Spalding boys' soccer coach Ed Kestler has seen flashes of his team's potential this season. Now that the Cavaliers are fighting for a spot in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Division tournament, he is hoping to see them play more consistently.

Spalding has just seven seniors on a roster with 11 juniors and four sophomores. The inexperience has led to inconsistency, especially because the MIAA A Division has so many strong teams.

"Being as young as we are and playing in the conference we do, if you make a mistake you get burned," Kestler said. "That's a tribute to our league. Until you get some of those games under your belt at the varsity level, it just doesn't click consistently."

The Cavaliers' two games against Curley summed up their season. Spalding beat the Friars, 4-1, at home on Oct. 3 in one of their finest performances of the year. On Friday, though, Curley beat the Cavaliers, 1-0 -- a loss midfielder Mike O'Connell called "heartbreaking."

"We'll play really good one game, and the next game we'll come out flat," O'Connell said.

O'Connell led the team entering the week with 14 goals and four assists. Kestler is hoping that other players will complement O'Connell during the playoff push.

"He's doing his part," Kestler said. "The other guys have to contribute a little bit. When we've gone through the [league schedule] a second time, other teams mark him a little bit tougher."

Spalding began the week in seventh place in a league where the top six teams make the postseason tournament. The Cavaliers face a tough schedule this week, playing the three teams at the top of the standings before a key game against Gilman next week in the regular season finale.

"We have to be serious all the way through," O'Connell said. "These teams are good, and they will capitalize on us."

Quite a Turnaround

The Severna Park boys' soccer team could have wilted after a difficult 1-0 overtime loss to Old Mill at home on Sept. 20. The Falcons fell to 3-3, lost ground in the county standings and lost goalkeeper Kyle Quigley to a knee injury.

Last year's Maryland 3A finalist, however, has rebounded from that setback. Severna Park tied Chesapeake in the game after the loss to the Patriots but won its next three to enter this week within striking distance of first place in the county.

"We're starting to hit our stride now," Falcons Coach Bob Thomas said. "We started the season off with some really tough teams. We've got a lot of confidence going."

Thomas tinkered with his defensive alignment after the Falcons lost two of their first three games. In the seven games that followed, the group -- led by seniors Steve Malm and Shane Coughlin and sophomore Chris Myers -- gave up only three goals and posted four shutouts.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jeff McGuire has played well in Quigley's absence.

"We needed some more time to practice and work on some things," Thomas said. "We were kind of playing with a deep sweeper. We've switched up our defenders and have tighter marking now. It's worked out great for us."

Offensively, senior striker Taylor Young paced Severna Park with seven goals and three assists through 10 games.

The Falcons entered the week in third place in the county. They are playing their best soccer entering a crucial late-season stretch that culminates with first-place Broadneck tonight and second-place Arundel Tuesday before the 3A East Region tournament begins at the end of the month.

"We're more determined to win the state championship, but we have a lot of respect for the teams in our county," Thomas said. "We want to win [the county title], but it doesn't make or break our season."

Spalding midfielder Mike O'Connell, shown in a game last year, has 14 goals this season.