There is a bit of buzz and mystery sounding the Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse program these days. The Vikings return nine starters — enough to get people talking even though the team finished with an 8-8 mark last season.
Mt. Hebron coach Mike McCarthy knows, however, that his team has a lot to prove before they can be considered a front runner.
“I'm not sure if (the kids) have heard anyone saying anything like that,” McCarthy said. “Our team expectations are the same as they always are. Our goal is to be the best team in the county.
“Whether that is the case or not, we ask our young men to always play hard, compete to the highest level, and make the most out of the opportunities that are given to them. If we are able to do those things we will be successful.”
Salisbury-bound senior attack Jake Stevens tied Glenelg’s Nick Wynne — the two-time Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Player of the Year —with 116 points to lead the county last season. Stevens’ 71 goals were a league-high as he is already the Vikings’ all-time leading scorer.
Second team all-county selections Adam Huber and Connor Dubois are also back in the fold.
“Our experience will be a huge factor for us,” McCarthy said. “I have a great group of highly motivated and determined seniors. We will go as far as they lead us.”
While Mt. Hebron is hoping to be a contender in the league race, defending county champion and state runner-up Glenelg is still atop the summit of the mountain.
The Gladiators lost all-county attack Mikey Wynne (80 points last season), who transferred to Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) A Conference power St. Paul’s.
But the cupboard is far from bare for coach Josh Hatmaker, as six all-county picks including Mark Darden and Anthony Pagnotta are back to try and maintain dominance. The program hasn’t dropped a game to a county opponent since 2009 – a 7-6 loss to Marriotts Ridge. The streak spans 46 games including four postseason matches.
Marriotts Ridge and Howard are poised to remain at the top of the bunch after finishing second and third, respectively, in the standings a year ago. The Lions lost some key offensive players, but have plenty of firepower back in the mix, while the Mustangs lost a lot to graduation but look to get a boast from senior Sean Harrison, who returns after a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season.
“Glenelg is the best until somebody knocks them off,” Marriotts Ridge coach Anthony Incontrera said. “Mt. Hebron returns every starter, so they should be considered a top team. Howard has tremendous depth, and will create problems for all of the top teams.”
Atholton and Centennial each had seven county wins last season, while River Hill, Reservoir and Wilde Lake are young teams that are talented.
Here’s a look around the county:
2012 record: 7-4 county, 10-6 overall
Top players: Seniors Kyle Courtney (MF), Kevin Guy (D), Brendan O'Malley (A), Graham Kantor (D) and Jake Mills (G); junior Tyler Shams (MF); sophomore Sam Smith (MF).
What you need to know:
The Raiders bring back six starters from last season and the vacant positions are being filled by players with several seasons worth of varsity experience. That experience should be a strength, led by captains Kyle Courtney (second-team all-county), Kevin Guy and Brendan O’Malley.
“This team is lucky to have tremendous senior leadership,” first-year head coach Erik Burnett said. “Beyond just the captains, there are a large number of kids who really care about doing things the right way, and being successful. I think that any success that we have this year can be partly credited to the example that the leaders have set for the younger guys.”
Burnett feels that the play of his keepers will determine the team’s success.
“We have three talented guys vying for the starting spot and we are hoping that the competition leads to us having consistently strong play in the cage.”
2012 record: 7-4, 7-6
Top players: Seniors Bryan Ruygrok (G), Stephen Latona (A) and Ryan Swentzel (MF); juniors Andrew Gavlin (A), Chase Conley (D) and Quinn Western (MF); sophomore Kevin Wilson (D).
What you need to know: The Eagles have the luxury of returning eight starters, including one of the top goalies in the county in Bryan Ruygrok, who had a save percentage of .635 last season. All-county selection Steve Latona (33 goals, 16 assists) is an excellent shooter and long-stick middie Ryan Swentzel will help patrol an untested midfield unit.
“We are a veteran team with multiple years of varsity experience,” coach Nick Kellinger said. “We are playing with a chip on our shoulder after coming up short on some of our goals in the last few seasons.”
The defense should be able to keep Centennial competitive in every game and Kellinger hopes the defensive pressure will spark a fast break, transition offense.
