Julia Cain

River Hill junior goalie Julia Cain is coming off an all-county season last fall where she allowed just one goal against en route to leading the Hawks to the 3A State Championship. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda / September 2, 2013)

In 2012, The River Hill Hawks finished a perfect 19-0, capping off an extraordinary season with a 1-0 win over C. Milton Wright for the school's eighth state title.

Don't count on this season to be any different from the last, as coach Brian Song prepares his squad for a run at a repeat.

"There are no changes from year to year," he said. "The players want to win the county, and state, as it is the tradition at River Hill."

Sheridan Street returns for her senior season with the Hawks. In 2012, she led the county's public schools in goals (22) and points (53).

Street joins an impressive list of returning first-team all-county players for River Hill. Juniors Alex Hamer and Jen Voyton each give Song a lot of options on offense. Hamer was last year's county leader in assists, while Voyton looks to improve on her 11-goal, eight-assist performance from a year ago. Junior Julia Cane returns in the net as one of the county's top goalkeepers after only allowing one goal in 2012.

Many Howard County coaches agree that the Hawks are the frontrunners.

"It's River Hill's race to lose," said Marriotts Ridge coach Robin Grey. "They return a plethora of talent. If they stay healthy, I believe they will maintain their hold of the county."

"Sheridan Street and Alex Hamer are quite difficult to keep in check," said Reservoir coach Josh Sullivan.

Wilde Lake coach Davia Procida agrees, calling Street a "dynamic player" that "demands so much attention from the defense."

Said Centennial coach Steven Baxter: "River Hill has the most varsity talent year after year. They are always a top two or three pick every season."

While many coaches say River Hill will likely continue its stranglehold on the county, don't count out the likes of Atholton, Long Reach or Marriotts Ridge. Some coaches even have teams like Reservoir, Wilde Lake and Centennial as possible candidates to take down the Hawks as well.

The Atholton Raiders lost 23 goals and 18 assists in graduating seniors Katrina Macadoff and Maddie Boccio. However, county coaches still aren't sleeping on a rebuilding Raiders club.

Long Reach returns senior Ana Rebaza, who scored 11 goals for the Lightning. Rachel Kim will be patrolling the defense again this season as well for a Long Reach program that made it to the state semifinals a year ago.

In 2012, Marriotts Ridge fielded the county player of the year in Morgan Crable. Her departure will create some big shoes to fill, but Grey said her team has reloaded.

"(Not having Crable) hurts, but I am fortunate to have a core group of talented, athletic kids coming back," she said.

Those returning players for the Mustangs include all-county selections in senior keeper Jenna Bergquist (first team) and senior defender Morgan Huchuli (second team). Bergquist recorded an impressive 82.8 save percentage in 2012.

An injury-ravaged season may have held the Mustangs back in 2012, but Grey looks at the season as a chance to learn about her players.

"I believe the experience made us stronger as a program because it forced me to develop my younger talent quicker than anticipated."

A strong defense-first philosophy for Reservoir will be expanded upon this season, as coach Sullivan expects his squad to be solid throughout. Each captain has played a significant role on varsity for the past three seasons.

For Wilde Lake, captains Sarah Hulit, Becca Riley and Carliane LaGuerre "lead by example and understand that the success of this team comes from developing trust amongst all the players," according to Procida.