The seat of power in county girls lacrosse is located just off of Route 99. Is it Mt. Hebron or is it Marriotts Ridge? That is the question.
Marriotts Ridge, the relative newcomer, returns most of last year's Class 3A/2A state championship team, including Player of the Year Zoe Stukenberg and top defender Anne Zabel.
However, traditional power Mt. Hebron is the defending county and District V champion. Last year was the team's 21st county title in 24 years.
Yes, that means this is the 25th year of girls high school lacrosse in the county.
There have been a lot of changes in that quarter century — molded head sticks instead of wooden sticks, shorts instead of kilts, out of bounds markings, restraining lines, goggles, arcs and fans.
Two new rule changes this year will have an impact on the game.
The first concerns the draw. In the past, when the two centers brought their sticks together for the draw, officials placed the ball near the midpoint of the head of the sticks.
The rule of thumb in girls lacrosse is that the team that wins the draw has the most scoring opportunities. Centers who can control the direction of the draw are in high demand.
This year, the ball will be placed in the upper third of the stick head. The effect is that it is harder for a center to control the direction of the ball. Under the new rule, the ball tends to go straight up in the air, which is a distinct advantage for a taller player.
"If that initial 50/50 isn't won cleanly, more often than not a ground ball scrum ensues which to me is a worse brand of the draw than before," Mt. Hebron coach Trish Derwert-Sullivan said.
The second new rule stiffens the penalty for receiving a yellow card.
The carded player must leave the field for two minutes and her team must play short. Last year, teams could match up numbers-wise on offense and defense by sending a midfielder over the restraining line. This year, the team receiving a card must keep four players in the midfield at all times. That means the offending team will be in man-down situation until the two minutes is over. Unlike boys lacrosse, these are non-releasable fouls.
And, if a team receives a total of four cards, it must play short until the end of the game. Each additional card awarded will result in another player being pulled from the field.
"It adds a new challenge for us to work on both offensively and defensively," said Atholton coach Crystal Shelley. "I think it was a needed addition to account for the increase in yellow cards. It now truly provides a disadvantage for the team being penalized and an advantage for the opposing team."
"It should be interesting," Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid said. "But I worry that a team will play desperately when it is down."
She anticipates that there will be more three-second and shooting space calls, which will result in 8-meter free position shots. "Goalkeeping is going to become more important," she said.
"There are rules in the girls' game, like three seconds, that make being a man-down almost impossible for a team's defense," said Oakland Mills coach Megan Gittermann, who was once a goalie. "The boys can play a box-and-one type zone defense, but we don't have that option. It will be tough."
Points of the compass
Howard County teams ended up in three regional classifications. Ten schools, including Marriotts Ridge and Mt. Hebron, are in 3A/2A South.
Oakland Mills dropped to 2A/1A East and Howard got bumped up to 4A/3A North.
Games to watch
Marriotts Ridge at Glenelg (March 29, 5:30 p.m.)
Oakland Mills at Wilde Lake (April 11, 7 p.m.)
Centennial at River Hill (April 13, 7 p.m.)
Glenelg at Mt. Hebron (April 13, 7 p.m.)
Mt. Hebron at Marriotts Ridge (April 17, 5:30 p.m.)
River Hill at Mt. Hebron (April 20, 7 p.m.)
Wilde Lake at Long Reach (April 20, 7 p.m.)
District V game (at Old Mill, May 8, 5 p.m.)
As the season begins this week, here's how the teams in the county look:
2011 record: 5-6 county, 6-7 overall
Top players: Seniors Amy Weinberg (MF), Michele Hart (MF); juniors Kaelin Shaw (MF), Ellie Matthews (MF), Kelly McQuilkin (D).
The tweet: Don't plan to get in a running game with the Raiders. With 24 players, they can keep fresh legs on the field at all times. Atholton will look to Weinberg, Shaw, Matthews and newcomer Rachel Day (A) to provide the bulk of its offense.
Coach Crystal Shelley said her team is "hardworking and meets every challenge with energy and enthusiasm." To be successful, the Raiders will need to move the ball in the midfield, communicate on defense and create opportunities on offense; all of which boils down to playing good, solid lacrosse.
2011 record: 7-3, 10-4
Top players: Seniors Rachel Benzing (A), Megan Wallenhorst (A), Anna Kelly (MF), Erica Heaphy (MF), Rachel Hein (MF); sophomores Kay Kelly (D) and Sammie Albornoz (D).
The tweet: The Eagles have some young players who will make contributions. Sophomores Evana Pino and Alicia Hseih will join Kay Kelly and Albornoz among the starters and don't be surprised when some of the four freshmen get playing time, too. Anna Kelly and Benzing will take the draw for the Eagles.
