In one of the most competitive county field hockey races in years, Glenelg, a team with three seniors and 15 juniors, is alone on top.
"Amazing," said senior captain Sarah Frederick. "I never thought it could come true, but we're there. Hopefully we can hold on to it."
The Gladiators, who were 4-5 in the county last season, improved to 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the league after their 2-0 victory Friday at River Hill. Elizabeth Narron scored off an assist from Kelly O'Connor with 9: 52 remaining in the game, and Frederick clinched it with 5: 12 remaining with a goal eight minutes later off an assist from Kristina Schwarz.
"I was very impressed with how they played," River Hill coach Martha Henderson said. "They've got it together. They outplayed us and outhustled us."
Glenelg has five league games remaining, four against top teams. The Gladiators play at Centennial (5-3 overall, 3-1 league) on Tuesday and are home against Hammond (4-3-2, 2-1-2) on Friday. The Gladiators play host to Mount Hebron (4-4-2, 3-1-1) on Oct. 19, then finish with road games against Wilde Lake (1-5-1, 1-3-1) on Oct. 22 and Long Reach (4-2-2, 1-1-2) on Oct. 25.
"We had our easier games in the first part of the season," Frederick said. "We've worked out the flaws, and we're ready to go into the harder part.
"We've been working really hard at practice and working well together as a team, and that's the most important thing."
Added Narron: "We're definitely playing as a team, and keeping our intensity throughout the game. We can see the other team getting frustrated, and we just keep our cool, play our hardest and stick together as a team. We go out there to have fun, and that's what we do."
The Gladiators' defense has allowed only seven goals in nine games. Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid plays a different goalie and sweeper each half. Goalie Kristina Johnson and Melissa Krause start the first half, and goalie Stefanie Mullinix and Kate Nicol play the second.
Narron said the Gladiators "were really pumped" for their neighborhood-rival River Hill, one reason being many girls play on the same club teams.
Narron said she doesn't expect a letdown against the defending county champion Eagles, who lost their first league game Friday at Mount Hebron.
"We'll be fine. We can keep our intensity," Narron said. "I think we're ready to play any team, because we play well together."
Mount Hebron had been shut out six of its first nine games, but the Vikings managed to score a goal Friday against visiting Centennial.
"That's all you need in hockey sometimes," said Mount Hebron coach Jeannette Ireland after her team's 1-0 decision handed the Eagles their first county loss.
Grace Lee, off an assist from Katie Jeschke, got her first varsity goal in the opening half, and the Vikings' defense made it stand up.
Jennifer Donatelli, Sara Cavey, Kate Story, Beth Haas, Katelyn Hoffman and Cindy Nicolaus all played well for Mount Hebron. But it was senior captain Liz Eberhart's play that solidified the Vikings.
"Liz had the most exceptional game she's ever played," said Ireland, whose team had lost 1-0 to Long Reach and played a scoreless tie against Hammond in its last two games. "She played brilliantly."
Centennial coach Gail Purcell gave credit to the Vikings, who finished with 12 corners to five for the Eagles.
"I think they had a lot to prove to themselves, and they did it against us," said Purcell, whose team was coming off a 2-1 victory over Long Reach.
Purcell said her team was "still caught up" with Tuesday's win over Long Reach. "The girls said they were not focused on the game," Purcell said. "It's midseason, and if we learned a lesson from this game, it's OK."
Long Reach and Hammond battled to a 1-1 tie Friday, with coach Kelly Snyder on the spectators' sideline. Snyder drew a red card in Tuesday's loss to Centennial, and she was told by the Long Reach administration not to coach at Hammond.
Snyder said watching from the other side gave her a different perspective on her team, and the result will be "a new formation starting Monday."
"We're going to make some changes, and I think it will be for the good," Snyder said.
Snyder's father, assistant coach Pete Morano, and Long Reach JV coach Dan Sageman coached the varsity against Hammond.
Howard and Wilde Lake both earned league victories for the first time on Friday. The Lions (2-3-2, 1-3-1) defeated Oakland Mills, 2-0, behind goals from Sophie Dress, and Wilde Lake got goals from Kathleen Jackson and Laura Rothschild to defeat Atholton, 2-0.