When Kim Alfriend first started playing ice hockey with the boys, they would tease her unmercifully.
"Hey, Big Bertha," opponents would yell, "let's see ya stop this one."
Even some of her teammates were wary.
"When she started, we all wanted to take shots at her," said forward David Rayne. "Then she kept stopping 'em, and our attitude changed quite a bit. We don't look at her like a girl. She's our goalie, and good one, too."
Kim Alfriend, 14, and in the ninth grade at Robinson High School, starts in goal for the Fairfax Flyers Bantam A's, the first and only female to play on that level in the Capital Beltway Hockey League.
Her team, made up of 13- and 14-year-olds, has won seven of 10 league games, with one tie, including an 8-2 victory over Bowie recently in a contest that hardly tested her ability.
"Didn't make too many saves today," she said. "It's no fun when you just stand around. Maybe that sounds crazy for a goalie to say, but I'd rather have some action out there."
There was plenty of action a few weeks ago against the Capitol Boys Club.
"It was real close and she kept us in the game all day," said Flyers captain Walt Gerrine. "They had 19 shots and we tied, 2-2. We would have lost without her in there."
Kim Alfriend has been playing hockey since she was 11, first on a girls' team in Ithaca, N.Y.
"They just asked who wanted to play goalie, and I volunteered," she said. "But it was kind of crummy. None of the girls could lift the puck."
Her family moved south in 1973, and Kim's fathers heard about the Fairfax club through a radio commercial. He enrolled her in the program, not bothering to tell anyone that his daughter with the neuter-name was a girl.
"When she first came out for the team," said coach Mike Manning, "I skated by and saw that long hair. I asked one of the other coaches, 'Is that a girl?' Yeah, I was king of surprised.
"Even now, and my apologies to the feminists, I'll watch her and wince when a shot bounces off her. But watching her play and watching her progress, well, she's got as much guts as any kid in goal I've ever seen.
"We've got one kid, Doug Schuler, who has as strong a shot as anyone in college. But she'll stand right up to him, never even fliches. She gets hit, and she comes right back for more."
Kim is serious enough about her sport, and her position, to have coaxed her father into sending her to a hockey camp in Holyoke, Mass., last summer, and she wants to go back for more.
"It was great, they teach you how to cut down angles on shots, how to flop with your pads, things like that," she said. "You know they're going to have a high school league out here, and I'd like to play in that. Eventually, I'd like to play on a girls' team in college."
Manning says his goalie learns quickly.
"Last year, she wasn't aggressive enough," he said. "They'd stand in the crease and she wouldn't do anything. I said to her, 'Look, you just can't let them stand in there and screen you.'
"She shook her head okay and went back out. On the next play, she darn near put this kid in the third balcony, she hit him so hard. That kid skated up to me and said, 'Look, dad, the next time you want to teach her a lesson, let her practice on somebody else.' Yeah, it was my son."
Kim says her friends at school are intrigued by her choice of sports, but not at all surprised. She also plays soccer and even now is a member of the Robinson junior varsity girls' basketball team.
Other than a few bruises, she insists she has never been hurt. "Not with all these pads. That's the hardest part, lugging this stuff everywhere."
Manning says other than the obvious problem of where to shower, her presence on his hockey team has been a delightful experience for all concerned.
"When she gets dressed, she's got the locker room to herself," Manning said. "The kids actually guard the door. They protect her. And they know how much she means to the team."