The way Lauren Elstein talks, it would seem that the Stafford field hockey team is in dire straits.

"It was kind of a blow," she said. "It just kind of came. We weren't ready for it. We had to go back to the drawing board. If it was going to happen, it's a good thing it happened in the regular season, not in the district playoffs or anything like that. But we learned from it and we've moved on."

What had happened to the Indians to make Elstein so upset? Was it a big injury? A crushing defeat? In fact, it wasn't even a defeat at all.

During a game against Albemarle this week, Stafford gave up a goal, the team's first of the season, in a 4-1 victory.

"With the way the team reacted, you would have thought we had lost," Stafford Coach Robin Woodie said.

Such is life for No. 3 Stafford (10-0, 6-0 Virginia AAA Commonwealth District). Without many teams on their schedule that can provide much of a challenge, the Indians sometimes have to make up schemes to stay motivated.

Against Brooke Point last week, Stafford had 22 shots in the first half but only came away with two goals. Woodie told her players at halftime that she was planning on them running 22 sprints the next day. The players convinced her to waive the sprints if they could score four second-half goals. Stafford won 8-0 and Woodie kept her end of the bargain.

Woodie said that such tests should help prepare the Indians for more competitive games, certain to occur later in the season. Not that Stafford hasn't already proven it can play with the best in the state. It won the prestigious Sun Devil Tournament in Virginia Beach earlier this month, avenging last year's state semifinal loss to eventual champion Princess Anne in the title game.

Elstein, a second-team All-Met, has been the catalyst on offense and defense. The senior three-year starter plays sweeper on defense and also leads the team with 11 goals. Elstein and the Indians shouldn't have to wait much longer for a tough game. Tonight, the Indians face North Stafford, and although Stafford has a victory over the Wolverines already this season, North Stafford defeated the Indians in the Northwestern Region final last season.

So far, senior Lauren Elstein and No. 3 Stafford have handled every challenge.