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The gray skies and steady rainfall at Archbishop Spalding's girls soccer game yesterday were an appropriate setting for a team with dampened spirits.

The Cavaliers, still trying to cope with the tragic loss of teammate Lexie Cano -- who was killed in an automobile accident before the season -- dropped a 4-0 decision yesterday to upstart Hammond of Howard County.

But despite Spalding's 1-4 start, Coach Wayne Sanchez maintains that he has been inspired by his squad's effort to date.

"I have nocomplaints," he said, while watching his team go through pre-game drills. "We've had enough things hit us this year that I never would have dreamed of a start like this.

"But, on the other hand, nobody has blown us off the field and our schedule is probably the toughest in the state. Of our 13 games this year, seven are against teams ranked in The Sun's Top 10."

The Bears (5-0) came into the contest ranked No. 2 in The Sun poll and quickly proved their worth.

Hammond got on the scoreboard 8 minutes, 40 seconds into the contest when Samantha Andersch fielded a Lauren Choate pass and planted it in the right corner of the goal, just past the outstretched hands of Spalding freshman keeper Nicole Trumpler.

Trumpler finished with 20 saves.

The visitors, who outshot Spalding, 12-3, in the first half, went ahead, 2-0, at the 24 minute mark when Kisha Jett took matters onto herown feet and dribbled past a pair of defenders to give herself an easy one-on-one scoring opportunity.

Again, Trumpler lunged into thesoggy turf, only to see the ball skip into the back of the net.

Spalding's defense, led by stopper Jen Sparks, thwarted a rout in the second half by limiting the Bears to just a few high-percentage shots.

The Bears, who managed to put 35 shots on goal to Spalding's four, broke the ice in the second half at the 32-minute mark when Jett tallied her second goal.

Hammond scored the final goal two minutes later when Liz Beilefeld followed a shot that ricocheted off the post.

Still, Sanchez said, "I'm happy. We played a respectable game against maybe the top team in the state. . . . We played our hearts out. I can't ask for anything else.

"They're a better team than us, but we gave it our best."

Sanchez said he has seen the Cavaliers grow closer through the ordeal of losing a close friend and teammate, and he believes his players have handled the situation "as well as onecan expect."

"It (Cano's death) really brings home that the winning isn't all that's in it. It's the kids," he said. We can lose everygame for the rest of the season, and as long as the kids come back every week, I'll be happy.

"Sure, I'd like to win. Everyone wants to win and I think we will yet. But I'm more concerned with the kids and how they're reacting to losing. They're not giving up and they keep getting better. I'm real proud of them."

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