Great Mills defender Betsy Lampo is accustomed to the pressure that comes with leading her team's back line.

She's been doing it for the Hornets field hockey team since her sophomore season, powerfully stopping the top scorers on opposing teams and earning the nickname "the Rock" from her coach, Michelle Richmond.

"Yup. That's me," Lampo said, smiling. "My coach pretty much expected me to stop all of the balls. I just kept going with it."

Lampo showed a lot of natural ability during her first full season with the varsity two years ago, improving quickly on defense despite her inexperience. The more Lampo played, the more confidence Richmond had in turning over the defense to her.

"She picked up the game like a duck to water," Richmond said. "She's steady, never panics, and she's been like that since the beginning of her sophomore year. She's a leader back there."

Now Lampo has to be more than the leader of the back line -- she must guide the entire team. The Hornets got off to a good start Friday, beating Lackey 6-0.

Last season, Lampo had the security of playing with All-Extra Player of the Year Faith Wassink and All-Extra Beth Woodburn. This season, Lampo must develop chemistry with new starting midfielders. Great Mills, which won its first Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title last season and went unbeaten in conference play, lost 10 players.

Last season, Wassink and Woodburn were ready to turn the good defense into offensive opportunities, taking pressure off Lampo.

"We worked and were always watching the game, communicating with each other. We got in action that way if we weren't touching the ball," Lampo said. "It was just fine with us if we didn't touch the ball, just as long as we were helping them score."

When the ball did reach the defense last year, Lampo was up to the challenge. Routinely asked to guard the opposing team's most dangerous scoring threat, Lampo didn't allow a goal to any player she marked.

Because of her skill, the Hornets offense knows it needs to be ready when she is near the ball.

"During the games I know she's already got it," teammate Megan Sevilla said. "The ball's going to come back up the field. I don't even worry about it."

Richmond did worry that Lampo's competitive nature might cause frustration because she is surrounded by such an inexperienced team.

"She wants to win; she wants to win badly just like last year," Richmond said. "Now that we're out here, I think she can relax a little bit. There is a lot of talent here. It's just a matter of who of these juniors are going to step up. There are a lot of spots."

Lampo hopes to lead Great Mills beyond the 4A regional semifinal, where it lost last year to Meade.

The new players "have watched, they know how we expect to play and what the tradition is," Lampo said. "I don't see that as something that we can't get back to and overcome."

Betsy Lampo, nicknamed "the Rock" by her coach, Michelle Richmond, hopes to lead the Hornets past the regional semifinal, where they lost last year.