By Nelson Coffin, Tom Worgo and Craig Clary
10:15 AM EDT, March 22, 2012
Starting with the faceoff, local stick squads hope to fashion solid components of a winning season, including defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic A Conference champion Gilman, runner-up Calvert Hall and serious contenders Loyola Blakefield, Boys' Latin and St. Paul's.
Reigning B and C conference kingpins Friends and Lutheran, respectively, are also looking to remain at the top of their respective leagues while public school rivals Dulaney, Loch Raven and Towson hope to find similar paths to success.
Check below to see which squad will draw your attention this season.
2011 record: 11-8
Coach Bob Shriver's quote: "Not many of our seniors are experienced. After playing behind other guys last year, it's time to do it themselves this year."
Breakdown: The Lakers have already had at least one close encounter — a 9-8 nail-biter over Philadelphia's Penn Charter that junior midfielder Michael Lynch ended with his third goal of the game — in its preseason, and that's a good thing according to Shriver.
"It will take us a couple of close ones like that to get us ready for the conference," he said.
BL's defense, which allowed as many as 10 goals only twice last season, should be a strength again with junior Colby Caplin between the pipes and senior Matt Rees and Robbie Burd leading the close defense with juniors Mac Pons and Tom Brown.
Senior longsticks Nick Shepherd and Brett Radcliffe will join in the fun on the talented Laker backline.
On attack, the Lakers are covered with senior Grey Pyke, junior Colin Heacock and sophomore Shack Stanwick taking charge.
Junior Andrew Roswell and sophomore Colin Chell will take attack/midfield hybrid roles, although the first midfield line boasts Lynch, fellow junior Ben Pridemore and sophomore Tally Bruno.
Look for sophomore Keegan O'Connor to share second unit with Roswell and Chell.
Junior Bryan Lichtenauer (Ohio State) and sophomore Hunter Moreland (John Hopkins) will join forces at the faceoff 'X.'
2011 record: 17-2
Coach Bryan Kelly's quote: "Our biggest strength is our balance, from top to bottom"
Breakdown: Kelly, who coached the Cardinals to the 2004 MIAA A Conference crown, is looking to add another title with an experienced group of seniors, some talented juniors and even a couple of sophomore stars.
Kelly, though, is taking nothing for granted.
"We're good," he said. But we're a work in progress."
Disclaimers aside, the Cardinals' roster is loaded.
The attack boasts seniors Carter Brown (Ohio State), Patrick Kelly (North Carolina), Ryan Brown (Johns Hopkins), Pat Carotenuto (Rutgers) and Brett Pearce (Bucknell) and junior varsity call-up Jordan Germershausen, who totaled three goals and two assists in a 12-6 triumph over Canadian power Hill Academy.
Seniors Kelton Black (Hopkins), Brian Bolewicki (Towson) and Reece Bartell (Towson) join juniors John Belz (Maryland), Stephen Kelly (North Carolina) and his cousin, Johnny Kelly (Ohio State), on the midfield.
Senior Evan Connell (North Carolina) and junior Garrett Epple (Notre Dame) anchor the defense with sophomore Erik Evans (Ohio State) in front of senior goalie Jack Brust (Quinnipiac).
Last year, the Cardinals breezed into the conference final with just one loss before being beaten handily by Gilman.
This May, they'll be looking for a more satisfying finish.
2011 record: 13-7
Coach Kyle Fiat's quote: "They are definitely not going to be the most skilled team or even close to the most skilled team I have seen here, but we have group of seniors who are incredibly hard workers."
Breakdown: The Lions improved from 7-9 to 13-6 in Fiat's rookie season. They also reached a state semifinal for the first time since 2008.
"The kids have the mentality that (at least a state semifinal) is the ultimate goal, but we have a long, long way to go," said Fiat, who served as a varsity assistant for four years before taking over head coaching duties from Jake Reed. "We are going to be a pretty thin team and the kids are going to have to be flexible."
Fiat raves about senior goalie Alex Stansbury. The Lions need Stansbury to play at even higher level than he did in 2011 with an inexperienced defense.
And it appears he's up to the challenge.
"There's no question our strength will be our goalie," Fiat said. "He had a great junior year and had a great offseason to prepare for his senior year."
Fiat also marvels at his midfield, which is spearheaded by two Randolph-Macon recruits, seniors Nick Benhoff and Louie Bafford. They're joined by juniors Tilghman Sanders, a transfer from Calvert Hall, and Jake Calder, a varsity returnee.
But Dulaney's defense will be likely scrutinized more than any other area by Fiat and his coaching staff.
Senior Andy Huber and Andy Gillen are the leaders of the defense that will be under the microscope.
