Oakland Mills girls soccer program has a lot going for it this year.
The Scorpions have great tradition and super athletes. And Tuesday they won their second crucial victory over a top county opponent within five days.
Oakland Mills (5-2), gunning for its fifth straight county championship this year, ended Hammond's 11-game unbeaten string with a 1-0 victory on sophomore forward Tyann Blissett's goal in the 39th minute.
Hammond (6-1), the defending Class 2A state champion, dominated almost the entire first half, but just couldn't put the ball in the net.
Then, with less than a minute to play in the half, Oakland Mills got a lucky break on a substitution.
Scorpions' coach Cindy Odell subbed Blissett into the game on the near side of the field, and sent Stephanie Magro from the near side to the far side.
No defender picked up Blissett as she entered the game, and she remained alone about 20 yards from the goal, as Magro went to the far side.
Then Magro, who was marked by freshman Kisha Jett, kicked a long cross to Blissett, who settled the ball before kicking it past Hammond goalie Emily Minah's left side.
Minah started to come out on Blissett, but changed her mind midway and backed up, hoping to stop Blissett's shot. The decision was the wrong one.
"We haven't had a very tough schedule so our goalie has only had to make about 12 saves all year," Hammond coach Dave Guetler said. "She probably had to make 12 today. It hurts us not being able to schedule good competition. But no one wants to play us."
Odell knew she had been lucky on the substitution: "I had wanted to send Tyann in earlier, but the ref wouldn't let me."
Blissett is a speedster whom Odell described as "very dangerous."
But Guetler figured the two players Hammond had to stop were Magro and Mia Dammen, so he marked both of them. He had freshman Kacy Williams marking Dammen, who didn't score, but who had several hard shots on goal.
Odell thought that marking Magro ultimately worked to Oakland Mills' advantage. "Stephanie likes the challenge of being marked, and she'll work that much harder and eventually get loose," she said.
Minah made several good saves for Hammond, including one great save early in the second half on a rocket by Dannette Lemerise. She had a total of 10 saves.
Oakland Mills outshot Hammond, 12-8, in the game. Ten of those shots were in the second half, as the Scorpions dominated offensively then.
The Scorpions never did get that second clinching goal, as Hammond's back line held firm, led by sweeper Jackie Rieschick and stopper Lauren Choate.
Choate, an offensive player most of the year, was switched to defense for Tuesday's game, replacing the injured Jill Jinks, who has a pulled knee ligament.
"Losing Jill hurt us," Guetler said. "She hasn't missed a game in three years."
Guetler had high hopes that Hammond might win the county title this year, but Tuesday's loss, although just Hammond's first, was a big setback.
"I'd rather win the county than the state championship," Guetler said.
"I thought we'd win today."
Odell's squad was coming off an extremely tough 4-3 victory over Howard the previous Friday. The Scorpions had trailed that game, 3-1, at halftime, before rallying to win on Dammen's goal.
The Scorpions played a flat first half against Howard, and did the same against Hammond.