For players on Glenelg Country School's field hockey team, losing had never been part of the equation. The Dragons had won the past four consecutive Interstate Athletic Association of Maryland B conference championships.

But this season the conferences were reconfigured, and five teams from the higher-caliber A conference dropped to the B level, and four schools from last year's B conference dropped down to the C conference, but Glenelg Country made the decision to stay.

And with only three starters back from the 2003 team, which also featured All-Conference mega-scorer Courtney Hoke, who graduated, the Dragons seemingly faced an uphill battle this season.

"For me, it was mentally preparing them for losing a game. That was my biggest challenge," said second-year coach Jess McAdams. "We knew going into this season that it wasn't going to be as easy as the past."

It wasn't. The Dragons won only four of 12 conference games -- the seniors had not lost an IAAM conference game in three years prior -- but the team was confident heading into its first-round playoff game Nov. 2 against Friends School of Baltimore. The Dragons had tied Friends, 1-1, and lost, 2-0, in their earlier meetings, and McAdams hoped that marking Friends' star player, Kristin Schwab, with Dragons sophomore Elyka Anvari would diminish that team's offense.

It worked for much of the game. Neither team scored in the opening 30 minutes, nor through the first 20 minutes of the second half. But Schwab ended the stalemate with 10 minutes left, and Friends held on for a 1-0 victory. The Dragons best scoring opportunity came in the first half, when junior Casey Tang's shot from the top of the circle went just wide of the cage.

"It's hard to lose a playoff game, but to know the goal wasn't a cheap goal softened the blow a little," said McAdams. "It was a good goal by a good player."

Vikings Finish Strong

When Mount Hebron field hockey coach Jeannette Ireland saw the playoff draw for the Maryland 3A South Region, she knew what potentially loomed as a roadblock to the state semifinals: a matchup with the Washington area's most dominant team, Severna Park.

Ireland's confidence in her Howard County champion Vikings allowed her to look that far ahead, and Mount Hebron didn't disappoint, winning its region quarterfinal and semifinal games by a combined score of 10-1.

But Severna Park, which had surrendered only two goals this fall en route to an undefeated season, also advanced easily. That set up Friday's region final, with Mount Hebron seeking to return to the state "Final 4" for the first time since 2001.

Severna Park grabbed a 1-0 lead early in the first half, but the Vikings, who, Ireland said, were "not at all intimidated," responded shortly thereafter with some offense of their own.

Off a penalty corner, junior Sarah Cates took a shot toward the cage that deflected to senior Emily Karrer a few feet from the goal. Karrer knocked it past Severna Park goalie Dee Crovo to tie the game at 1-1 and momentarily stun Severna Park, which had allowed only two goals during the regular season.

"When we looked at Severna Park after that goal, they were in shock," said Karrer. "That built up our confidence, that pumped us up."

Ireland echoed that sentiment.

"The kids were pretty fired up" after the tying goal, she said.

Severna Park eventually won, 5-1, but Ireland, who kept her 11 starters on the field the entire 60 minutes, said she was pleased with the effort the Vikings displayed.

"It was a bit of an experience playing a team like that," she said. "They make very few mistakes on defense."