Annandale all-Northern Region senior Amy Novak has been a prolific scorer her entire career, but this season it has been her improved passing that has helped Annandale to continue its high level of play.

Novak and senior Natalie Gilbert lead the Atoms (9-3-1, AAA Patriot 3-0-1) with 11 points apiece and have helped put Annandale in position for another strong finish to the season.

"I think I'm focusing more on being a team player and being able to distribute," Novak said. "I don't have to be the one who scores all the time if it doesn't help us win games."

Novak's emphasis on assists doesn't mean that she still can't put a few into the net. She scored both goals in the Atoms's surprisingly difficult 2-1 victory over new school South County in late September.

"I said to her after the game, 'Amy, you were the difference for us today,' " Coach Cindy Hook said.

As for her college plans, Novak will make an official visit to the University of Massachusetts this weekend and said she might verbally commit to the school if the trip goes well.

This season, the Atoms's biggest district competitor again should be Lake Braddock. Recently, Annandale has had the advantage in a long-standing rivalry with the Bruins, beating them the last two seasons, but last week the teams played to a 0-0 draw.

"We finished overtime defending three straight corners as time expired," Hook said. "It could not have been more exciting or heart-wrenching."

Assuming both teams win their remaining district games, the schools will tie for first place. The Atoms don't think that would be too much of a setback.

"As long as we don't get too overconfident, we'll get very far," Novak said. "As long as we concentrate and play our game, other teams should watch out."

The Goal Is Fewer Goals

Despite an impressive 11-3 overall record, Chantilly is stuck in third place in the Concorde District, the most competitive district in the Northern Region.

The Chargers have proven adept at scoring this season, racking up 32 goals on the year, including five in a win over a strong Jefferson team last week. Still the Chargers have allowed two or more goals in five games this year, a number that Coach Ralph Chapman said the team must improve if it is to advance deep into the playoffs.

"We have proved we can score goals, and we have also proved we can be scored on," he said. "It's possible for us to cut down on giving the other team as many opportunities as we've been giving them, and I think we've gotten into a good mindset to do just that."

The Chargers will need continued strong play from juniors Giovanna Cordero and Lindsay Arnsmeyer, who flies out defensively on penalty corners, to yield the victories the team needs against upcoming tough opponents.

Yesterday, Chantilly played Robinson, a team that has defeated the Chargers this year already, but is behind them in the district standings. [The game ended too late for this edition.] Next week, Chantilly faces off against district leader Oakton, which is undefeated in the Concorde.