"Our stick skills have improved and the team's desire to never give up is awesome," said coach Martie Dyer.
2011 record: 8-3, 11-5
Top players: Seniors Meghan Milani (MF), Meagan Guthrie (MF); juniors Emily Russo (MF), Danielle Baker (MF).
The tweet: Milani, Guthrie and junior Tagne Vanderwall should pace Glenelg's offense, but, according to coach Ginger Kincaid, the key to success for the Gladiators is going to be playing great defense. Along that line, Megan Taylor will start in goal. She's a freshman but has high-level skills.
Glenelg is not the tallest team in the county, so getting draw possession could be an issue and that's where great defense is going to come in to play.
2011 record: 1-10, 1-12
Top players: Senior Aine Mangan (A); juniors Allie Kennedy (MF), Michelle Sparling (MF), Sarah Robey (MF), Nicki Gardes (A), Shannon McCarthy (D).
The tweet: The Golden Bears are still working on a basic fundamental of athletics: confidence. "We're going to be much better as soon as we believe we are," coach Bill Smith said. In addition to trying to gain confidence, his team is going to work on patiently possessing the ball on offense, creating turnovers in transition and playing team defense.
Hammond doesn't have one go-to player, so the scoring will be spread among four or five individuals.
2011 record: 6-5, 10-6
Top players: Seniors Megan Flock (MF), Kelly Pool (D), Nicole Snyder (A); juniors Bridget Graef (D), Kristen Woolschlager (A).
The tweet: Although Howard has eight seniors and seven juniors on the team, coach Alleesha Davidson says her squad is "a young team in regards to experience. We need to get to know each other and gel and then everything will fall into place."
Flock may end up as the team's scoring leader, but sophomore attackers Kelly Aquino, Abby Groft and Maddie Regal will contribute.
Davidson describes her team as "hardworking and cohesive. They have set goals and are diligently working toward them. They like to laugh, but they know when it is time to work hard."
2011 record: 3-7, 4-8
Top players: Seniors Delaney Miller (MF), Courtney Glasser (D), Tori Delaney (MF), Ashley Trotta (A); sophomore Imani Sanders (MF); freshman Lillie Miller (A).
The tweet: The Lightning's strength is in its midfield, and with 20 players the team also has depth that it has lacked in the past.
"We have a strong, skilled starting line up," coach Amy Davis said.
Both Millers and Sanders will figure prominently in Long Reach's offense. On the defensive end of the field, sophomore Jessica Bates is a quick and experienced goalkeeper. "I anticipate that she will have a high save percentage," Davis said.
One key for Long Reach's success this season will be its ability to communicate and for the players to look for each other on the field. "When the team connects and finds each other, they are fluid and efficient," Davis said.
2011 record: 10-1, 18-1 (state champion)
Top players: Seniors Anne Zabel (MF/D), Molly Fleming (D/MF), Nicole Grote (A), Tori Thomson (A); junior Zoe Stukenberg (MF); sophomores Taylor Hensh (MF), Alexis Zadjura (D), Amanda Miller (D/MF).
The tweet: The Mustangs have a strong, experienced midfield. Stukenberg, the 2011 Player of the Year, is the top returning scorer in the county and will be complemented on offense by Grote and Hensh. Zabel is a shut-down defender and an attack player's worst nightmare.
Coach Natalie Gaieski describes her team as fast, hard working, tough defenders and good shooters, which sounds like a recipe for success. The Mustangs will have to operate as a team, though. "Teams will look to shut down certain players, therefore everyone will need to contribute," Gaieski said.
2011 record: 11-0, 16-2 (county and District V champion)
Top players: Senior Natalie Marciniak (A); juniors Maddy Fisher (GK), Samantha Brookhart (MF), Jamie Schwartz (A), Jessie Czulewicz (D), Kieren Kelleher (MF), Haley Sutton (A/MF); sophomore Tianna Wallpher (D).
The tweet: After one year's absence, Mt. Hebron won the 2011 county title and the Vikings have every intention of successfully defending it this year.
"The will to win and desire to improve are two of our greatest qualities," coach Trish Derwert-Sullivan said. Although there are two seniors, the bulk of her team consists of juniors. Three freshmen could contribute immediately and some of the returning players will be stepping into new, more significant roles.
"We're athletic and fast with a well-anchored defense. We have more speed than last year but less experience," Derwert-Sullivan said.
She acknowledges the need for her team to constantly evolve and improve as the year goes along.
