Five years ago, Al Albert, William and Mary soccer coach, pulled off a coup of sorts when he recruited Kip Germain, a high-scoring forward from the Northern Virginia area. The all-Met from Stuart High School was, Albert thought, deserving of the school's first soccer scholarship.
Germain lived up to expectations, finishing in 1979 as the school's all-time leading scorer. And he was the first of many area players to make the Williamsburg connection.
This Sunday at 1 p.m., when William and Mary hosts top-ranked Alabama A&M in an NCAA quarterfinal game, it will field a team with 11 players from Northern Virginia high schools. If the underdog Indians can upset the visitors -- they surprised Howard, 2-1, last week in the South Atlantic regionals -- the semifinals the following week in Tampa would provide a national showplace for the excellent club soccer that has developed in Northern Virginia in the past decade.
Albert, the 10th-year coach whose 14-6-1 team won the first NCAA postseason bid in the school's history, gives generous credit to the active, competitive club scene.
"The players who come out of Northern Virginia are as good an any in the country," said Albert. "They have a nice control game -- not a crash-and-bash game, like some regions do.
"You really have to credit the boys clubs -- Annandale, Braddock Road, McLean and the rest. There are some good high school coaches, but I think on the whole the club coaches have to get the credit."
American University Coach Pete Mehlert, who competes frequently with Albert for the top players in the Washington area, agreed.
"There are a lot of reasons," Mehlert said. "The biggest is that they play so many games from the time they are this high. You can give the kids all the techniques and great coaching in the world, but they learn by playing against each other. The boys club teams go to a lot of tournaments. The kids get used to tournament pressure and it shows."
Among the Northern Virginia players are sweeper back Rob Olson of Robinson High School, who has scored six goals, and junior Mark Gardiner of Falls Church, with seven. Gardiner scored the only goal of the game in William and Mary's victory over Old Dominion in the state championship two weeks ago.
The defense includes fullbacks John Bray and Steve Graine, both of Hayfield, and backs Pete Kalaris of Langley and Dave Lamb of Oakton.
Another Germain helped continue the influx of Northern Virginia players to Williamsburg.
"I got a call in 1976 from Everett Germain, Kip's father," said Albert. "He told me about the Annandale Cavaliers club team, which everyone was raving about. They went on to win the national under-19 national championship that year. I got four of their players -- Bray, Eduardo Lopez, Chris Davin and Ben Glass. That's what really got us going."