Bridgette Andrzejewski was recently told by her father, Gary, the moment he realized his daughter may have a special talent on the soccer field. It happened long before the McDonogh forward had gotten to high school, back when her father was her coach.
"He told me that I took the ball in the box and could have clearly had a shot, but it wasn't the best available one," Andrzejewski said. "Apparently, I slid the ball to my teammate instead, and she was able to tap it right into the goal."
Andrzejewski is now entering her senior year and is still making smart decisions on the soccer field. As a junior, she helped McDonogh to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference league title in 2014, finishing with 32 goals and 11 assists. McDonogh finished the season 15-0 and was ranked as the best high school girls' soccer team in the country, according to Top Drawer Soccer's FAB 50 national rankings.
For her exploits in 2014, Andrzejewski picked up numerous individual awards, including the Gatorade Maryland Girls Soccer Player of the Year, All-American recognition and the National High School Girls' Soccer Player of the Year -- as named by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
She was also invited to play in a training camp for the U.S. Soccer Under-20 women's national team. Andrzejewski is in contention to play for the team at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
It doesn't take long to figure out why Andrzejewski has been so successful. After a few minutes, you will see her advanced technical ability, whether she chips a goalkeeper for a goal or slides a smooth pass through two defenders to release a teammate.
Another thing about her that stands out is her aggressive style of play -- she loves to have the ball at her feet and run at defenders, using her pace and power to blow by them. That is where she derives a lot of her style from -- her attitude and confidence on the ball.
For McDonogh head coach Harry Canellakis, Andrzejewski's fiery temperament on the field is also a key to her success. She is a competitive player whose mind is entirely focused on the game once the first whistle blows, and when you combine all of her attributes, you have a special player, Canellakis said.
"We have had some kids who are very strong on the ball," Canellakis said. "We've had some very fast kids, but I have never really coached a player who has both of those tools, combined with just excellent technical ability, and the ability to score goals. She is one of the top players to ever come through our program, and she will have been an anchor on our team for four years when she graduates."
Andrzejewski has also evolved as a player. When she first got to McDonogh, Canellakis viewed her as a target player, meaning she was better at playing as an isolated forward than having a partner with her. As time passed, though, she got better at relying on and playing off her teammates.
Her ability to get her teammates involved has been crucial to McDonogh's success. The Eagles are loaded with talent across the field, meaning there are multiple McDonogh players who can hurt their opponents. It has also helped Andrzejewski, as opposing defenses can't focus all their energy on her because of McDonogh's other threats.
This year, Andrzejewski's strike partner will be Kia Rankin, who was also an All-American selection in 2014.
"It's great playing with Bridgette. She is a great player and makes me a better player," Rankin said. "We both know how to play off each other. Once we both get the ball, we look for each other, because we know one of us will get something done with it."
Considering her achievements, it should come as no surprise Andrzejewski comes from a family who lives and breathes the sport. A native of Lutherville, Md., Andrzejewski's family is filled with talented soccer players.
Her older sister, Ali, was also a four-year varsity standout at McDonogh. She went on to play at the University of Maryland. Ali played professionally for the Washington Freedom in the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association. She also played on the U.S. women's national team, where she played with many players who were on the 2015 World Cup-winning team.
Andrzejewski's brother, Scott, played soccer at Stevenson University. Her father is also a longtime coach, and her uncle, Dave, was the first All-American in UMBC soccer history. He is also a member of the UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame.
"I have been around soccer, breathing soccer, for years," Andrzejewski said. "That is what made me want to play the sport so badly, seeing my siblings play and seeing what my family has accomplished."
Looking ahead, Andrzejewski has one year left at McDonogh. The Eagles are once again expected to be the top team in the Baltimore area, as the NSCAA has ranked the team second in its national preseason poll, while Top Drawer has McDonogh ranked third.
"I don't want to have a single second of regret looking back at how I played my senior year. I will put my all out there," Andrzejewski said. "That has been my mentality since freshman year. I don't want to look back at high school and think I didn't play my full game."
Next year, Andrzejewski will begin her career at the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels are a powerhouse in women's collegiate soccer, having won 22 NCAA national championships. UNC also has a tradition of having its players move on to play for the U.S. national team, with this past summer's World Cup-winning team featuring six former Tar Heels on its roster, the most of any school.
That is a big reason why Andrzejewski decided to play collegiately at UNC. She thinks the program will give her the best chance to play for the U.S. women's national team, which is her ultimate goal.
"With UNC, they told me that if I went there and worked my butt off, that they would help me get to that next level," Andrzejewski said. "I was so trusting with them that I believed that they would get me there. UNC is the environment where I felt that I could become the best player I could possibly be."
It is an exciting time to be a women's soccer player in the U.S. The national exuberance that came with this past summer's World Cup championship has elevated the sport into the mainstream. Players like Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan have become household names, and highlights from women's soccer games can now be seen on ESPN's "SportsCenter." The National Women's Soccer League, which formed in 2012, has seen attendance numbers go up dramatically since the U.S. World Cup triumph. All signs are pointing to an exciting future for young players like Andrzejewski, who have aspirations of playing the sport professionally.
"It really couldn't get any better. The first World Cup since 1999 was definitely crazy," Andrzejewski said. "Women's soccer couldn't be more exciting than it is right now, and that's what makes me excited as a soccer player."