2011 record: 2-9, 3-11
Top players: Seniors Nicole Twardowicz (MF/A), Jamie Twardowicz (MF/A), Miranda Neely (A); junior Marlee Slaughter (MF).
The tweet: The Scorpions have a number of younger girls on their team who are relatively new to lacrosse, but maybe they are taking the Northwestern University approach — find athletes and teach them to play.
"While our girls may be less experienced in lacrosse than at other schools, they are athletic and mentally tough," coach Megan Gittermann said. "They work hard for each other and they love the sport."
Gittermann adds that her team needs to hustle and fight for every success on the field. "Self-doubt is our biggest enemy at Oakland Mills, so we can't afford for any mental weakness to creep into our game."
2011 record: 4-7, 6-10
Top players: Senior Katie Westermeyer (A), sophomores Leah Monroe (A), Shayna Tiller (MF).
The tweet: Six freshmen and five sophomores make Reservoir a team with a future. "We are a brand new, very young team made up of talented girls who are eager to learn," coach Katie Lee said.
The Gators' roster includes two seniors and five juniors.
"We're going to need to learn to play together in order to develop a chemistry that will win games," Lee said.
She expects freshman Alexis Bartley (MF) and sophomore Blair Bonner (D/MF) to be impact players. Monroe and Westermeyer will lead the team's offense.
2011 record: 8-3, 9-5
Top players: Seniors Katie Marlatt (A), Nina Collins (D), Carly Brunett (D); juniors Abigail Thielemann (A), Kendall Thielemann (A), Kelly Maloney (A), Paige Lorton (A); sophomores Julia Collins (A), Jenna Collins (A).
The tweet: Although River Hill returns seven starters from last year, the Hawks are still fielding a young squad. There are five seniors, 15 juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen on the 25-player squad.
Allie Lloyd will mind the net behind low defenders Emily Marlatt and Lia Valdesuso.
River Hill has three sets of sisters, two of which are twins.
"We have a balanced team dominated by veteran juniors and experienced sophomores," coach Jay Bond said. "As a result, we have the ability to control the ball and the pace of the game."
A big key for the Hawks will be staying healthy.
2011 record: 1-10, 3-11
Top players: Seniors Paige Thumel (MF), Natalie Fioretto (D), Morgan Shepherd (A); sophomores Grayson Corbett (MF), Rebecca Riley (D).
The tweet: First-year coach Davia Procida couldn't turn down the opportunity to coach at her alma mater and she's formulating some long term plans for a team that has struggled at times. "Eventually, my goal is to develop Wilde Lake into a very competitive program," she said.
Procida has talked to her team about the definition of success and how it is measured.
"Winning games is good but that's not all that matters. We will set individual goals for each game," she said.
Expect to find freshmen Kelsey Diven and Woudese Besikadu, a defender, in the starting lineup.
Procida said her team is very selfless and she is trying to create an opportunity for every player to score.
"I hope some teams are surprised by us," she said. "I think people will see a very big improvement."
Glenelg Country School
2011 record: 3-10 IAAM B, 6-14
Top players: Juniors Nicole Rieu (MF), KevynAnn Jorgenson (D); sophomores Ashley Mink (MF), Cameron Baumgardner (GK).
The tweet: The IAAM season begins before the public school season, so Glenelg Country entered the week with a 1-1 record. The Dragons will look to Rieu and Mink to lead their offense. Sophomore Lauren Smith (A) will get quality playing time as will freshman Lizzie Rice (MF).
Coach Paige Walton describes her team as young, resilient, motivated and aggressive. There are only four seniors on the squad.
To be successful, Walton said her team needs "to do the simple things very well, they will have to communicate and support each other on defense and be aggressive all over the field."
2011 record: 7-4 IAAM C, 9-9
Top players: Seniors Amy Tragesar (MF), Syndey Ackman (MF), Deana Bradley (D), Tori Heigh (D); juniors Emily Roberts (GK), Kaitlyn Wetzel (GK), sophomore Hailee Winand (D); freshmen Amy McNamara (MF), Emma Rufolo (MF).
The tweet: The Yellowjackets (3-0) are a mix of skilled players, some experienced and some brand-new players. Coach Colleen Norton has worked on getting two newcomers and one returning player up to speed.
"They have stepped up and look like they haven't just picked up a stick, but have been playing lacrosse for a few years," she said. The trio — Christina VanWingerden, Katelyn Kerr and Julia del Carmen — are playing attack. Freshman Casey Garlic will help out on defense.
"They have great chemistry and work very well together on and off the field," Norton said. "There is not just one star on this team …it's a very well-rounded team."