Underdog Wilde Lake (12-3) is betting that an improved attitude can win it the state Class 1A/2A state title Saturday at Arundel High.
"It's amazing how much more focused we've been in the past few gamesnow that's something's on the line," said Wildecats coach Rick Wilson.
Favored Hammond (14-1) is banking on a prolific offense that has scored a school-record 67 goals, and a stingy defense that has allowed just 13 goals. The Bears also have two All-Americans -- striker Samantha Andersch and sweeper Jackie Rieschick.
The Bears won the 1A/2A state title in 1989 and know what it takes.
Both teams see midfield dominance and ball control as key ingredients to winning.
When Hammond and Wilde Lake played during the regular season, the Bears'midfield dominated, and Hammond won, 5-0.
This time around, Wilson hopes his deep bench can wear down Hammond's midfield and keep it from controlling the game.
The key Hammond midfielder is Kacy Williams, whose three goals against North Carroll in the state semifinal sparked the Bears to a 6-0 victory. Williams has 10 goals and 12 assists this season.
But Williams is only the team's third-leading scorer. Sophomore speedster Kisha Jett has a school-record 24 goals. Andersch, a junior striker, is having a banner season with 17 goals and 15 assists.
"When North Carroll shut down our passing game with itsaggressive style, we started going more one-on-one to take advantageof our superior skills," Bears coach Dave Guetler said. "Samantha dribbled through five or six players and scored."
But Guetler doubtsthat one-on-one dribbling will win Saturday's match.
"Wilde Lake's players are too skilled to get away with that," he said.
Wilde Lake's key midfielders will be Stephanie Sarkis and Nat Froman (9 goals, 2 assists).
The Wildecats have a balanced scoring attack led bystriker Renita Young (12 goals, 4 assists), striker Nikki Krupp (11,4), halfback Reny Trellis (4, 4), halfback Kristen Riismandel (5, 3)and striker Lindsay Waxler (4, 7).
The defense revolves around senior sweeper Piper Schubert and sophomore stopper Carrie Chao. But freshman Carrie Brelsford, who was injured for the first Hammond-Wilde Lake matchup, is a dominant talent who'll play outside fullback.
The Wildecats have six shutouts and have outscored their opponents, 50-24.
Both teams are young. Hammond starts two seniors, two juniorsand seven sophomores. Wilde Lake starts five seniors, one junior, four sophomores and one freshman.
Sweeper Rieschick is the key reason for Hammond's eight shutouts. She has tremendous speed and skills.
Other top Hammond players include senior midfielder Lauren Choate (4, 8 ), who is an Honorable Mention All-State selection, and sophomore forward Nat Serianni (8, 1).
"We fear Young, especially since she's coming off a strong game," Guetler said. "We'll mark her like wedid the first time."
Young scored two second-half goals includingthe game-winner for Wilde Lake in the state semifinal.
Guetler thinks that scoring first is another key. "Whichever team gets behind will have to play differently, gamble more," Guetler said. "We've comefrom behind four or five times, so we know we can."
Guetler said he was worried that beating Wilde Lake by such a big score earlier this season will cause his team to develop a false sense of security.
Wilson hopes that happens.
"This is not the same Wilde Lake teamthey beat, 5-0. And it's tough to beat the same team twice in one season," Wilson said.
GIRLS CLASS 1A/2A FINAL
Date: Saturday, Nov. 16
Time: 4 p.m.
Place: Arundel High School
Records: Hammond 14-1, Wilde Lake 12-3
Coaches: Wilde Lake -- Rick Wilson, Hammond -- Dave Guetler
Key: Whichever team controls the midfield should win the game.