Though she tried frantically, Northern Coach Dawn Moore had little success this week finding any information on J.M. Bennett, whom the Patriots face in the first round of the 3A South Region playoffs today.

Moore knows this much: Her team is the region's top seed and opens up against an opponent most expect the Patriots to beat. She has no reason to expect complacency from her players. The Patriots won the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title with a 12-0 league mark (13-1 overall) and closed the season by beating their final four opponents -- Lackey, Calvert, Great Mills and Chopticon -- by a combined score of 10-0.

"We've been on a pretty even keel throughout the season," Moore said. "We haven't risen up or shot down. We've kind of been on the same line. They're not afraid to score, they're not afraid to make mistakes. They go out there and play."

Injury and Incentive

It's not as though Patuxent needs any added incentive heading into the playoffs, but it's hard to imagine that the sight of senior Katie Borgholthaus limping around would fail to provide the Panthers with some measure of motivation. Borgholthaus initially looked as if she may be lost for the season after fracturing her right foot and spraining her ankle during a 1-0 loss to Northern on Oct. 3. She is expected to play, however, when the Panthers (10-2, 9-1) open the 2A South playoffs today against the Calvert-Hammond winner.

"I know exactly what she's thinking," Coach Lynn Powell said. " 'She basically said to me, 'This is my last year.' She doesn't want to give up because this is it."

The same could be said for the other three senior starters on the team -- midfielder Tasha Klares, forward Mary Strain and goalie Whitney Thomas -- who endured a two-week hiatus after the Northern loss due to rainouts and have anxiously awaited a shot at vindication.

"I'm hoping they take with them a lesson from the Northern game, that they are supposed to still be having fun," Powell said. "They have a lot on their shoulders, and I know that I place a lot of it there because I have a lot of new girls on the team."

Freshmen Hit the Mark

After consecutive shutout losses to Northern and Leonardtown at the beginning of the month, it became clear that Great Mills needed some change on offense.

The Leonardtown loss was particularly frustrating for the Hornets (6-6, 5-4) because they controlled possession for most of the game and lost despite yielding only three shots on goal.

With 10 seniors on the team, the Hornets just may have found their answer where they least expected it: Two freshmen, Kim Copeland and Reagan Beasley, made significant contributions in a 4-1 win over Lackey last week. Copeland, a midfielder, scored the winning goal, and Beasley added an assist for the Hornets, who hosted Westlake in the 3A South playoffs yesterday.

"I think we were scoring goals in bunches in the beginning of the year, and after a while we were lacking intensity," Coach Michelle Richmond said. "We were passing the ball well, but when you don't hustle to get the ball and put it in the cage, it makes no difference. With some of the freshmen, sometimes they have no idea what to do when they get the ball, but they do know to get to it -- like it's their only job in life."