Fifteen days after fracturing her sternum in a car accident, Diane Mooney approached Severna Park field hockey coach Lil Shelton.
"I can play now," Mooney said.
"OK, but if you're not feeling good, let me know," Shelton said.
The game was only 3 1/2 minutes old when Mooney gave Severna Park a 1-0 lead over South River. Playing only the first half, the senior left wing scored again to propel the Falcons to a 10-0 victory.
"Diane made a statement by scoring that first goal," Shelton said. "I like players who make statements."
Mooney suffered the hairline fracture on Sept. 13 when another driver ran a stop sign and struck her car on the right rear, driving it into the guard rail on the Baltimore-Annapolis bike trail. Mooney's 1991 Mercury Tracer was totaled.
Mooney missed the first three games and made her season's debut against South River.
"It was so gutsy of Diane to come back like that," Shelton said. "She was able to run and never missed a beat."
It has been a hazardous few months for the Mooney family. Two weeks before Diane's accident, her father Mike and brother Chris had one of their own. Two weeks ago, in the win over Chesapeake, Mooney missed 18 1/2 minutes when she was struck on the head by a ball.
"I wanted her to come back in," said left midfielder Melissa Ballance. "I play right behind her and she makes me feel so comfortable, easing my nervousness. I don't have to worry about the ball coming back to me because she controls it so well."
Mooney said she was beginning to feel like a target. Indeed, her mother Marla has been unusually cautious in the wake of the mishaps to her husband, son and daughter, fearful she might be next.
"We all have to have a share of the bad," Mooney said. "Hopefully, mine is finished for now."
As the two-time defending state Class 4A champions tick off victory after victory, they are being led by co-captains Mooney and Megan Smith. Shelton has known Mooney since she was in junior high school; the Mooneys live right behind the Sheltons in Severna Park.
"She has a lot of 'grrr,' " Shelton said, referring to her desire and aggressiveness. "She goes for the ball and says it's hers. The thing about Diane is that she knows when to give the ball up, when to keep it and dodge."
Despite missing the first three games and 18 1/2 minutes against Chesapeake, when she was hit on the head, Mooney has 10 goals and five assists in eight games.
Mooney is typical of the Severna Park field hockey player in that she didn't come into her own until her final season. Despite the loss of Tressa Campbell, Colleen Gately and Amy Senger from last year's championship team, Shelton had players like Mooney and Smith as ready replacements. Such is the wealth of Severna Park's talent.
"The girls pay their dues before they become seniors," Shelton said. "But starting is not important anyway. We have so many good people that they have to share playing time. Instead of starting, a lot of girls like to play the second half because it's the most exciting."
As the Falcons roll toward the playoffs, signs indicate that Mooney's run of bad luck is indeed behind her.
For one thing, she is scoring at a steady rate.
For another, she is among the four senior princesses elected for homecoming, one of whom will be proclaimed queen at halftime of tonight's football game.