The end of the school year offers no summer break for most of the area's top softball players. In fact, the sport only intensifies during the summer for many who play on teams affiliated with the Amateur Softball Association. They travel throughout the country, often playing several games per day in tournaments against top competition.

"There is no offseason for softball," said Clarisa Crowell, a two-time All-Met player of the year from McDonough who just finished her freshman year at Virginia Tech. Crowell will be playing her sixth season with the 18-and-under Southern Maryland Dynasty. Age groups for area teams start as young as 10-and-under.

This weekend, the Dynasty and Northern Virginia's Shamrocks will be among 70 teams competing at the Pennsbury Invitational in Yardley, Pa. The Shamrocks also will travel to the week-long, 75-team Boulder Independence Day Invitational in Colorado that begins June 30.

These tournaments will help prepare both teams for the country's premier event, the ASA Gold Nationals in Chattanooga, Tenn., the first week of August. The Dynasty placed an area-best 13th at the tourney last summer.

"The scholarship offers the kids get through these trips are amazing," said O'Connell Coach Tommy Orndorff, who is in his 26th season as coach of the Shamrocks. "In Colorado, they have 200 college coaches watching them play. You can't get better visibility than that. The first contact is usually made through ASA, then [college coaches] recruit through the high schools. The summer between the junior and senior year is very critical."

All-Met player of the year Lesley Palmer, who just finished her junior year at O'Connell, finds herself in the same situation as she pitches this summer for the Shamrocks.

Many of the older Shamrocks already have received college scholarships for the fall. All-Met Morgan Marr, a pitcher from Madison who is playing her seventh season with the Shamrocks, has committed to Kentucky.

"The summer is when you get your exposure to college coaches, not high school," said Marr, who received her first letter from Kentucky at the end of the summer before her junior year. "With the college season going on during the high school season, they don't get a chance to come out and see anyone until the summer anyway."

One of the young Shamrocks player college coaches will be seeing this summer is All-Met outfielder M.K. White, who just completed her sophomore year at Madison. White, Palmer and Centreville rising senior Kara Brotemarkle, who plays for the Redbirds of Northern Virginia, were the only underclassmen named All-Met this spring.