"Last year, our strength in numbers was definitely our defense," Fiat said. "This year, that's probably our thinnest position. As the season goes along, we will have to have a couple of guys step up."
The attack features varsity veterans, sophomore Keegan Colegrove and junior Tate Berman, and newcomer Robbie Mathey.
2011 record: 16-1
Coach Tom Marechek's quote: "We probably have the best attack unit (in the league). They were the starting attack in the championship game last year."
Breakdown: Anyone looking for a weakness on the Quakers might eventually tire.
Friends returns 10 starters from a squad that won the MIAA B Conference title last year, yet Marechek quickly dismisses talk of the Quakers being the overwhelming favorite for another crown.
"On paper, you don't win championships," said Marechek, a first-year coach who spent the last 14 years at Howard County's Glenelg Country School, where he won two C Conference championships. "We have to make sure we direct the kids the right way. I have coached teams before, where if you don't work together and don't have the chemistry, it doesn't matter."
Offense isn't going to be a problem with the return of senior attackmen Mike Sweet and Dave Magdeburger and junior Tucker Glotzbach.
At midfield, Friends graduated Michael John, who is playing at Amherst College.
"Michael was probably their best player last year," Marechek said.
But the team's midfield is still experienced and deep with juniors Dan Warren, James Batho and senior Paul Orrson leading the unit.
The defense — spearhead by seniors Matt Lambros and Elliot Greenwald and junior Ben Chase — could rate among the best in the league.
In goal, James Whitlow earned the starting job after working as a backup last year.
"We have kind of ingrained in their heads right now that this is a new season and everyone is out for them because they won the championship," said Marechek, who replaced Jon Garman.
2011 record: 13-5
Coach Brooks Matthews' quote: "Because most of our guys compete in other sports, they have come into lacrosse fresh and excited. Many of our players have experienced success in their fall and winter sports, and I am excited to see them carry that confidence into the spring."
Breakdown: Don't sleep on the Greyhounds.
Just because they graduated Towson Times Co-Players of the Year Ryan Tucker and Conor Doyle, the cupboard is hardly bare.
Starting with the defense, seniors Robby Haus (Ohio St), T.J. Trusty, Tim Jenkins (Colorado College), Devin Tucker (Gettysburg), Kameron Bowling, Mason Hoehn and Brandon Smith, the Greyhounds still have plenty of talent to defend their title.
They'll protect senior Bryan Moore (Harvard) or junior Thomas McBride in the goal.
Likewise, the midfield has a strong core group in seniors Jake Matthai (North Carolina), Harry McCarthy (Dartmouth), and Cotter Brown (Sewanee) holding forth with juniors Riley DeSmit (Hopkins) and John Simms.
On attack, senior Gordie Koerber (Denver) will lead the way with juniors Max Greene and Zeke Morrill coming on strong.
"I think we have a chance to have a nice blend of experienced players and hungry, talented, new players," Matthews said. "We will rely on our returning defenders for solid, tough defensive play as our goalies develop."
2011 record: 10-6
Coach John Hanley's quote: "We want to get to the state championship game and win it. We have the core of guys that are capable of getting us there. This year, we have to work together as a team to do that. Last year, we had individuals that helped us win games."
Breakdown: Has the time finally come for the Raiders to advance to the Class 2A-1A state championship game?
Hanley feels especially good about the quality and depth at every position for Loch Raven to make another serious run.
Seniors Ben Jones (York College) and Trey Mostyn (Goucher College) lead a defense that also includes Dimitri Sidou.
"Both Trey and Ben consistently play at a high level," Hanley said. "I think our defense will be stingy."
They should be a stingy group playing in front of improving junior goalie Brandon Glorioso, a two-year starter.
"He is a converted defenseman, who has been working very hard," Hanley said. "He has been working in the fall, summer and winter to improve his game."
Loch Raven might not score as much last year with the graduation of JB Cadorette (56 goals) and Wes Dingman (29), but should have plenty of firepower with senior attacker Kevin Friant (48 goals, 19 assists) and the emergence of Fotis Solomonides.
Seniors Greg Harper and Austin Perry, juniors Jack Voelker and Mike Ferris and sophomore Bryce Spruill will get the most midfield minutes.
"We have a lot of guys that worked hard in the offseason to get better," Hanley said. "It will help us to take that step to the next level."
2011 record: 8-10
Coach Jack Crawford's quote: "The league will be tough as usual, but we feel our strong senior class will keep us in the hunt."
Breakdown: Although the Dons finished with a rare sub-.500 mark last spring and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in recent memory, they have the potential for a big turnaround season.
And a major upgrade is expected from a team that averaged nearly 13 wins from 2005-2010 with a couple of A Conference crowns as well.
