Coach Bruce Sponsler's Old Mill girls soccer squad had just lost a physical Class 4A/3A state semifinal game, 4-2, to Howard County's Oakland Mills (13-2).
The loss, last night at Chesapeake High, not only marked the end of the Patriots' nine-game winning streak in which they had outscored their opponents, 31-3, but also meant the end of their season.
So why, on this chilly night and in the aftermath of what had to be a disappointing loss, was junior striker Terri Lee standing among her teammates with a smile on her face?
"We lost, but we lost with class," said Lee, the team's second leading scorer with 11 goals and eight assists.
"It was a physical game, but you've got to expect it," said Michelle Salmon, a 13-year-old freshman who led the Patriots (11-4) in scoring with 17 goals and three assists.
It was a game in which Lee gave her team a 1-0 lead with 14 minutes left in the first half, only to have the Scorpions' Mia Dammen tie the game, 1-1, with just over two minutes left in the half.
That, despite freshman goalkeeper Jackie Bardelli's (six saves) diving to the ground for four saves of point-blank shots.
As a keeper on this year's junior varsity squad, the 5-foot-10 Bardelli allowed just one goal for an 11-0-1 squad that outscored its opponents, 79-1. She replaced starter Amy Drapalski (broken nose).
"I thought I played pretty good tonight," said Bardelli, who endured a game in which the Patriots were outshot, 14-5, including 9-1 in the first half. "I think next year, we can be back here again."
The Patriots trailed, 3-1, with 1:26 left in the game when top scorer Michelle Salmon (17 goals, three assists) tallied to bring the Patriots within 3-2. But just 13 seconds later, Dammen struck again to pad the victory.
"Down two goals and with two minutes left, we were still pounding away and trying to win. I'm very proud of the way we played," said Old Mill coach Bruce Sponsler.
The Patriots blanked North Carroll, 5-0, in their last game to win their third Class 4A/3A Region II title in their fifth regional championship game appearance.
Three of Old Mill's starting players were hurt in the semifinal at one time or another.
Salmon left temporarily after taking an elbow shot to the head in the first half. Defender Erin Grossberg, who still was recovering from an injured ankle, was shaken up late in the second half and also left the game for a time.
Junior midfielder Terri Bogle wore a bandage across the bridge of her nose afterward as further testament to the game's toughness.
With 23 minutes left in the game, Stephanie Magro (14 goals, five assists) put Oakland Mills ahead for the first time after heading home a corner kick from Courtney Pierce.
Ann Fuller gave the Scorpions a two-goal lead with 11 minutes left.
Dammen sent her 30-yard direct kick to the right post where Fuller was there to chip it in.
"We got off to a slow start this year and lost in the semifinals last year, so there was some added pressure," said Dammen.