Compiled after consulting with Baltimore Sun staff and area coaches.
1. Severna Park
Coach: Tim Dunbar
Last season: 20-0, No. 1
Postseason: Class 4A state champion
Outlook: The Falcons lost Player of the Year Sophie Hoekstra from last year's team, but don't be fooled. Severna Park is still the team to beat in the area. Seniors Morgan Kline and Tara Register were both key parts of the state championship run, and they will lead a talented group. Dunbar will carry a team dominated by seniors and sophomores, so how fast the younger players adapt to their new roles will tell a lot. A return trip to College Park is the goal here, and it definitely is a possibility for this team.
2. Notre Dame Prep
Coach: Jim Isphording
Last season: 15-0, No. 5
Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion
Outlook: The Blazers had a magical season last year but look poised to repeat the performance this season. Isphording said he had 40 players come out for opening day tryouts, and 30 of those had club volleyball experience. The team is deeper than it was last year, but the main hole appears to be at setter, where the Blazers lost second-team All-Metro performer Anna Carmen to graduation. Seniors Francesca Link, Jessica Kelly, and Brook Newell will provide the leadership for this veteran team.
Coach: Cary Lyon
Last season: 17-1, No. 4
Postseason: Class 4A North final
Outlook: The Lions had a down season by their standards last year, but are poised to bounce back this season. A good core of players returns, led by seniors Olivia Finckel, Mallory Svoboda, and Rebecca Rawlinson. Lyon says he still has to find a libero, but that may be the only hole this team has. Dulaney has been dominant in Baltimore County the past few years, and Lyon has scheduled matches with Mount Hebron and will play in the tough Arundel Tournament early. Barring injuries, the Lions will contend for another spot in College Park this year.
Coach: Tracey Regalbuto
Last season: 13-4, No. 6
Postseason: Class 4A East final
Outlook: Broadneck is Anne Arundel County's wildcard this year. Regalbuto takes over a successful program which returns a lot of talent. The backline will be solid with senior Libero Amanda Sanabia leading the way, and Sophia Shepard will provide most of the offense and blocking at the net. The Bruins are always in the conversation in Anne Arundel County, but do they have enough to overtake rival Severna Park?
5. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Scott Rombach
Last season: 14-7, No. 12
Postseason: IAAM A Conference runner-up
Outlook: Five starters return for the A Conference finalists, and the team will certainly boast a lot of experience. Seniors McKenzie Mensch and Naiya Ealde will provide most of the offense, and junior Sydney Mose will be the primary setter. The Cavaliers have scheduled most of the Anne Arundel public school powers Broadneck, South River, and Severna Park early, so a quick start could be the key to their season. If Notre Dame Prep falters, the Cavs could be the team to beat in the A Conference.
Coach: Michael Rainbow
Last season: 12-3, No. 9
Postseason: Class 2A West regional final
Outlook: Liberty looks to be the most complete team in the new Carroll County League, and experience returns at every position. Rainbow likes the mix of seniors he has, as well as some of the younger players who have surprised him so far. Kasey Bost is one of the better liberos in the area, and will run the defense, while setter Caroline Dangel and hitter Elle Shatto will set up most of the offense. Look for the Lions to do well this season.
Coach: Mike Bossom
Last season: 10-6, unranked
Postseason: Class 3A East sectional semifinal
Outlook: The Eagles have the richest tradition of any program in the area, and the team should rebound nicely from a down season last year. Bossom returns for his second season to a team that now knows his style. He says his team still has to prove itself, but Centennial can count on a group that includes sophomore setter Emily Przybyla and sisters Emily Allen and Camryn Allen running the offense. The Howard County league should be very balanced this year, but look for the Eagles at or near the top.
