With just two weeks left in the field hockey regular season, Long Reach finds itself 6-0 in league play, all of those wins coming by shutout. The Lightning is 7-1-1 overall, and the only goal it has surrendered all season was against defending Baltimore private school champion St. Paul's in a 1-0 defeat in early September.

"After every game we acknowledge [the shutout streak]," said Coach Melissa Lennon. "It's pride for everyone, not just for the defense or [goalie] Molly [Pope] but for all the girls."

But while Long Reach can take pride in blanking Howard, Oakland Mills, Atholton, Wilde Lake, Reservoir and Hammond, the toughest part of the schedule remains: games against county powers River Hill (this afternoon), Centennial and Mount Hebron. (Tuesday's game against previously undefeated Glenelg ended too late to be included in this edition).

Junior goalkeeper Pope, along with defenders Amanda Langley (senior), Kim Baker (junior) and first-year varsity player Wamaitha Kamuru (junior), have kept opposing forwards at bay all season.

"They're aggressive," said Lennon. "They're confident with each other. They have each other's backs."

All-County forward Kelly Filipowicz, who scored a county-best 20 goals in 2003, leads the team in scoring (14 goals, including five against Howard on Friday). Junior Carly Nethken and senior Kathy Boettcher have been stellar in the midfield, said Lennon.

"I had high expectations for them [from the outset]," said Lennon of her team of 15, only five of whom are seniors. "In no way is this a rebuilding year. This is the year." If Long Reach is to win its region come playoff time, however, the Lightning will likely have to defeat the Washington area's most feared squad, Severna Park.

Making Progress

With its 1-0 victory over Atholton on Monday, second-year program Reservoir evened its record at 5-5. Those five victories are two more than the squad had all of last season, and Coach Kelly Van Benten couldn't be prouder.

"The biggest improvement is determination. They went to camp together [for a week in Pennsylvania over the summer], and their stick work has improved," said Ven Benten, who added that about half of her 21-member team played in winter and summer field hockey leagues. "The communication on the field is much better."

Senior Monica Machado scored the game-winner Monday off a penalty corner, with team assists leader Nicole Martino picking up her seventh assist of the year. Senior Lynn Brownlie leads Reservoir in scoring with six goals. The scoring has been balanced, with 10 players registering goals.

"That shows a lot. Even people coming in off the bench are contributing as much as the starting line," said Van Benten.

Reservoir, which opened in 2002, had only sophomores and juniors on its team last fall but this year has its first crop of seniors, 13 in all. Many played as freshmen while attending other county schools in 2001 -- among them four who played for Van Benten when she coached the Atholton junior varsity.

Hawks Outlast Wilde Lake

River Hill was unbeaten in county play through Monday, but the Hawks (4-0-1) needed double overtime and a penalty stroke goal to edge Wilde Lake last week, 1-0.

River Hill peppered Wilde Lake goalie Gabriella Schrier with numerous shots, but she made an astounding 34 saves. In the first overtime, Schrier saved a penalty stroke by River Hill's Sara Kate Moore, but in the second overtime, Schrier fell on the ball and River Hill was awarded another penalty stroke. Given a chance at the one-on-one shot again, Moore didn't miss, sending the Hawks home with a win.

All-County senior forward Kristin Mele is lighting up the scoreboard again this season. After tallying 18 goals in 2003, she already has 13 this season.

Kelly Filipowicz has a team-high 14 goals for Long Reach, which has given up only one goal this year.