The Spalding girls' soccer team looked sterling in its opener against South River last week. Spalding ran the field well, connected on passes and dominated play. In the second half, while South River slowed a bit, Spalding kept pace, getting to balls quicker and hammering in shots to win, 2-0.

Sophomore Christine Nairn scored both goals for the Cavaliers, including a left-footed shot from the right side of the field into the left top corner of the net.

"If it were any other player I'd say it was a fluke," said Spalding Coach Bob Dieterle. "Not her."

That same story line didn't hold up in the Cavaliers' next game. St. John's defeated Spalding, 1-0, Friday in the McDonogh Tournament in Baltimore.

Spalding then lost, 2-0,Saturday morning to Bishop O'Connell despite 16 saves by sophomore goalie Karen Blocker.

"These games just make us stronger," said Spalding senior captain Kelly Vereb between games Saturday. "You only get better through defeat."

Spalding finished the weekend by defeating Urbana, 2-1, on penalty kicks.

Blocker had 10 saves in the victory Saturday afternoon, including a key save during the penalty kicks. She sweetened her day by scoring the winning strike.

Family Ties

Annapolis senior Omara Parker was in a familiar setting last week: center court in her home gym. The only difference was the sport. Instead of basketball, the sport in which Parker has made her name, Parker was playing volleyball.

Parker decided to join the volleyball team because it was her senior year, but also because she had a little push from her family -- her aunt, Keely McCurdy, is head coach.

"My family asked me, 'How are you not going to play for your aunt?' " Parker said.

Parker's first game may be a memorable one: She scored Annapolis's final point against St. Mary's, helping Annapolis win in five games 25-22, 25-11, 21-25, 16-25, 15-13.

"They made me sweat it out," McCurdy said with a smile after the game. "I'm glad they finished it."

Parker's athleticism outshined her inexperience as she tallied five blocks, the first of which caused her St. Mary's victim to open her mouth in awe.

Severn Excels

Severn Coach David Santa wondered how competitive his girls' cross-country team would be entering the season, but his squad's performance in winning last week's Key Invitational provided an answer.

"I think we can take the championship in our conference -- that's how much I believe in them now," Santa said of the Admirals, who compete in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association "B" Conference. "That's my prediction: We will take the championship."

Senior Emily Oliver won the three-mile race at Quiet Water Park in Annapolis in a personal-best 18 minutes 59 seconds, with freshman Whitney Avers taking second in 21:48.

Severn senior Faith Meisenburg took fifth (22:36), with freshman Molly Laufman earning sixth (23:12) and Molly Warnock (23:20) placing seventh.

The Admirals finished with 26 points, Baltimore Lutheran took second, with 40, and Annapolis Area Christian followed with 88.

"When we started training for the season, our girls were running a few minutes slower," Santa said. "So by the way they ran, it showed they are really doing the workout we gave them. I'm looking forward to seeing how much better we'll be by the time we have the [conference] championships on Oct. 27."

Severn also won the boys' race. Seniors John Marconi (16:47) and Jeremy Burns (17:27) took second and third, but the victory was cemented by the performance of three sophomores. Matt Quinn placed fifth (18:10), Dylan McNamara took seventh (18:38) and Will Smith finished eighth in 18:39, as Severn finished with 25 points.

Key School took second with 50, followed by Baltimore Lutheran (69) and Annapolis Area Christian (114).

"Right now with the boys, I'm going to say that we can win it," said Santa, whose boys' team also competes in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association "B" Conference. "But we still have a lot of work to do."

Leading Latta

St. Mary's girls' soccer team is in the midst of a youth movement this season. With six freshmen and seven sophomores on the team, Kelly Latta and the three other senior captains have much to do in preparing them, on and off the field.

Latta did her share of leading on the field in the team's opener against Annapolis, scoring two goals as the Saints won, 3-0. Her first goal came on a header off a corner kick by junior Kay Knepp.

"We're very young and inexperienced," said Saints Coach Jerry Tobin. "But on the other side they play hard. I can't ask for a better attitude."

Freshman midfielder Catherine Monmaney, who started on opening day, capped the win with the game's third and final goal.

"She strikes the ball as well as anyone else on the team," Tobin said of Monmaney.

Omara Parker, right, has brought her hoops skills to the volleyball court.