Conor Cunningham wants to make sure he and his teammates finish the upcoming season the same way the previous five Hereford High School boys lacrosse teams have exited their recent campaigns.
Yes, the Bulls are prepae very least, earn the opportunity to do just that when the Class 3A-2A playoffs begin in May.
No team in Baltimore County is likely to intervene, considering Hereford has prevailed in 75 of its last 80 encounters with county rivals. The Bulls are 43-0 against county opponents since suffering a 10-7 setback to Towson High on March 27, 2009.
In their five championship seasons, Hereford's overall record is an astounding 91-6.
That domination means the Bulls will almost certainly have a less than daunting path to the state final four, a tournament in which they are riding a 10-game winning streak.
"Nobody wants to be the ones that don't get it done," said Cunningham, a senior goalie from Uppercoe. "It's something that we need to do."
With all of the talent coach Brian King has at his disposal, it's little wonder his team believes another state banner is waiting to be plucked.
For one thing, the Bulls have Cunningham to play in the goal, although junior Brock Turnbaugh gives them quality depth other teams could only dream about having.
Both are Division I-caliber stoppers headed to Hofstra University (Cunningham) and Johns Hopkins University (Turnbaugh), respectively.
Senior veteran close defensemen Josh Rider (Dickinson College), Eli Hess and Kemp Ensor will patrol in front of the crease while junior longstick Joe Schaeffer and shortsticks Andrew Fisher, a senior, and junior Connor Williams man the defensive midfield.
The first midfield line boasts Jack Adams (Towson University), Adam Ceribelli (Towson) and Jon Bauer. The second group features Hugh Huppman and A.J. Endres and sophomore Ben Bittner.
The attack is potent with seniors Joe Seider (Towson) and Ryan Jones (Salisbury University) and junior Jason Ashwood (High Point University).
"A lot of these guys have been playing together since they were little kids," King said. "And that's very important."
Another major factor in the Bulls' favor is that, unlike county foes Towson and Dulaney, they don't lose many potential players to private schools.
"We keep our guys home," King said.
And King will need every one of his players to be at their best for a rigorous non-league slate of games against teams from the powerful Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, widely regarded as the best prep boys lacrosse league in the nation.
The Bulls split a pair battles with A Conference members last season, losing to Gilman, 10-3, and edging St. Paul's in overtime, 11-10.
This year, they are at St. Paul's (March 22) before hosting Gilman (March 27) and Loyola Blakefield (April 2).
"We didn't schedule these games to lose," King said. "We respect them, but we can play, too."
Cunningham said that Hereford "won't change anything" when it plays those games.
"We won't be nervous," he said. "We'll play how we normally play."
All MIAA teams will employ the new regulations that include a shot clock, substitutions "on the fly" and quick restarts.
For the girls, last year's new rules regarding penalties for rough or dangerous plays might seem normal at this point.
Teams have probably adjusted to playing in "man down" situations by now, making players more comfortable — and safer — on the field.
Look below to see if your favorite team has a chance to be the last one standing after a season-long sprint to the finish.
2012 record: 16-2
Coach Bryan Kelly's quote: "We're still pretty good for a team that lost seven starters. If we can stay healthy, we'll be fine."
Breakdown: The defending MIAA A Conference champion Cardinals will still have something to say about which team ultimately prevails in the talent-rich conference.
Calvert Hall may not have the depth of its most recent championship club, but there's still plenty of talent to go around.
That's especially true on the defensive end with seniors Tyler Mayes (Towson), Garrett Epple (Notre Dame), Michael Lenahan (High Point), Matt Brashears (Towson), Jack D'Angelo and Tom Carroll (both Quinnipiac) joining junior Eric Evans (Ohio State).
The difference, though, could be in the goal with a host of inexperienced candidates hoping to fill the big shoes of Dimitri Pecunes, last year's standout keeper now manning the pipes at Stevenson University.
So far, senior Max Alderman earns the starting nod over juniors Daniel Flock (Vermont) or Henry Vido while sophomore Brodie Bartel and freshman Joe McSorely wait in the wings.
The midfield starts with U.S. Under-19 Team veteran Stephen Kelly (North Carolina) and fellow seniors Johnny Kelly (Ohio State), Jon Belz (Maryland), Matt Diehl (Quinnipiac), Jon Heneberry (Washington College) and Timmy Mahr.
Junior Andrew Fanshaw, sophomore Luke Ciccarone and freshmen Ethan Mintzer and Brendan Atkinson round out the unit.
Seniors Jordan Germerhausen (Loyola) and Chris Meyers spearhead the attack with junior transfer from Utah Carson Dutkanych, junior Garrett Christianson and sophomore Timmy Kelly (North Carolina).
Record last year: 13-6
Coach Kyle Fiat's quote: "The kids are incredibly hard workers. They are really ready to pay a heavy price and put everything on the line and see what happens."
Breakdown: The Lions have the most experience on attack, where senior Robby Matthey and juniors Keegan Colegrove and Joe Fingles return to the varsity.
