFAX COUNTY. Write Gail Schlenker, 9000 Southwick Street, Fairfax 22031, or call 280-4594. CAPTION: Picture, A CONFRONTAION AT THE GOAL MOUTH IN WOMEN'S SOCCER. By James A. Parcell.