Through years of marking the opposition's best player and assuming a less glamorous role on defense, there was a scorer in Paige Keffer waiting to emerge.
In her first season as a center midfielder, the Oakton senior is flashing her scoring ability with a team-high 17 goals. But it is more than Keffer's nose for the net that has helped the Cougars to a 6-1 start. She initially made the move because of how much responsibility falls on the position and since has handled everything asked of her.
Oakton senior Paige Keffer, left, tries to control the ball against W.T. Woodson's Lauren McLemore. Keffer, who started her career as a defender, has scored 17 goals in the Cougars' seven games.
(L. William Kobelka For The Washington Post)
_____Games to Watch_____Games to Watch
No. 5 Georgetown Prep (7-3) at No. 1 Landon (9-1), Friday, 4:30: The area's top lacrosse rivalry despite its one-sided history -- Landon has won 20 of the 22 meetings. Seven of the Bears' victories over Prep have come by two goals or fewer, including last year's 6-5 quadruple-overtime triumph in the Interstate Athletic Conference tournament final.
McLean (3-0) at No. 10 Langley (4-0), Tuesday, 7:15: Liberty District teams with Northern Region title aspirations. Langley, led by the high-scoring tandem of junior Robbie Maclay (21 goals, five assists) and senior Seth Blaustein (12 goals, nine assists), never has lost to the Highlanders.
Westfield (1-1) at West Springfield (2-0), today, 7:15: A rematch of Westfield's 11-9 win in last year's AAA Northern Region tournament opening round. West Springfield's high-scoring tandem of Kristen McLain and Emily Tomlinson will go up against Bulldogs goalie Roxie Alsruhe.
Stone Ridge at Bullis, tomorrow, 4:15: Both Independent School League AA teams are looking to challenge defending champion St. Stephen's/St. Agnes. Stone Ridge is 2-0, Bullis 2-1.
"She has to do everything but block the goal," said Oakton Coach Jean Counts. And Keffer even did that during a win over Annandale, Counts added.
Keffer, who started her career as a lock-down defender, improved so quickly offensively that it practically necessitated a move up to D-wing last season. The graduation of last season's top scorers, All-Met center midfielder Kelly Kimener and Kristin Clarke, left a significant offensive void in the lineup.
When it came time to figure out who would step in, the decision was easy. Counts turned to the University of California-bound Keffer, who had planned to make the switch. Keffer was so intent on putting together the best season of her career that she left the school's Northern Region champion basketball team before the season -- she was a junior captain -- and joined the track and field team to work on her conditioning.
"Seeing Kelly [Kimener] last year, she was such a force on the field," said Keffer, whose team will visit unbeaten Lake Braddock at 7:45 tonight. "I was kind of mimicking her and taking her lead. I kind of envisioned myself being in that position and being in the middle of everything."