The Eagles open the season against Glenelg before facing out-of-county rival Catonsville two days later.
2012 record: 11-0, 17-3
Top players: Seniors Mark Darden (MF), Drew Dziwulski (D), Anthony Pagnotta (MF) and Christian Salandra (D); juniors Tyler Wasson (MF), Nick Forrest (A) and Landry Marshall (G).
What you need to know: The Gladiators return a hard-working group with tons of experience in 2013. There are some holes to fill — including the scoring production of St. Paul’s transfer Mikey Wynne — but with six all-county performers slated to return, Glenelg still expects to be in the driver’s seat for another county title.
The offense is going to be led by Hobart-college bound Mark Darden (32 goals, 19 assists), Nick Forrest (46 goals, 12 assists) and Navy recruit Tyler Wasson (20 goals, 15 assists).
Anthony Pagnotta, arguably one of the top face-off men in the entire state, returns for the Gladiators to provide possession control. The Towson-bound midfielder won over 200 face-offs last season, good enough for a win percentage of about .700.
The defense will be powered by all-county performers Drew Dziwulski, Landry Marshall and Ben Carta. Christian Salandra is also a top defender.
Glenelg has won at least a share of every county title since 2008.
2012 record: 2-9, 2-10
Top players: Seniors John Suntum (MF), Reed Wehrmeister (A), Elliott Wascavage (MF), Colin Mason (MF), Victor Nannan (D), Nick Johnson (D) and Arnett Dorsey (D); junior Ben Ballard (G).
What you need to know: The Golden Bears bring back four starters, including their entire midfield comprised of seniors Elliott Wascavage, Colin Mason and John Suntum. Overall, there are 17 players on the roster with varsity experience, including a strong junior class.
The midfield will undoubtedly be the team’s strongpoint. Ben Ballard will provide great leadership in goal and has been working very well with three senior defensemen in front of him (Victor Nannan, Nick Johnson, Arnett Dorsey). The defense is athletic and will look to keep Hammond in close games, which would really help out a young attack.
“We need our young guys to step up and play with confidence,” coach Chris Reagle said. “We have the talent, now it's a question of who is going to make plays this year. We have several young guys in position to have breakout seasons — it is only a matter of confidence.”
2012 record: 9-2, 13-5
Top players: Seniors Nick Striebich (A), Ryan Mills (A), John Keohane (MF) and Cooper Gerus (MF); juniors Peter Emery (D), Bryan Mauser (G) and John Travisano (MF); sophomore Adam Friedman (D).
What you need to know: The Lions have finished in the double-digit win column in three of the last four years, and this season looks to be more of the same. Howard does have some big shoes to fill at the midfield position after losing all-county players Dan Kaplan (Lynchburg College) and Brock Wendt (HCC) to graduation. John Keohane returns to guide the midfield through the transition along with John Travisano and Cooper Gerus (Lebanon Valley), who tallied 19 goals last season.
Attackers Nick Striebich (Widener) and Ryan Mills (Christopher Newport) are back as starters and are a tough 1-2 scoring punch. Striebich — a second-team all-county selection — had 39 goals and 16 assists last season, while Mills (26 goals, 34 assists) was sixth in the county in scoring.
Peter Emery, Adam Friedman and Bryan Mauser are all back to pace a defense that allowed an average of 6.5 goals per game last season.
“I think everything is a work in progress at this point in the season,” coach Jimmy Creighton said. “It is tough to tell what our strengths will be in May, compared to now. I feel like we are athletic all over the field, which I hope can be a positive for our team.”
2012 record: 0-11, 2-12
Top players: Seniors Daquan Dixon (MF), David Fox (MF), Vincent Valenza (A), Justin Brown (G), Austin Lintz (D) and Jack St. Hilaire (D); junior Brandon Reggie (MF).
What you need to know: The Lightning looks to have speed all over the field, led by captains Daquan Dixon, David Fox, Brandon Reggie and Vincent Valenza. Three-year starting keeper Justin Brown returns with help from defenders Austin Lintz and Jack St. Hilaire.
2012 record: 10-1, 14-3
Top players: Seniors Paul Bennett (D), Jack Dawes (D), Sam Hebner (A) and Duncan Campbell (MF); junior Austin Dorsey (MF); sophomores Eric Skogmo (MF) and Sam McCoy (MF).