"Our attack is going to be a strength of our team," Fiat said.
Midfielders striving to replace talented graduates Nick Benhoff and Louie Bafford (both now at Randolph Macon) include senior Tilghman Sanders, junior Will Fingles and sophomore Connor Benhoff.
Benhoff and Sanders should take over the faceoff role of Nick Benhoff.
Goalie Alex Stansbury graduated and earned a spot as a walk-on for the top-ranked University of Maryland squad this season.
Sophomores Burke McManus, a transfer from Calvert Hall, and Thomas Walsh, up from junior varsity, will vie for playing time between the pipes.
"They are two good candidates and our goal is to keep them competing against each other for playing time," Fiat said.
Juniors Scott Tucker and Matt Eibl, another Calvert Hall transfer, and sophomore Ben Stevens joins senior Gavan Scanlan on defense.
"We have a lot of great kids and phenomenal students and we have a lot of leadership on the team," Fiat said.
2012 record: 10-6.
Coach John Hanley's quote: "I like the senior leadership we have. We have 14 seniors. I think we have a good chance to win the region and go back to the state tournament."
Breakdown: Hanley has his concerns about the Raiders, but offense isn't one of them.
Loch Raven returns senior attacker Fotis Solomenedis (33 goals last year) and senior midfielders Jack Voelker (24 goals, 26 assists), Mike Ferris (13, 27) and Bryce Spurill (13 goals) to the starting lineup.
"It's one of the best midfield groups I've had," said Hanley, a sixth-year coach whose team lost to Patterson Mill in the Class 2A North Region final last year, 13-9. Our midfield will be very strong and we will have a pretty good attack."
On defense, the Raiders will have a revamped unit after the departure of three-year starters Ben Jones (York College) and Trey Mostyn (Goucher College).
The defense now features seniors Dimitri Sidou, Drew Wagner and Ross Sherrer and junior T. J. Hurley.
Sidou is the lone returning starter among the group that will play in front of senior goalie Brandon Glorioso.
"We are waiting to see now the chemistry develops," Hanley said of his defense. "I am trying to figure out the best combination to work for us."
2012 record: 12-4
Coach Jack Crawford's quote: "We're a young team that has taken a workmanlike approach. We don't have a lot of highly visible all-stars. We're more of a blue-collar team."
Breakdown: As the Dons showed in a 15-5 victory over Philadelphia rival Penn Charter on March 8, they have enough firepower for a return to the conference championship.
In that game, starting senior attackmen Devin Minamata (Villanova), Tyler Llewellyn and Kevin Jackson accounted for 11 goals and four assists. Sophomore Alex Roener figures to be part of the rotation.
Still, there's production to be had from senior Tim Nordbrook and sophomore midfield running mates Ryan Conrad (Virginia) and Jack Lombardo. The second line features juniors Chris Anderson and Mike Alderman and freshman Cole Williams.
Faceoff specialist Kevin O'Toole helps the Dons win time-of-possession wars.
Senior shortstick defenders Victor Licata and Bennett Bradley (Army) will join junior longstick Mike Meuer and sophomore Grant Gilmore on the defensive midfield unit.
Behind them, seniors Cole Luthy and Mike Freiji and juniors Ryan Gilliss and Parker Sessions man the close defense in front of Acie Newton and sophomore classmate Peter Juzwiak in the goal.
"This team knows that with less experience, they have to work much harder," Crawford said.
2012 record: 10-7
Coach Kristi Korrow's quote: "We had 12 seniors we lost from last year's team."
Breakdown: The Lions won't rebuild; They will just reload.
Dulaney boasts another large senior class with a whopping 11 on the roster.
And it's one talented group.
Ten team members have committed to play college lacrosse.
"I have some kids who are really hungry," said Kurrow, whose team lost to Catsonville, 13-10, in the Class 4A North Region last year. "Some of the seniors are really stepping up and showing what they can do. So I think that will work to our advantage. "
Dulaney appears strongest in goal with seniors Caroline Meegan (Boston) and Becca Katzen (Oregon).
"Caroline has split time the last two years," Kurrow said. "Now, she's ready to take control of the cage."
Meegan will be relying on a defense to protect her that is spearheaded by seniors Corinne Wood (Washington and Lee), Nia Marrow (Mount Union), Gina Legaluppi (Limestone) and Jaelin Porter (Howard).
The Lions figure to score plenty of goals with senior attackers Lauren Bundick
(Winthrop), Kelsey Swanson (Lenoir Rhyne) and Sarah Dorl (San Diego) and junior attacker Maddie Manzoni leading the way.
Bundick led the team in scoring last year
Seniors Kaeli O'Connor (Syracuse), Natalie Tinkham (Marymount) and Allison Kennelly and sophomore Ali Collie will anchor the midfield.