8. South River
Coach: Maureen Carter
Last season: 15-3, No. 2
Postseason: Class 4A East regional final
Outlook: South River lost three great players last year, including first-team All-Metro performer Madison Carter, but Maureen Carter (Madison's mother) always seems to find a way to replace good players. The team appears to be strong all over the court with senior Taylor Mungin and junior Nicole Alford providing most of the firepower. The team will also benefit from several transfers, including junior Francesca LaRocca (Dulaney). If Severna Park or Broadneck slip this season, this could be the Seahawks' year.
9. River Hill
Coach: Lynn Paynter
Last season: 8-6, unranked
Postseason: Class 3A East first round
Outlook: After a down year last season, the Hawks appear to be a force again. The team will be led by seniors Isabel Paci and Hannah Siaurusaitis, and will be strong at the net with more firepower. Paynter says the defense is a work in progress, but the Hawks will have the benefit of 10 returning seniors this time around. In a transition year for Howard County, the combination of a large roster and all that experience puts River Hill right in the thick of things.
Coach: Ashley Yuscavage
Last season: 12-4, No. 7
Postseason: Class 4A East sectional final
Outlook: The Wildcats will be young this season, but still return a good, experienced core to go with a young team. Yuscavage, one of the area's best coaches, says she loves the enthusiasm she sees, but the team will have to grow up quickly to compete in the tough Anne Arundel County league. Seniors Adrianna Hadlock and Kelsey Coates will be counted on to provide the leadership. Look for the Wildcats to grow as the season on, and to push the other traditional county powers for the league title.
Coach: Jason Monjes
Last season: 15-3, No. 3
Postseason: Class 3A state runner-up
Outlook: The Gladiators lost all-metro first teamer Sarah Girard from a state finalist team, and replacing her offense will be the biggest obstacle that Glenelg will face. Rachael Girard, Sarah's sister, returns to lead this senior-dominated team this season. Monjes says losing in the state championship "left a bad taste in our mouths," and that will be a motivation for the team. The Gladiators will be tested, however, in the balanced Howard County league.
Coach: Bryan Trumbo
Last season: 10-6, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A West sectional semifinal
Outlook: The Knights return eight seniors this season, and they will form the backbone of the team. The team should have one of the strongest liberos in the state, as junior Sarah Riggin returns for her third season on the varsity. Seniors Shannon Lilly and 6-foot-2 Victoria Prokic, who was injured most of last year, will provide most of the offense, which should be a lot more balanced this season. It looks like the Knights will fight it out with archrival Liberty for the county title.
13. Marriotts Ridge
Coach: Amanda Olsen
Last season: 12-6, No. 11
Postseason: Class 2A state semifinal
Outlook: One of the surprise teams last season, the Mustangs caught fire late in the season and road the adrenaline all the way to the state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Oakdale. The team should be strong in most of the positions on the court, with the offense – led by seniors Rachael Dobbs and Molly Meininger – being the major strength. Olsen thinks this year's team is better than the one she had last season, and the Mustangs have a chance to return to College Park.
Coach: Dave Schreiner
Last season: 15-4, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A state semifinal
Outlook: The Bulls showed what they were made of last season when they advanced to the state semifinals in College Park for the second year in a row, and Schreiner thinks this team will be even better than that one. The Bulls only return three seniors, but will have the benefit of nine juniors who have experience this season. The biggest question here is how will the two new starting middle hitters do? Starters Cameron Dibaud, a senior, and Erin Collins and Sabrina Bradford, both juniors, will be counted on to provide their leadership.
15. Bel Air
Coach: Dave Marzola
Last season: 15-3, No. 14
Postseason: Class 3A North regional final
Outlook: Bel Air lost a lot of its offensive firepower, but will still be strong up the middle. The Bobcats will feature a junior-dominated team, and the new players moving up from the J.V. will have to grow quickly for the team to do well. Marzola has beefed up the schedule with several tough non-league opponents. If the team can find a setter then they should compete for the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference title.
Other teams considered: Atholton (2-11), Catonsville (7-7), Howard (12-3), McDonogh (9-5), Mount de Sales (9-9), Mt. Hebron (11-6), Towson (13-2).