Almost every time Glenelg's Amanda Feaga controlled the soccer ball, she turned up the field, dribbling past defenders or finding an open teammate for a pass. The sophomore forward, who had never started a varsity game, emerged as the center of attention on a team filled with returning varsity players.
Feaga scored five goals to lead Glenelg's 7-on-7 summer league team to victory over a club soccer team last week, but as she walked off the field at Howard County Community College, she was focusing not on the accolades of the moment, but on the future.
"I want to prove I can make the varsity team this year from the start -- that's my goal," said Feaga, who got a taste of varsity competition last fall when she was called up from junior varsity during the postseason. "Each time I play [summer league], I want to show that I belong on the varsity team."
Though that won't be decided until after tryouts begin on Aug. 15, Feaga's strong showing during the summer season is a step in the right direction.
The 7-on-7 league -- where games are played on a half-size field and consist of two 25-minute halves -- differs from summer leagues in other sports because of its proximity to the start of the high school season. The league ends Aug. 10.
"Summer league soccer is not tryouts," said Glenelg Coach Dean Sheridan. "What this is another opportunity for me as a coach to make a fair evaluation of a player, and I think that's what every player wants -- fair evaluations. But in the end, it's going to be how well each girl does at tryouts that determines if they make the team."
But players take a different view of the league, with its nine high school teams -- eight of them from Howard County -- two club teams and the Howard County Community College women's squad.
"It's like the preseason because it's so close when the high school season starts," said Reservoir senior midfielder Rachel Monheit. "You definitely want to win because it gets you off to a good start that you can take right into the season."
Because of the small field, league games highlight soccer skills, not speed.
Most teams are coached by parents or players because state high school athletic rules prohibit high school coaches from guiding summer squads.
The league also gives players a chance to try new positions.
Reservoir junior Christa Puccio was the varsity's starting goalie last fall and is expected to keep her position this season. But that didn't stop her from playing in the midfield during the second half of a 5-2 victory over Hammond last week. Puccio, who scored a goal, was replaced in net by one of the team's top defenders, senior Elizabeth Eden.
"This is the only time you'll see me in goal," Eden said. "But that's what's good about this league -- everyone can try new things."
Most important, the league brings together returning players and junior varsity girls who are looking to make varsity. It provides the first chance for a team to develop chemistry, because most players compete on different club teams during the summer.
"Now, it's like everyone is starting to focus on playing soccer for Glenelg after doing their own thing this summer," said senior midfielder Meghan Haspert. "We're all starting to work together and starting to find out who can play where this fall."