McDonough junior forward Julia Lufriu has the physical skills a soccer player needs to be an effective goal scorer. But she believes her prolific goal scoring is just as much a product of her mind.
The speedy striker has scored 32 times this season, with at least one goal against every conference opponent. That includes five goals in a 6-1 victory over Calvert in Tuesday night's regular season finale. McDonough (10-4, 9-2 in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference) and Lufriu will face Calvert again Friday afternoon in the first round of the Maryland 3A South playoffs. Before kickoff, you can bet Lufriu will go through her usual preparation.
"Before the game, I get real focused and try to set my mental goals on what I want to do," Lufriu said. "I try not to get nervous and just play instead of worrying about who is watching you. . . . If I'm not there with the right mentality, I usually don't play very well."
Lufriu has led McDonough to its first 10-win season. But her individual success has not been a huge surprise--last season, she had 15 goals and four assists as a sophomore.
"She is not just a straightaway kicker; she puts a lot of stuff on the ball, and it is continually moving," Westlake Coach Jim Johnson said. "Nothing has gone to her head, and she is really a credit to the sport."
Lufriu's psychological advantage includes more than pregame preparation, she said.
"I think that one reason why I finish so well whenever I get the ball in scoring position is that I don't freak out," Lufriu said. "I don't get nervous, and I relax. I'm comfortable with the ball at my feet, and I place it. I don't cream [the ball] in the net."
McDonough Coach Jerry Curry and other area coaches add that Lufriu's bursts of speed and ball-handling skills make her tough to stop. It also does not hurt that Lufriu plays with senior midfielders Courtney Johnson (16 assists) and Jackie Curry (15 assists).
"[Lufriu's] uncanny with the ball one on one; she does very well," said Jerry Curry, Jackie's father. "She is very fast, and she has players that work with her who can give her the ball."
Lufriu, who has a cumulative 3.5 grade-point average, played with Johnson and Jackie Curry on the Waldorf Panthers when she was 11, and she said she believes that's why the three of them perform so well together.
"Courtney and I work so well together as far as crossing," Lufriu said. "When I'm a striker and [Jackie] is a striker, we pass well together and we communicate."
Jerry Curry emphasizes that Lufriu is a team player who knows when to score and when to get the rest of the team involved.
"Julia is not an individual; she is a team player," Curry said. "She never slacks off. Regardless of the goals she has, she is not a ball hog. If she does not have a chance to go to the goal, she will pass it off. She is there for the team and not for herself."
Lufriu plays on the under-17 Waldorf Piranhas and has played on the Maryland Olympic Developmental Program's team the last two years. She also was the starting point guard on the varsity basketball team last winter, averaging 7 points and 2.3 steals a game.
And although she uses her head when she plays, she tries not to let success go to her head.
"The main thing that gets on my nerves is when people brag, and I try to think from that point of view," Lufriu said. "I feel real good [about my play], but I don't like to brag about it."
The Rams, however, might have something to boast about after the state playoffs if they continue to play well.
Said Lufriu: "I think that if we come out to play and have the right mentality, we can make it to the regional final and win it."
CAPTION: "Nothing has gone to her head, and she is really a credit to the sport," an opposing coach says of Julia Lufriu.