Westlake midfielder Thuy Le has bad days on the soccer field. It just so happens that her bad days tend to be better than most players' great ones.

Take, for example, the Wolverines' game against Patuxent on Monday. After watching her team get outplayed by the Panthers for the majority of the first half, Le calmly stepped up to take a free kick from the right corner with less than five minutes to play before halftime. Her right-footed kick bent around the front of the goal, over the goalkeeper's head and into the corner of the net to give her team the lead. Early in the second half, she knifed through three defenders, helping set up Westlake's second strike.

She helped Westlake take a 2-1 win in its final tuneup before the Maryland 3A South Region playoffs.

"She just has a way of changing the game," said Westlake Coach Will Morris, whose team earned the region's second seed. "It's just great to have her be in the middle of the field, be a leader even when we're not playing well."

Le plays down her impact on the team but is willing to admit that she at times makes things easier for her teammates.

"I think I set up things well, and I'm pretty good at the free-kick thing," said Le, a senior. "My role on the team is to be the playmaker, but there's 10 other girls on the field who help me out."

Defense Propels Patuxent

Though Northern won the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference regular season title Saturday with a 3-0 victory over Westlake, Patuxent claimed another honor at the end of its regular season: the SMAC's best defense.

The Panthers allowed 16 goals in 14 conference games this season thanks in large part to the strong play of Eric Olson, their 6-foot-4 junior goalkeeper.

Patuxent allowed more than one goal only four times this season, giving up two goals in three games and three in one -- a 5-3 win over McDonough on Sept. 4.

The Panthers' offense has been powered by senior midfielder Shane Malamphy, though he has played sparingly since suffering a back injury in a 4-1 victory over Great Mills on Oct. 19.

The Panthers, who haven't lost since falling 1-0 to La Plata on Oct. 12, earned the fourth seed in the Maryland 4A East Region tournament and will host Great Mills in next week's quarterfinals.

If Patuxent wins its quarterfinal match, its next game could be against top seed and fourth-ranked Old Mill.

"We are playing real well headed into the regional tournament," said Mike Malamphy, Patuxent's first-year coach and Shane's father. "Eric is a tall kid [and] he has been making some pretty nice saves for us.