When the McLean Redshins played their first game four years ago -- a 10-0 loss to Reston -- it was the first soccer game any of them had ever been in.
"It got to be a farce," recalls center fullback Karen Fiorello, 37. "After awhile our goalie started to say, 'There goes another one.'"
Now, as the top team in the A division of the Washington Area Women's Soccer League, with a 6-4 record, the Redshins -- a lawyer, an NIH chemist, an animal technician, an administrative nurse, a teacher and a couple of housewives -- are now competing in the first National Women's Challenge Cup in Miami.
"They take the game seriously. It's not just a lark," said their coach, Pete Howley. A player in the National Soccer League of Washington, he grew up in England and now works for the Agency for International Development. "They want to learn and be trained. Because they are good athletes, they can adapt."
"When they first started they couldn't even kick the ball," said David Torok, whose wife Sue plays right wing. "The only difference between this and men's soccer is the social activities. When they throw a party, they throw a party."
How often is that?
"After every game they win. This year they just automatically ice the champagne. They're getting good, too," averred Torok, sipping a diet soda while watching a game. "My wife just picked it up and I think it's fabulous."
"It's pretty good for her," said son Tom Torok, 15, a junior at Flint Hill who plays right wing."Except she's never home or always calling her soccer friends. And she doesn't like it when I try to help her."
"I didn't even know how many players on a team," said Fiorello."The idea of a team really meshed. Most people say it's just a way for housewives to get their aggravation out. For us it's different. We are a team, we suffer our losses together and enjoy the victories."
For Nina Thompson, 34, of Bethesda, assistant swim coach at American University and a two-time Olympian, it was a way to meet new people. "When I first moved here I didn't know anybody. I've always been athletic and the idea of a team sport seemed different. Once I started I got hooked," she said.
The average age of the Redshins, who are paying their way to Florida, is given as 32. Coach Howley continued, "They might lie about their ages too, you know."
Grace Garrett, a junior high school math teacher whose 19-year-old son plays soccer at George Mason University, is the oldest member of the team. After reluctantly revealing her age, she added, "I'd rather you didn't put that in."
On the other hand Hilde Werner, 44, said "I'm not ashamed. Both of my girls play and I love it." A bit later she added. "i do wish I were younger."
Two nights a week Howley meets with the team at the Cooper School in McLean. They practice the basic skills: running, bribbling, trapping, heading and passign. Then on Saturday night they have a game.
When the group first began as a house team the "members" had to be voted in by the other players. Now, according to Fiorello, "We welcome anyone to come and work out, we have never advertised. If they seem to have the capabilities, they are invited to join as a floating substitute. We wouldn't drop anyone. We don't have tryouts, it would spoil the group."
As they form a huddle before the game with the Manassas Meteors (whom they eventually beat, 1-0) the comradery they all talk about becomes evident. They listen intently as Howley gives the instructions. "These gals are going to give you a lot of run in the beginning," he said. "You got to watch the one in the middle."
"Yeah," said the swimmer-turned-soccer player. "If they're like the Rochester Lancers they'll trip you."
She was referring to a recently televised Diplomats game.
Then, right before they take their places on the field they chant: "Go, fight, score, win, Redshins!"
After all, the champagne is waiting.