Westlake 5, Northern 1

As the rain fell intermittently and the playing conditions deteriorated Tuesday night, Westlake's play showed no sign of being troubled by the weather. The Wolverines executed every facet of their game to near perfection, beating Northern, 5-1, in Waldorf.

Westlake dominated the Patriots throughout the game, using a combination of speed, finesse, strength and steady defense. Forward Amanda Bryant opened the scoring by finishing off an impressive passing sequence. Forward Lauren Russell used her quickness to continually break through Northern's defense. Midfielder Thuy Le eluded defenders with nifty moves in the 18-yard box, and sweeper Lana Jimerson made sure that Northern rarely got close to the Wolverines' goal.

"We have so many strengths," said Le, the team's senior captain. "Lauren has amazing skills up top now. We can play it wide; we're just good all over the field right now. We just have a solid team."

The win keeps Westlake (9-3 overall, 9-0 SMAC) at the top of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and in control of its destiny for the conference title. The Wolverines will play Calvert (5-3-1, 5-3-1) on Thursday and have a showdown looming with Patuxent (7-1, 7-1) on Monday.

"We were playing just about as good a soccer as we can play," said Westlake Coach Will Morris. "I'm definitely happy with the way we're playing right now. Kind of a little bit of an off night yesterday [in a 3-1 win over Chopticon], but then you kind of come back and dominate a team, I'm happy."

At the outset, Morris was worried that the weather could hurt his team and help Northern (6-4-1, 4-4-1) stay close, but all doubts were erased eight minutes into the game. Wolverines midfielder Minami Plude pounced on a loose ball and drew two defenders to her before passing to Russell, who slid a pass across the mouth of the goal to a waiting Bryant for the 1-0 lead.

Seven minutes later, it was Le's turn to show off her skills. She fought through three Patriots defenders, cut the ball back to the center of the box and rifled a shot to the upper right corner for a two-goal advantage. That was more than enough for the Westlake defense, which allowed few opportunities and only gave up Betsey Keithley's 25-yard blast late in the first half.

"I was having a little trouble at the beginning," said Westlake's Jimerson. "It's wet, and I depend on my speed a lot, and it was hard to get it going. We had to be careful with our balls in the back."

Russell regained the two-goal lead for Westlake before the first half ended, scoring on a breakaway, and Le and Bryant each netted a second goal after halftime.

After a fast start to the year, Northern has struggled lately trying to incorporate new players into a lineup that returned only one starter from the previous season -- sophomore Brittany Percich.

"The effort never left, they never gave up, they just match the speed and the touches and the skill level Westlake had," said Northern Coach Jay Loveless. "It's starting to come together. I was hoping that it would come together a little sooner than this, but it hasn't materialized yet. I'm still trying to move some people around and see what we can find."