How good Taline Tahmassian was on the soccer field can be measured by the pages of old newspapers. Tahmassian and the Saxons could be seen celebrating in photographs while snappy headlines chronicled their victories in a week-by-week scrapbook of archived clippings. But the headlines, joyous photographs and stories would always halt around the same time of year. Near the end of March, in the first three of her four years at Langley, Tahmassian — the two-time Liberty District Player of the Year, two-time Northern Region Player of the Year, two-time state Player of the Year and the Washington Post's All-Metro Area Player of the Year (2001) — would leave the Saxons behind and head to Houston, Texas to compete with her U-17 United States Youth Soccer All-Star team. Without Tahmassian, a forward who scored 96 goals in her four years of high school, Langley was just not the same team. It lacked the offensive punch to push through a deep postseason. She still maintains that Langley fans, coaches and players supported her decision.
"[Langley] wished that I was playing with them, but for me to be representing the country, they were in full support," said Tahmassian, who is now finishing up college at William and Mary. "I didn't want to leave them behind either, but I had to do what I had to do." Tahmassian's accomplishments on the soccer field, which included a selection to the NSCAA High School All-American team, are still fresh in the minds of those close to the game.
"SHE WAS THE best forward to go through Langley," said Langley coach Melissa Bibbee, who recently secured her place in Langley's storied soccer history by recording her 100th career coaching victory. "She was our go-to player. She was a sophomore my first year [at Langley]. For three years, my game-plan, as a coach, was just pass the ball to Taline. That was not only because I was 24 years old, but when you have a player of that caliber [that's what you do]."
In three years together, Tahmassian and Bibbee recorded 41 wins, eight losses and four ties and won three consecutive Liberty District titles starting in Tahmassian's sophomore year. Tahmassian, a 5-foot 4-inch scoring machine, scored 24 goals in her junior season and led the Saxons to a 15-4-1 record and Northern Region tournament appearance. She was gone for Houston by the time that Langley went up against Hayfield in the quarterfinals of the regional tournament — a game the Saxons won 4-1 before falling to Centreville 2-1 in the next round. McLean coach Mary Miller, the 2000 Liberty District Coach of the Year, said "[Taline] is the X-factor, she is the force. You have to be aware of her. Not too many high-school teams are lucky enough to have a player that you just have to know where they are all the time." [May 24, 2000, McLean Connection].
"There were many articles and interviews of people just saying stuff," remembered Tahmassian. "When you are that successful as a player and all the awards come and you get huge recognition, not only is there pressure to show why you got the awards, but pressure with coaches, and players and fans. I wanted to show that it was more deserved."
TAHMASSIAN, WHO HAD already committed to play at Santa Clara University by the time she was a senior, had a wealth of experience playing with her U-17 team as well as spending time training with the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA).
Jimmy Gvargis, Tahmassian's personal trainer for two years in high school, spent hours training the right-footed phenom to become a complete player — one that would be fused with the ball. Tahmassian's speed and ability to control the ball, put her in a class of her own. In a 2001 McLean Connection article, Gvargis noted that Tahmassian was good enough to play professionally as a senior in high school.
"If she wanted to, she could play there [WUSA] right now. That's how good she is," said Jimmy Gvargis. Tahmassian always had her sights set on the next level.
Even though she recorded 17 regular-season goals in her senior year, she was still planning on heading to Houston during the high school postseason. "I have been going through this for four years with my team, and they respect me. No one has ever put me down for that or criticized me for not being at a Langley game," said Tahmassian in a 2001 McLean Connection article.
Nagging knee and ankle injuries kept her at home with the Saxons and the newspapers' pages spanned a bit further that season.
Tahmassian recorded four goals in less than 30 minutes in her first Northern Region tournament game in a 9-0 humiliation of Washington-Lee. The Saxons went on to defeat W.T. Woodson 1-0 on a rain-soaked night for the school's first girls regional soccer title.
Tahmassian thrived on the state stage with three goals in the 6-1 victory over C.D. Hylton. She recorded one goal in the 2-1 loss to Woodson in the state final and helped the Saxons to a 13-2-2 season.
"It haunts me actually," said Tahmassian of the state championship loss. "I get really bothered about that. We came so close and it would have been the first time for Langley. It was hard to cope with. Just getting there, it was a huge accomplishment for Langley."
TAHMASSIAN SPENT her freshman year of college at Santa Clara University, where she helped the Broncos win an NCAA title. She played in 25 games, scored eight goals [50 shots], recorded 5 assists [21 points], and had two game-winning goals. She was the team's fourth-leading scorer in points and goals in 2001 — SCU's championship season.
Despite reports of feuding with coaches, Tahmassian maintains that she transferred to William and Mary to be closer to family, but acknowledged that soccer was part of the decision..
"I kind of realized after wining a national championship, I just realized that there was more things out there," said Tahmassian, who will graduate in December. "Yeah, the soccer aspect [at Santa Clara] was amazing, but I felt that there was a little more than that."
She admits that playing time was an issue at Santa Clara, but that it was not the only reason she left the West Coast.
At William and Mary, she led the Tribe with 15 goals in 16 games in her junior season leading the team to the Colonial Athletic Association conference title and into the NCAA tournament. For all four years of college Tahmassian totaled 40 goals in 83 games (60 starts) on 224 shots with 21 assists.
She has remained in touch with several soccer contacts over the years and plans to graduate before planning her future. She is majoring in government and knows that Northern Virginia is a great place to start a career in that field as well as teach young soccer players the game. She has also entertained the idea of playing soccer overseas.
"I definitely want to do other things, but I have always wanted to play soccer at the pro level," said Tahmassian.
Taline Tahmassian is 74 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.