Mickey Lipman said he sensed something was wrong. The practices prior to Tuesday night's Montgomery AA girls volleyball match against Seneca Valley were not as intense as usual. And minutes before the match, Lipman noticed his team's usual fire and enthusiam didn't seem to be there.

Lipman's apprehensions proved to be correct as Wootten saw its 73-game girls volleyball streak broken by Seneca Valley, 15-9, 15-10. It was the first time the Patriots had lost a match since Oct. 19, 1982 and only the fifth and sixth games they had lost in their last 152 games.

"We know that every team that plays us comes in at a high intensity and it's tough for us to play to that intensity every game," said Lipman, who has a 127-19 mark in his 10 years at Wootten. "We scrimmaged Seneca Valley and knew they would be good. They played very well and I saw it early. We just didn't have it."

Even the Patriots could sense their play was out of synch. "I felt we had been a little flat lately. It was a combination of things that came down on us," said Gretchen Stross, the lone senior and one of three sisters to play at Wootten. "I'm glad it happened now rather than in the {Maryland} state playoffs. Everyone was very disappointed and there were tears all over the place."

Wootton has won five consecutive regional titles and four straight state titles.

"It hurt to lose but our goal is to win another state title," sophomore Jen Cichy said. "We don't think we have to live up to anyone's expectations except our own and I think we'll come back and play harder. We'll just start another streak."

Should Lipman worry about his team's lack of intensity for next week's games against Walter Johnson and Rockville?

"I think we'll play our best volleyball ever, we'll play like we've never played before," Stross said.

Lipman, a math teacher who had never seen a volleyball match before he took over the team at Bethesda-Chevy Chase in the early 1970s, said he hopes the team rebounds quickly from the loss.

"A streak is sort of like a hypothetical friend. When a friend dies, you go through a period of mourning," Lipman said. "That's what we'll be doing for a few days. We haven't lost a game in a long, long time and it'll take a while to sink in. But the pressure is off now and I'll be able to tell after a few practices if the girls will feel sorry for themselves or go ahead and win the next few games.

"A big chunk of our edge is gone and we'll have to regain our confidence. We had hoped to win 100 in a row, but we'll settle for winning 99 of 100. And with that, another state title."