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.