Usually one of the strongest field hockey conferences in the area, this season the Independent School League has new faces among the league leaders.

Although defending league champion St. Stephen's/St. Agnes remains No. 1 and unbeaten in the league -- having outscored opponents 30-4 -- Foxcroft and Stone Ridge have been banging on the doors of the league's traditional powers. Still, perhaps the most surprising result is the continued strong play of last year's runner-up, National Cathedral.

With only one league loss, the Eagles (7-3-3, 6-1-3 ISL) again find themselves near the top of the standings, in what Coach Jane DeGrenier originally thought would be a rebuilding year.

"We're really clicking together as a team," she said. "It makes things very nice as a coach when you're exceeding expectations."

National Cathedral graduated two Division I players last year, including All-Met Sara Eaton, but this season is receiving contributions from younger players. Sophomore midfielder Bridget McNamara has emerged as one of the finest players in the league and freshman forward Helen Conaghan leads the team in scoring with five goals.

Four teams will receive first-round byes when the ISL playoffs open next Wednesday.

-- Liam Dillon