When Chesapeake attackmen Diane McBee and Julie Smith joined the girls lacrosse team in their freshmen year, scoring goals wasn't their top priority.
Learning to catch and throw was foremost on their minds.
Four years later, however, the two seniors have blossomed into two of the county's top scorers, leading the Cougars to a 10-0 start and sole possession of first place in the county 4A League.
McBee, the more productive of the two offensively, headed into Friday's game with Northeast with 48 goals and 10 assists.
Smith, her sidekick, friend and soccer teammate since the fifth grade, entered Friday with39 goals and six assists.
McBee and Smith provide the Cougars with a one-two punch that would make any corner man proud, and Chesapeake fifth-year coach Jim Buchan is no exception.
"What makes them both so effective is that they see the field so well and they can anticipate," said Buchan. "They have great field sense, and they see spaces and they go for them. It's not something you teach."
Another thing that coaches cannot teach but can only instill is leadership, a quality shared by both and conveyed by the twosome through example.
"They work hard, all the time, both in games and in practice," said Buchan. "Julie's leading the team in ground balls and Diane's leading the team in assists, so they're not one-dimensional players that justscore.
"The younger kids see them working hard, and they realize that if they work hard on the field they'll get the ball."
Despitethe number of goals scored by the duo (87), Buchan denies having designed any plays specifically for them, but rather attributes their high numbers to simply being in position to make the play.
"We try to set up positioning and if you work hard you're going to get the ball," said Buchan. "We try to put our stronger people in the center of the field because you want them to handle the ball where they can do something with it. You don't want your stronger kids pinned to the sidelines. These two own the center of the field."
Pinning either McBee or Smith to the sidelines is something that county opponents -- including Severna Park -- have been unable to accomplish this season.
In the Cougars' 17-16 win-streak-snapping victory over the FalconsApril 19, McBee and Smith combined for 13 of the goals, eight and five, respectively.
While both admit that they were skeptical about their chances of beating Severna Park at the outset of the season, they both acquired confidence as the season progressed.
"I thought we would be good, but I don't know if I ever thought we'd be 10-0," said McBee. "It's a pleasant surprise. At the beginning of the season Ithought that maybe we would have some personality problems on the team, but our team has come together wonderfully."
Smith admitted that she was pessimistic about the team's chances to the point where she even contemplated sitting out the sport her senior year.
"I thought we were going to stink," Smith conceded. "I came out here with a bad attitude because the long soccer season took a lot out of me. I knew we had a lot of skill, but I didn't think we would be able to putit all together the way we have."
But, as always, when Smith was down, McBee came to her emotional rescue.
"Diane's very dedicated and she never gives up hope," said Smith. "She's always got a positive attitude. She just has this spirit about her.
"If I have a bad attitude she tells me, 'Julie, get your butt in line,' or if she sees me moping around she says, 'Hey, get yourself up.' I don't know what I'll do without her," said Smith, who plans to attend Towson State with McBee going to the University of Virginia in the fall.
There isno doubt that McBee's uplifting remarks were genuine, but she says Smith's presence on the field only makes her a better player.
"She takes a lot of pressure off me, because if I don't have a good game, she'll have a good game," said McBee. "We don't have to have a big game every game. We can depend on each other along with Julie (Henne) and work as a team instead of trying to do it all by ourselves."
McBee and Smith have had a lot of assistance this year both on and off the field from the team's seven other seniors, who Buchan has named the "senior council." This group of upperclassmen has a voice in what the team should focus on in practice and what drills to run.
Buchan said, "I think that if the kids have a say in the decision and theyhave some input, then, when the decision is made, and they were a part of it, they're more enthusiastic about dealing with it."
Enthusiasm is something that Smith may not always possess, but as McBee points out, assertiveness is another story.
"She (Julie) is really aggressive going to the goal," said McBee. "When she goes to the goal, no one is going to stop her. She's like a freight train. As soon as she decides she's going, there's nothing that's going to stop her."
Smith exhibited a mutual admiration for McBee's athletic prowess.
"We've just become such good friends and we work so well together," said Smith. "What I don't have she makes up for and what she doesn't have I make up for.
"I look up to her so much. She's a 4.0 student, is popular and is a great athlete, and that's the person I would like to be."
Buchan, never one to pick favorites, views them as opposites heading in the same direction.
"Julie is very outspoken and Diane thinks things out more, but what's important is that they get to the same place," said Buchan. "We set one goal this year and that was to make it to the playoffs. They've done everything in their powerto see that happen."