Where can you find 14-year-old high school freshmen-to-be playing a sport against 30-something moms with busy schedules?
The Anne Arundel County Women's Summer Field Hockey League has 14 teams and 350 players wielding their sticks twice a week on fields at Broadneck Park in Arnold and Generals Highway Corridor Park in Crownsville.
The league provides an outlet for high school players to hone their skills, for college players to keep sharp in the offseason and for adults who love the competition and want to stay in shape.
From teenagers Sara Gavin, Stephanie Thomson and Nikki Rice (all about to enter ninth grade at Chesapeake this fall) to 40-year-old former collegiate national champion Betz (pronounced Betsy) Wild -- she played for Salisbury's Division III title team in 1986 -- the women are continuing the tradition of a league that started more than two decades ago.
"I spend so much time with my kids taking them to baseball games, but nothing is better than my kids cheering 'Go Mom' when I score a goal," said Wild, a mother of three and 1982 Severna Park graduate who is the captain of the Sage team. "I'm like the 'new mom.' They're cheering for me."
Back in 1982, current Maryland Speaker of the House Michael Bush was the sports supervisor for the county's Parks and Recreation Department. He started the league with a few teams that played at Rolling Knolls Elementary.
"When I was in high school, we would show up at Rolling Knolls, and they would say, 'Okay, you're on this team, you're on this team,' " said Laura Hoffner, a 1991 Broadneck graduate and the current field hockey coach at South River. Hoffner is the captain of Forest Green, made up primarily of field hockey coaches who have played together in this league for the better part of the past decade.
Hoffner herself is on the sidelines this season for the first time because of recent knee surgery. She'll also be a first-time mom this winter.
"It drives me crazy [not to be playing], but I feel like I'm coaching South River" standing on the sidelines, said Hoffner, who also worked for the league several years ago, doing everything from "organizing teams to lining the field."
Frank Graziano, an official in the league, said the younger players learn a lot in the summer league by playing with women who have collegiate experience.
"What they learn is positioning, and where to be set up," said Graziano, who makes the ride from upper Baltimore County to officiate the games. He also noted that because there are no coaches -- teams have captains, but they play in the game -- the women "can play their [style of] game."
The players seem to take the league -- and the competition -- quite seriously. Calvert County residents Holly Lojacono and Monica Wynn, who play for the Brown team, drove back from a field hockey camp in Kutztown, Pa. -- about 100 miles -- to make a 6 p.m. game.
"Dedication," said Lojacono.
And Sage team standout Lauren Maranto, a recent Severna Park graduate and All-Met who will play on scholarship at Shippensburg, tore an embedded earring stud out of her ear just so she could continue playing. The referee had told her moments before that she could not play unless the earring was removed.
"Anything for field hockey," said her dad, Bill. "She lives for this."
Even players from Montgomery County are fighting rush-hour traffic to come to Anne Arundel and play field hockey against very good competition. Many current and just-graduated players from the Springbrook team that won the 4A state title last fall are on the Brown team.
"They're playing with very talented girls," said Mark Lieb, a former field hockey coach at St. John's whose daughter, Lauren, plays on the Brown team. "If you keep your eyes open, you can't help but learn. It really helps with their self-confidence because they play with the 'big girls.' "