Kate Nicholson's soccer season never really ends, it just gets, as the Atholton sophomore forward puts it, "crazier."
In the fall, Nicholson plays for her high school team and the U-16 Bethesda Rapids, attending up to four practices and four games a week, plus occasional weekend tournaments. She also played last year in Maryland's Olympic Development Program, leading the Under-14 team to a fourth-place finish in the Region I championships in July. Next month, she will attend tryouts for the 2005 ODP team, hoping to fill her calendar for the upcoming winter and spring.
"I don't even know how many miles I've put on my car taking Kate to soccer," said her mother, Ann Nicholson. "But it's been worth it because this is what Kate wants to do."
Right now, Nicholson's primary focus is on one team: the Atholton Raiders, who were 6-4 overall and 4-3 in league play entering the week and preparing for the playoffs next week.
"In high school, some girls don't have the same passion for soccer because they don't play year-round on club, so I play more to my strengths at forward and try to score, so it's easier for me individually," Nicholson said. "But in club soccer, it's harder for me individually but easier for me playing with my club team because it's a much higher level and everyone is good."
Nicholson has helped the Raiders emerge as a contender for the 2A South Region title. She entered the week with a team-high nine goals to go along with seven assists; last year she scored 10 goals as the team's only freshman starter.
"She's the most distinguished player on that team," Centennial Coach Mike Senisi said after Nicholson scored both Atholton goals in a 4-2 loss to the Eagles last week. "She was able to get outside of our defense and we couldn't catch her, and when she does that, she's tough to stop."
At 5-foot-6, Nicholson doesn't have the size to overpower opponents. But what she lacks in size she makes up for in endurance, honed in another sport in which she excels -- track.
"Her stamina is what sets her apart because she can run forever," said Bethesda Rapids Coach Rich Fabrizio. "It will be late in the game and you think she's tired, and she'll burst out and run past everyone and make a big play."
Nicholson said she plans to "keep in shape for soccer season" by defending her 2A championship in the 800-meter run. But it may not be easy, especially if she makes the ODP team. That would mean on Mondays, she'll have to jump in the front seat of her mom's car after track practice for a 40-minute drive to ODP practice. And she might miss a few weekend track meets to play in soccer games.
"I like track, but I love soccer," Nicholson said. "That's why I don't mind sometimes having to go to two practices a day."
"Kate does a lot, but every few months I ask her if she's still having fun," Ann Nicholson said. "The second she says she's not, we're dropping something because sports should be about having fun."
Right now, Nicholson has no intention of slowing down, especially as Atholton prepares for the 2A South Region tournament, which begins next week. Last year, the Raiders lost to Glenelg in the region final.
"I think playing all that soccer makes her a better player, and track helps her, too," Atholton Coach Stephanie Stoutenborough said. "Kate has everything you can ask for in a soccer player: She's fast, can shoot and has great all-around skills."