Madison juniors Katie Ruckert and Mary Kovaric, and Centreville's James sisters--senior Laura and sophomore Kristen--became the final four players to qualify yesterday for the eight-girl Northern Region singles tennis tournament, to be held Oct. 18-20 at Burke Indoor Racket Club. The winner and finalist will move on to the Virginia state tournament.

Ruckert, a 14-0 junior, is the defending Virginia AAA singles champion and All-Met Player of the Year. She defeated W.T. Woodson's Janielle Dodds, 6-0, 6-0, in the semifinals of the Liberty District tournament.

"It's good for confidence building," Ruckert said. "I'm happy I'm in the finals. It's taking a step forward towards regionals and states."

The AAA Northern Region team tournament is set to begin Wednesday. Oakton (10-3) travels to Yorktown (10-0), Langley (9-3) goes to Lake Braddock (12-0), West Springfield (9-2) plays at Madison (12-0) and Washington and Lee (9-1) heads to Centreville (12-0) at 1 p.m. The winner and finalist both advance to the state tournament.

Barring an upset, defending state champion Centreville will face Madison on Thursday in one semifinal. The two are widely regarded as Northern Virginia's top two teams, but because of the Northern Region's district rotation system, they are on the same side of the draw.

"The fact that one of us is going to get knocked out is very disappointing," Centreville Coach Ellen Parker said. "The second team that will go to state's will not be the region's second best team."

Girls Soccer

Potomac School senior goalkeeper Tia Smith was anything but nervous in the waning seconds of yesterday's game against National Cathedral, although she had plenty of reason to be.

Smith held her ground as Eagles freshman Andrea Moore bore down on her on a breakaway with the game knotted at 1-1 in the second period of overtime. Smith used both hands to block Moore's shot to preserve the tie in an Independent School League contest in Northwest.

The second-ranked Panthers are now 4-0-2, 1-0-2 in the ISL with the tie. The Panthers won the ISL tournament title last fall with a 2-1 victory over National Cathedral.

National Cathedral, ranked No. 4, is now 4-0-1 overall, 1-0-1 in the ISL.

"[Smith] played out of her mind," Potomac School Coach Bobby Johnston said. "My heart dropped and Tia was very composed and did a great job."

"I was just wanted to win too much," Smith said. "I wasn't nervous at all."