The final soccer game of the regular season turned out to be a winner for both Hammond and Howard.
Hammond (10-2 overall, 5-2 league) won the game on Friday, 2-0, on second-half goals by Jackie Rieschick and Lauren Choate.
Rieschick, who left the game in the 68th minute with a badly bruised leg, has scored six goals in three games since being moved from sweeper to forward.
"I missed a practice, so coach (Dave) Guetler put me at forward, because he knew I liked to play sweeper," Rieschick said. She played forward against Atholton, scored four goals, and has been at forward ever since.
She's not a stranger to that position.
"I played sweeper for four years on my club team, the Crusaders, but I play offense for the regional team. I love both positions," Rieschick said.
Her goal, the game-winner, came in the 51st minute off a perfect cross from Samantha Andersch. Rieschick, left uncovered at the far post, headed it past Lions goalie Krista Fulton, who had no chance.
Choate's goal came in the 72nd minute. She sneaked in behind her defender at the right post and booted home a goal from a few yards out.
Fulton again had little chance on the play.
Both Choate and Rieschick have seven goals on the year.
"We've been playing well," said Guetler, whose team totally dominated Friday night at Howard.
Hammond has allowed just 10 goals all season, and five of those were to Centennial. The Bears' only other loss was to Oakland Mills, 1-0.
Hammond goalie Emily Minah was forced to make just one save against an almost non-existent Howard offense that was sorely missing its playmaker, midfielder Kristi Greer.
Greer, who badly sprained her ankle against Mount Hebron, has missed two weeks. It is uncertain if she'll be ready for Wednesday's playoff game.
But Greer said Friday night that she would be ready.
Howard came out a winner Friday despite the loss, because it now will receive a better seed in the regional playoffs.
For the past two seasons, Howard has lost to Oakland Mills in the first round of regionals. Had the Lions won Friday, they would have drawn Oakland Mills again.
Instead, Howard will open up at South Carroll on Wednesday.
"The loss might help us," said Fulton, who put on an awesome display of goalkeeping with 12 saves. "We weren't pushing up and had no offense tonight."
Fulton made three spectacular first-half saves to keep the game scoreless at halftime.
The first, in the 12th minute, was a sliding save at the 20-yard line on which she displayed perfect timing and judgment.
The second, in the 31st minute, was on a hard shot from 10 yards out by Stephanie Fagen on which Fulton used both hands to bat it up and away.
And the third was a one-handed push save on a hard shot by Andersch in the 37th minute.
Hammond finished tied for second place with Centennial in the league standings behind Oakland Mills. Howard (9-3, 4-3) dropped back to fourth place.