The playoff run that saw Patuxent precariously balanced between elimination and advancing finally ended Monday night with a 2-0 loss to Parkside in the Maryland 2A field hockey final.

In their three previous playoff games, the Panthers (14-3) had survived three overtimes and penalty stroke periods against Glenelg and Hereford and did not allow a score. But when Parkside's Katy Lamboni fired in a goal only 57 seconds in on Monday, any aura of invincibility that Patuxent carried into its first final was gone.

"We've been the underdog from the beginning," Coach Lynn Powell said. "The girls hung on and gutted it out. Holding two really good teams to 0-0, it showed how much the girls wanted it. It wasn't who had the best skills; it was just guts. Coming out, [the early score] was kind of a blow to them because I think they're used to hanging on, wearing other teams down until they can get ahead."

If nothing else, this season proved that the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference is closing the competitive gap on the more tradition-rich teams in Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties.

In her six years as head coach, Powell's mantra has always been for the team to take at least one step farther than the previous season. The Panthers finished second in the SMAC in 2003, won the title in 2004 before bowing out in the Region 2A South final and then reached their first state final this year.

The Panthers are set up well to make another run at it next season. They will lose only four seniors: Tasha Klares, Mary Strain, Kati Borgholthaus and goalie Whitney Thomas. And though all key cogs in Patuxent's title run, they left behind a legacy of success.

"I picked up three freshmen this year, and they watched Mary and Tasha with their stick skills. And they watched how bad they wanted it," Powell said. "That's what's left behind, the banners on the wall and all that stuff. They idolize these girls. In Southern Maryland, they're not exposed to that too often."