What you need to know: The Mustangs were hit hard by graduation but have several solid returners back. They allowed an average of only four goals per game last season and defense will again be a staple of the team. Paul Bennett, a returning first team all-county defender, caused 33 turnovers and scooped up 72 groundballs during the 2012 season.
Jack Dawes is a second-year starter who will play a pivotal role on defense.
Sam Hebner was a part-time starter last year but looks to become the team’s go-to player on offense, while Duncan Campbell is a returning faceoff specialist who should be a top contributor to the restructured Marriotts Ridge offense.
“Nearly every starter is stepping into a role that they are not accustomed to,” coach Anthony Incontrera said. “If they are able to embrace their role, then the team will continue their recent run of successful seasons. If not, it could turn into a rebuilding year.”
Senior midfielder Sean Harrison is a returning first team all-county player and should provide a jolt to the offense after his junior season was cut short by an ACL tear.
2012 record: 7-4, 8-8
Top players: Seniors Jake Stevens (A), Adam Huber (A), Nick Lucchesi (MF), Michael O’Rourke (MF), Jamie McLamb (D), Joe Valentino (D) and Jon Nass (G); juniors Connor Dubois (D), Zach Stevens (A), Thomas Stone (MF) and Dillon Solo (MF).
What you need to know: Nine starters return for the Vikings and experience will surely be a strength. Another strongpoint will be scoring as Mt. Hebron brings back the county’s leading scorer Jake Stevens, who had eight games with 10 or more points scored on his way to 116 points.
Canisius-bound attackman Adam Huber was a second team all-county selection last season after scoring 28 goals. Three-year starter Nick Lucchesi won 60 percent of his face-offs in 2012 and also accounted for 22 points.
“We are going to be very well balanced,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We have strong leadership and talented players at each position.”
Senior captain Michael O’Rourke will patrol the midfield, while defenseman Connor DuBois (over 90 groundballs) and goalie Jon Nass will captain the defense.
2012 record: 1-10, 2-13
Top players: Seniors Jimmy Riss (D), Jack Farrall (MF) and Vincent Dudek (G); juniors Brandon Andrews (G) and Wyatt Neely (A).
What you need to know: Senior captains Jimmy Riss and Vincent Dudek are the only two returning starters for the Scorpions. Riss led the defense with 64 ground balls and five goals to go along with five assists last season, and Dudek finished with a save percentage of .550.
Jack Farrall is the team’s top returning scorer but missed all of last year with a broken collarbone.
“Since we lack experience and we are a relatively young team, our success will be dependent upon how quickly we mature as a team,” coach Matt Hipszer said. “They will have to mature very quickly in order to be competitive with other teams in the county. We are simply looking to improve from one day to the next day; one game to the next game.”
Hipszer believes the team’s strength will be its work ethic more than anything else.
“Since we lack experience and skill we will have to outwork and out grind our opponents for 48 minutes in order to be competitive.”
Brandon Andrews will be looking to push Dudek in the goal for playing time and Wyatt Neely will attempt to provide some scoring on offense to complement Farrall.
2012 record: 4-7, 6-10
Top players: Seniors Austin Marsh (A), Ryan Kevin (MF) and Zack Hess (D); juniors Trent Teodori (G), Austin Mitchell (A), Cole Evans (MF) and Max Schuster (MF).
What you need to know: The Gators only lost five players from last season’s squad and returns a solid nucleus.
“These kids are a hard-working bunch who are looking to play the game tough this season,” coach Bryan Cole said.
Cole has a lot of trust in third-year starting goalie Trent Teodori. Also back is Zach Hess, who is expected to be the leader on defense.
Austin Mitchell (6-foot-2) will be a load to handle on attack and Austin Marsh is one of the team’s leading returning scorers.
The midfield may be the most experienced unit with three starters back in the fold. Ryan Kevin will be used all over the field, taking face-offs while also playing both offense and defense. Cole Evans is a three-year starter and Max Schuster, the Gators’ starting quarterback for the football team, will be tough in between the restraining lines.
