Great Mills 1, La Plata 0

For once, Great Mills could enjoy the feeling of finishing on the winning side of a close game.

After a season in which narrow losses sank their conference title hopes, the Hornets pulled out a 1-0 victory Tuesday over visiting La Plata on junior Brittany Cook's first-half goal.

After winning the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title in 2003, each of the Hornets' league losses last season was decided by one goal. And after a 1-0 loss to Huntingtown on Monday, the significance of Tuesday's win was only heightened.

"We were just like: 'Get it done. Try your hardest. It doesn't matter if the score is 1-0 as long as it was in our favor,' " senior midfielder Elizabeth Fahrner said.

With 10 seniors, all of whom entered the Hornets program together as freshmen, there is a genuine belief at Great Mills that this team, despite its 2-3 start overall (1-1 in the SMAC), can capture another SMAC title.

"We're 2-3, and that's why we were a little disappointed early on," Great Mills Coach Michelle Richmond said. "The early losses have really motivated the seniors. They've really stepped up. They realize this is their year."

Great Mills spent nearly the entire first half on the offensive, applying pressure around the cage but coming up short on several occasions. The Hornets finally broke through with 5 minutes 41 seconds left in the first half.

Senior midfielder Danielle Schuman sent a pass into the circle for Fahrner, who lifted the ball across to Cook in front of the net for the tap-in.

"We had the ball so much on offense, we just knew something was going to happen," Cook said. "We were all so hungry for the goal."

La Plata (0-1, 0-1) graduated nine seniors from last year's team, which finished 13-3 and reached the 3A South Region final. During one stretch in the first half, the Warriors had two straight penalty corners but were unable to get it past Great Mills goalie Kira Witpone-Jordan, who finished with six saves.

Senior goalie Emily Pflaum stopped six shots for La Plata and was assertive in directing the Warriors' overhauled defense.

"That's the one thing we've worked on quite a bit because we have a brand new defense," La Plata Coach Pomie Radcliff said. "In practice this week, we've been working on the defense getting into position, having our goalie making sure nobody is blocking her and really setting up plays for the defense.

"There are a lot of new players out there, but their dedication and hard work is really impressive. There's a big difference from when we played our first scrimmage."

La Plata's Mackenzie Arnold, left, and Great Mills's LaToya Simms battle for the ball. The Hornets, who improved to 2-3, have 10 seniors on their roster. "They've really stepped up. They realize this is their year," Coach Michelle Richmond said.