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Steinmann's goals power unbeaten Silverbacks

Sarah Steinmann had an ideal situation.

A full-time job at Holy Innocents' Episcopal School, where she also served as head girls soccer coach. She worked with some close friends at the Atlanta private school over the past three years.

But ideal can't hold back a dream.

That's why Steinmann, as tough as it was, made the decision to resign from Holy Innocents'. With the rebirth of women's pro soccer on the horizon, the Providence Christian grad wanted to dedicate her time fully to a playing career.

To pursue the dream.

"It was a really hard decision," said Steinmann, a high-scoring forward on the Atlanta Silverbacks of the W-League, currently the nation's highest level of women's soccer. "I loved those girls. I have no doubt that I'll still keep in touch with them and be part of their lives, and vice versa. The future is exciting, but at the same time it's bittersweet.

"Holy Innocents' was great about it. They knew (pro soccer) was my dream and my passion since I graduated from Auburn."

Like so many of the nation's top women players, Steinmann put that dream on hold. Now it appears their common goal is closer to becoming reality.

Those hopes were temporarily dashed back in 2003, when the WUSA, a 3-year-old league built around the popularity of players like Mia Hamm, folded. That meant Steinmann wouldn't be playing for the Atlanta Beat, the WUSA team she grew up watching.

But the opportunity looks to be there again when the new pro league, known as Women's Professional Soccer, begins play in 2009. Teams are planned in eight cities (Atlanta isn't one of them), and the 25-year-old Steinmann wants to do her best to make a WPS roster.

"I think she can (play in the WPS)," Silverbacks coach Tony Anglin said of Steinmann. "I think if she can play fulltime and play with higher-caliber players, she can definitely be useful to one of those (WPS) teams."

Right now, Steinmann is proving more than useful to the 8-0 Silverbacks, who host the Richmond Kickers Destiny tonight. She leads Atlanta and the W-League with 12 goals, already her most prolific scoring performance in four seasons with the club.

Her job has always been scoring goals, which she's done well with 33 in 43 career Silverback games.

"(Steinmann) puts the ball in the back of the net," Anglin said. "That's a hell of a knack to have. She's carrying us on her back goal-scoring wise."

Steinmann got off to an incredible start this season, scoring seven goals in the Silverbacks' first three games.

"I definitely feel more experienced the past few years," said Steinmann, who worked a camp this week at Suwanee's George Pierce Park. "Just playing with different players, players who have played at a higher level helps. I definitely give a lot of credit to (my teammates) for my success."

The high-scoring season couldn't have come at a better time.

Impressive goal totals will be hard to ignore when WPS holds its inaugural draft later this year. A combine will precede the draft, so Steinmann plans to continue pre-draft preparations when the Silverbacks finish their season. That may include a trip to Chicago, where she trained last winter.

All of her efforts now are on one thing - pursuing the dream.

"(My season) feels good, just knowing that I can compete with the best gives me confidence (for WPS)," Steinmann said. "It doesn't secure anything by any means."

But it's worth the risk. Even if she already had an ideal situation.

SideBar: The Steinmann File

· Who: Atlanta Silverbacks' Sarah Steinmann

· Position: Forward

· High school: Providence Christian

· College: Auburn

· Noteworthy:

· Leads unbeaten Silverbacks and W-League with 12 goals in eight games

· Has 33 goals and 7 assists in 43 career games with Silverbacks

· Former SEC player of the year at Auburn

· Led Providence to first state soccer title in 1999