Athletic middie Deemer Class (Duke), steady linemate TJ Neubauer (Fairfield) and faceoff specialist Kacy Kapinos (Ohio State), with longstick standouts Matt Dunn (Maryland), Cole Luthy and Ryan Gilliss spearheading the defense, make Loyola formidable.
Throw in senior attackman Conor Dalton and junior sidekick Devin McNamara (Villanova), a prolific scorer, and the Dons should have enough firepower to keep pace with other high-profile offenses in the conference.
Last year, Loyola managed as many as 10 goals only four times in 18 tries, which, in turn, put more pressure on the defense.
And that makes ramping up the offense an even more critical prospect for Crawford's club.
2011 record: 16-0
Coach Jonny Class's quote: "Last year, they graduated eight seniors from a very strong team. We are pretty much in a rebuilding stage."
Breakdown: It won't be easy for the Saints to repeat as MIAA C Conference champions with only four returning starters.
On top of that, Lutheran hired a new coach in Class, a newcomer to the sport.
Class, however, brought in four experienced assistants to help him run the program, including Chris Michel (St. Paul's) and Alex Shipley (Joppatowne).
"I think we have one of the best coaching staffs around," Class said. "They also have coached rec and club ball. I would like to say I surrounded myself with greatness."
The staff will be working closely with a core group that features senior attacker Steve Licata (Rosemont College), senior midfielders Dave Dooley and Scotty Sweigart (Shenandoah University) and senior defender John Nunes (Concordia University Wisconsin).
"Everything is built around those guys," Class said.
Dooley and Sweigart lead the solid midfield that also includes senior Dylan Gerry.
"Our midfield is very athletic," Class said. "They know how to score."
Junior Steve Bachman, a transfer from Fallston, should give the attack a boost.
Although junior Zack Gruber is unproven in goal, Class raves about the potential of the first-year player.
"He has come a long way in a short period of time," the coach said. "His stickwork is pretty darn good."
2011 record: 14-7
Coach Rick Brocato's quote: "We only have five players returning who played meaningful roles for us last year."
Breakdown: St. Paul's fans may not want to hear the word 'rebuilding' when it comes to their beloved Crusaders, yet, in essence, the 15 juniors, nine sophomores and freshman on the current roster will be a work in progress.
The most conspicuous returnee — and the one who will draw the most attention from rival defenses — is Spencer Parks (North Carolina), a serious Player of the Year candidate as a hybrid attackman/midfielder.
His senior classmate Gavin Llewellyn (Hobart) is a dangerous dodger from behind the goal and will run on the same unit with sophomore Henry Riehl and freshman Carter Flaig.
Other midfielders include seniors Ben Brehene and Austin Toland (Mt. St. Mary's), juniors Ben Linkous, Andrew Nelson and Greg Louzan and sophomore B.J. Mattheiss.
Defensive middies, such as senior Sam Sunderland, juniors Maike Mayer (Georgetown) and Jordan Thompson and sophomore Conor Sheehan, will aid junior defensemen Travis Wood (Hopkins), and A.J. Fradkin and sophomore Bennett Moore inside.
They will all be trying to shield senior goalie Will Rego.
The Crusaders, who already boast a pair of one-goal verdicts — and a blowout loss — this season, have enough talent to stay in the hunt if the youngsters grow up quickly.
2011 record: 7-8
Coach John Cummings' quote: "We are very deep and solid on defense, especially at goalie."
Breakdown: That goalie is returning All-American senior Connor Skeen, who will be anchoring a veteran group that includes senior tri-captain Thomas Kibbe, senior Freddy Taylor and junior Drew Turner.
Seniors Aaron Doty, Nick Ridgely and Teo Walker, juniors Paul Dykstra, Thomas Eick and Colin Parts and sophomores Will Huckenpoehler and Brian Pflaum will vie for playing time on defense along with reserve goalie Will Thornton.
Senior tri-captains Dan McGovern and Pat Huckenpoehler headline a midfield that includes seniors Brennan Young and Eric Kimball, junior Quinn Likens, and sophomore Noah St. John.
Senior Drew Evenson and juniors William Atkinson and Harrison Gilbert will also be in the midfield mix.
The attack is spearheaded by seniors Seth Merrick and Christian Starr and junior John Lockwood with juniors Eric Carlson and Charlie Kibbe waiting in the wings.
Juniors John Hunt, Kyle Miller, Alan Buagas and Scott Vinyard are striving for playing time under first-year coach Cummings.
The former Ohio State standout and Loyola Blakefield graduate, whose brother Joe plays for the University of Maryland, returns to the area after coaching in San Diego the past three years.