2012 record: 13-4
Coach Anne Ensor's quote: "Our defense has experience playing at this level. "We have some speed and height on attack so hopefully they will use that to their advantage. "
Breakdown: Seniors Jackie Howard (Mount St. Mary's), Emily May (Lehigh), Alex Gianotti and Caitlin Abbott and junior Hana Tankersley all have extensive varsity experience and should be the backbone of the team along with senior goalie MC Abbott and freshman Cassidy Nozemak.
Seniors Kendra Herbaner and Melissa Meehing and sophomore Lucy Reider will also help out on defense.
Senior Parrisa Sakinejad (Florida Southern) is the veteran of the midfield that includes juniors Jessie Lynch, Sarah Ashwood and Casey Kotchenreuter, sophomores Meghan Anderson, Noelle Funk and Caroline May (Florida) and freshman Rachel Karwacki.
Funk returns to the starting lineup after missing last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
Although 2012 leading scorer Jessica Wojciechowski (39 goals) graduated, senior MacKenzie Lange (37 goals) was the second leading scorer.
She leads an attack that includes seniors Lacey Aghazarian (Drexel), Sarah Matanin (Washington College), Marisa Cole and Maura Monti (St. Joseph's) and juniors Lacey Brown, Layne Litsinger and Brooke Kovinsky and sophomore Maria Collacchi.
2012 record: 10-7
Coach Tracy Hanley's quote: "I'm sure we will get back there (state semifinals) again."
Breakdown: Deep playoff runs are an annual thing for the Raiders.
Loch Raven has won four straight Class 2A-1A North Region championships under Hanley, who is 43-20 in five seasons.
The Raiders, however, are still chasing that elusive state title. They lost in the final four last year and the state championship game the
previous two seasons. All three defeats came to Winters Mill, of Carroll County.
And the 2013 Raiders look just as strong as those squads. Six players on the roster have committed to colleges, including five seniors.
"This group of seniors have been with me since they were freshmen," Hanley said.
The defense boasts seniors Allison Farrell (McDaniel), Sam Eckels (Furman) and junior Emma Norman.
That unit will protecting sophomore goalie Katy Stayley, who was promoted from last year's junior varsity and stepped in the preseason
to beat out three other players in the preseason for the starting job.
The Raiders graduated offensive standouts Maggie Wagnor and Christie Moyer, but seniors Meredith Moore (Vermont) and Tammy Justice
(Stevenson) return to lead the attack.
They're supported by a midfield featuring senior Sammie Knapp (Mount St. Mary's) and junior Courtney Genovese (Coastal Carolina), sophomore
Lindsay Wagner and senior Meredith House.
2012 record: 13-4
Coach Jessica Randisi's quote: "The girls think they're going to be as good as last year."
Breakdown: Matching last year's squad that came within a goal of taking consensus national champion McDonogh into overtime in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title game won't be easy.
After all, the Lions graduated nine seniors, including University of Florida recruits Sam Darcangelo and Carly Ross, from a team that never played a home game because a new turf field was being installed.
Those are some big shoes to fill, knowing that the Ross and Darcangelo were instrumental in the charge to the final.
However, with seniors Sydney Hesselbein (Elon University) and Emma Tizzard (Vermont), junior Kalyn Crocetti (UMBC) and sophomore Miranda Ibello (Hopkins) returning, the midfield will still have plenty of heft.
Seniors Amanda Bochniak (Marquette University) and CeCe Volker and junior Elena McWright (Vermont) will lead the attack unit.
Senior Julie Doyle (McDaniel College), junior Lauren Hudson (University of Cincinnati) and sophomores Maggie Huey and Emma Boris will patrol the defensive sector in front of goalie Caroline Federico (Hopkins) and her senior backup Carly Lutz.
"Everything is so much calmer and easier this year," Randisi said about the Lions being able to practice on campus for the first time since 2011.
Notre Dame Prep
2012 record: 10-9
Coach Mary Bartel's quote: "Our juniors gained valuable experience last year. We hope it translates in those close games and we turn the losses into wins."
Breakdown: Bartel understands the Blazers should be pretty good next year with 13 juniors on the roster.
They should be solid this spring, too.
"That core group of juniors are good leaders," Bartel said. "They are going to be great leaders. But they need to be tested and we have every confidence they will be. By mid season, we should be on a roll."
Good luck finding a weakness on NDP with 13 players committed to play in college.
With so much talent, Bartel is counting on stellar defense from seniors Grady Martin (James Madison) and Meghan Bennett (Navy) and juniors Morgan Bracken (Florida) and Blake Smith (Navy) in front of junior goalie Lucy Darlington (Wagner).
There's even more frontline juniors in the midfield with Caroline Doyle (Notre Dame), Georgia Tunney (Georgetown), Liz Haus (North Carolina) and Molly Cobb (Notre Dame).
Senior Sydney Cope (Winthrop) is also a big part of the midfield.
The midfielders will be feeding the ball to an attack highlighted by senior Hannah Jablonski (James Madison) and juniors Caroline Drusano (Georgetown) and Mae Tarr (Michigan).