2012 record: 4-7, 6-10
Top players: Seniors Jon Matsunaga (MF), Daniel Healy (MF), Nick Schanee (MF), Weston Bimstefer (D) and J.T. Bostic (A); sophomores Kelly Bremson (D), Grant Bimstefer (A), Jimmy McEneaney (A), Zach Beard (A) and Darius Khademi (G).
What you need to know: The Hawks return seven starters, most of whom are underclassman. Sophomores Grant Bimstefer (11 goals, 16 assists), Jimmy McEneaney and Zach Beard are all back for their second varsity seasons and will be counted on from their attack positions. Senior J.T. Bostick also returns on attack to provide stability.
“Attack is going to be the strength of the team early but I think the defense will progress as the year goes on,” coach Keith Gonsouland said.
Sophomore Darius Khademi looks to step in as the Hawks’ starting goalie after the graduation of first team all-county pick Matt Oldhouser.
“We have a strong mixture of seniors and sophomores, who will have to grow up fast for us to have success,” Gonsouland said. “We’ll improve as the year goes along and our goal is to get a little better each day to put ourselves in the best position for the region.”
2012 record: 4-7, 7-8
Top players: Seniors Colin Tiffey (MF), Shawn Winans (MF) and Jeremy Kass (G); junior Siyon Lowe (A).
What you need to know: Colin Tiffey and Shawn Winans are three-year varsity players who have seen the program go from an average of three wins over the past couple of seasons to seven last year. Tiffey has 47 goals and 21 assists in his career with over 140 ground balls, while Winans has a career faceoff win percentage just under 70 percent.
Senior Jeremy Kass in the goal will be key on the defensive side of the field for a unit that was hit hard by graduation. The Wildecats have nine players back who saw significant time last season. Junior Siyon Lowe (20 goals, 13 assists) is poised to have a breakout season.
“This is by far the most talented team I have had in my four years at the Lake,” coach Jonathan Robinson said. “If we have trust with one another and the 'no one is bigger then the team' mentality, we will have a good season.”
Wilde Lake opens the season with tough tests from Howard, Mt. Hebron and Reservoir.
“We are going to find out where we are at right away,” Robinson said. “We were 1-3 against those teams last year.”
2012 record: 1-11 MIAA B, 2-11
Top players: Senior Greg Wootton (G); junior Emory Parker (D).
What you need to know:
The Dragons return five starters from a season ago, including captains and defensive anchors Greg Wootton and Emory Parker. Glenelg Country increased its numbers this season, carrying 20 players, but are very young. There are just two seniors and four juniors on the roster — the rest are all underclassman.
Coach Risto Worthington believes the youth will be both good and bad.
“It’s good because we are building a solid foundation for our lacrosse program,” Worthington said. “It can be bad because we are in a ‘trial by fire’ situation. We will have to learn some lessons the hard way but it will pay off towards the end of the season.”
Collin Dizon leads a strong and skilled attack unit. A rough five-game stretch on the road in April will show the Dragons where they are. Freshmen Wyatt Naylor (A), Sean Escalante (M), Pat Welsh (M), Eric Wootton (D), Sam Smith (M), Brandon Harry (A) and Reid Chaconas (M) will all see the field early.
2012 record: 6-7 MIAA C, 7-8
Top players: Senior Jamel Murphy (MF); juniors Jordan Jones (D), Hochang Han (F), Patrick Carson (A), Nick Taylor (MF) and John Rolewicz (MR); sophomores James Mannino (G), Temi Aladesuru (MF), Tommy Carlson (G) and Jack Flynn (MF).
What you need to know: The Yellowjackets went from one win in 2011 to seven victories last season. They are looking to continue on that upswing with a youthful squad that will be buoyed by experience in key positions.
Four-year starter Jamel Murphy leads the way on offense along with Patrick Carson. The offense gets started thanks to Hochang Han on face-offs.
“Our offensive players have the most experience and will lead the team,” said first-year head coach Mark DeCrispino. “The team graduated their starting defense from last year and our defense will be rebuilding.
Jordan Jones will be the leader of an untested defense. A key will be getting the young players up to speed quickly. The team took a hit after losing sophomore Luke McNamara for the season with a knee injury.