Top players: Seniors Andrew Ellis (MF), Geronimo Hernandez (D) and Bryan Landaverde (MF); sophomores Josh Fawole (MF) and Quentin Valiente (F).

What you need to know: Even after two consecutive winless seasons, there’s optimism surrounding the Lightning program.

There’s a large senior class that makes up most of the team’s 11 returners, including seven total starters that are back. “Their experience will help to lead the squad on to grow from last year’s challenges,” said coach Horner, who also notes that the team will benefit from having a nice contingent of players up from the JV.

Long Reach’s forwards and offensive midfielders should be an area of strength. Valiente had 13 points (5 goals, 3 assists) as a freshman and he will combine with fellow-sophomore Fawole to create a nice one-two scoring punch.

Marriotts Ridge

Coach: Kevin Flynn

2012 record: 11-0, 17-0, county, 2A state champions

Top players: Seniors Khalil Anderson (F), Kwame-Owusu Boaitey (D), Andre Chen (MF), Jeff Kammerer (F), Amir Najib# (MF) and Keyan Shasti (MF); junior Patrick Schubert (MF).

What you need to know: The Mustangs will be trying to make a run at an unprecedented fifth consecutive state title this fall with a team featuring a ton of new faces. In fact, there are just five players on the roster that saw meaningful minutes during last year’s playoff run. Coach Flynn says this is the program’s youngest team since 2007.

The returning group is very strong, though, led by the duo of Najib and Kammerer up top. Both were among the top 15 scorers in the county a season ago. Owusu-Boaitey, Anderson and Chen bring a nice mix of speed, poise and skill to the midfield/defensive side of the ball.

With a new goalie and almost a completely new backline of defense, Flynn says it may take a little time for that unit to gel. “It will be important for us to finish opportunities since it will take awhile for the defense to gain experience,” he said. 

Mt. Hebron

Coach: Mike Linsenmeyer

2012 record: 7-4, 11-5

Top players: Seniors Zach Andreas (D), Danny Beatty (MF), Nolan Hoolachan (D), Jonathan Horrocks (F) and Anand Pradeep (MF); junior Matt Murphy (GK) and Alec Vaughn (D); sophomores Atticus Cooke (F) and Patrick Palin (MF).

What you need to know: The Vikings were a top half team a season ago, and Coach Linsenmeyer says he expects this group to be as good, if not better, than that squad. A lot of the optimism stems from having a senior class that has really taken a big step forward in the offseason. “Right after the season ended, I challenged the junior class to pick up right where the graduating senior class left off,” Linsenmeyer said. “They’ve really responded. Their leadership has been great.”

Right now, Linsenmeyer says he has 12-13 guys that have established themselves as versatile and hard working. The challenge, this preseason, has been finding where exactly each of those pieces best fit together.

Horrocks and Cooke, a transfer from Gilman, look to be the team’s go-to-guys up top. They will be trying to replace the offensive production of the all-county duo of Emmanuel Wright and Lucas Rose (county-best 14 assists). The rest of the line-up is a pretty even mixture of young and experienced players.

Oakland Mills

Coach: Don Shea