Broadneck senior Ali Flury will be the first to admit it: She doesn't always see eye to eye with junior teammate Alexcia Niumatalolo on the soccer field. Many times in the past few years they have argued about strategy during games, yet when Flury looks at the gifted junior midfielder, it's as if she's looking in the mirror.
"She's just like me," said Flury, who is beginning her fourth year as a varsity starter. "We're the same in that we're both aggressive and just want to win. When I was a freshman, I wanted to go out and prove that I could play with the big girls, and that's the same way Alexcia has been."
Niumatalolo has never played a day of junior varsity in any of her three sports -- soccer, basketball and lacrosse -- largely because her athleticism has always made her stand out in any group of girls, regardless of age.
"I don't know where she gets it; maybe it's just natural," said her father, Ken Niumatalolo, who was a top quarterback at the University of Hawaii and is now the offensive line coach for the Navy football team. "But it's fitting she plays sports, especially basketball, because if she would have been a boy I would have named her Magic because my favorite player growing up was Magic Johnson."
At 5 feet 7, Niumatalolo is big enough to muscle players off the ball, has the speed to weave her way through a defense and has a deft touch that enables her to deliver the ball with pinpoint accuracy.
"She's kind of a freak of nature when it comes to sports," said Kelly Jacques, a senior defensive midfielder for Broadneck. "She can just do anything she wants to do."
Niumatalolo, a forward, doesn't play club sports because her parents, devout Mormons, forbid her to play on Sunday, a day when many club teams have games.
So when she does get the chance to step on the field, she makes every second count. Whether competing against her teammates in short-sided games or running sprints during practices, she plays to win.
"She's one of the most competitive people on our team," Coach John Camm said. "What impresses me the most with Alexcia, though, is how good she is at every sport she plays when she doesn't put the same amount of time in as the rest of the girls. She's still one of the fittest players on our team."
The return of Niumatalolo, who had six goals and eight assists last year, and seven other starters positions the Bruins to be one of the state's top teams this fall. Last year's team advanced to the 4A East Region final, where it fell to South River in penalty kicks.
Broadneck was 7-7 two years ago and has not advanced to the state tournament since 1998, but showed tremendous improvement last fall by going 10-5-1 in Camm's first year.
Camm, who had coached boys' soccer at Glen Burnie for seven years, encouraged players to compete year-round and offered voluntary offseason camps and conditioning programs to improve skills and conditioning so the team could better compete in one of the state's toughest leagues.
It was a hard transition at first, as four varsity players quit, but the girls who stuck with the program said it has revitalized a team that had been mired in mediocrity.
"It was a big change because we weren't used to having to be committed year-round," Jacques said. "But I think it changed our whole attitude, and now we expect to win because we're so much better than we were last year. Right now, I think this is definitely going to be our best team since I've been here. Our goal is to get to the state tournament."
Niumatalolo, senior Kristen Zick and Flury, who scored 19 goals last year, are expected to produce offensively, but Broadneck's strength is defense. Jacques is expected to anchor a unit that returns junior goalie Emily Jones, junior sweeper Lexy Schwabenland and senior stopper Jill Phelan.
"I expect Broadneck to be very, very good after what I saw last year," Severna Park Coach Gary Lam said. "They work at a much higher level now, and after last year, you know that as a team, they believe they can win."