Coach: Larry Schofield. Last season: 20-0, ranked No. 1. Postseason: Class 3A state champion.
Coach: Scott Graf. Last season: 18-1, No. 3. Postseason: Class 4A state champion.
Outlook: Northeast transfer Katie Shorter should help make up for the loss of All-Metro hitter Caroline Jacobs. The Bruins won their second consecutive Class 4A state title last year and will be a strong contender to win a third.
3. Mount de Sales
Coach: Monica Owensby. Last season: 16-3, No. 2. Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion.
Outlook: Hannah Schmidt and Katy Buck lead an experienced team that will be heavily favored to repeat as IAAM A Conference champions. Owensby replaces All-Metro Coach of the Year Kenny Mills.
4. Severna Park
Coach: Jamie Leventry. Last season: 15-3, No. 8. Postseason: Class 4A East finalist. Outlook: The Falcons lost seven seniors from last year, but five starters return to a veteran lineup that includes hitters Christi Laite and Sam Henke. The Falcons, as usual, will push Broadneck in the Anne Arundel County league.
5. River Hill
Coach: Sybil Modispacher. Last season: 15-3, No. 7. Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist.
Outlook: Last year's loss in the state semifinals will motivate the Hawks, who must replace All-Metro first-team pick Becky Paynter at setter. Transfer Megan Rosburg will make this talented squad even better.
Coach: Nicole Hoover. Last season: 17-1, No. 6. Postseason: Class 3A East finalist.
Outlook: The Cougars will benefit from a move to Class 2A and out of powerhouse Centennial's region. Hoover said this is the most athletic team she has had at Fallston.
Coach: Emily Berman. Last season: 17-3, No. 5. Postseason: Class 3A state finalist.
Outlook: The Generals surprised everyone in Berman's first season by making a run to the state title game, but no one will overlook Towson this year. Seven seniors and three starters return to a team that will be the class of Baltimore County.
8. Wilde Lake
Coach: Caitlyn Geoghan. Last season: 13-5, No. 11. Postseason: Class 3A East semifinalist.
Outlook: Geoghan, The Baltimore Sun's Howard County Coach of the Year last season, said the Wildecats have more players with club experience than ever before. That should help, as Wilde Lake needs to replace four starters.
9. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Scott Rumbach. Last season: 14-5, No. 10. Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist.
Outlook: The Cavaliers saw 46 girls try out for the team, which should help in the tough A conference. The hitters should be the strength of a squad that returns six players.
Coach: Carol Ferrante. Last season: 11-5, unranked. Postseason: Class 3A East semifinalist.
Outlook: After a down year, the Gators should be one of the top teams in the tough Howard County league. Ferrante likes the attitude on the team, but the Gators must replace setter Tiffany Jacobson, who graduated.
Coach: Brian Trumbo. Last season: 17-2, No. 4. Postseason: Class 2A state champion.
Outlook: The Lions surprised almost everyone by winning a state title last year. First-year coach Trumbo will have to replace hitter Amanda McCraken, a second-team All-Metro player who graduated.
12. Mount Hebron
Coach: Mike Moynihan. Last season: 9-7, unranked. Postseason: Class 2A South semifinalist.
Outlook: The Vikings have three players who played on a championship club team this summer, and they are everyone's surprise team in Howard County. Moynihan uses the word "potential" a lot, but the Vikings will have to make good on it quickly to compete in the area's toughest league.
Coach: Don Beall. Last season: 10-11, unranked. Postseason: Class 1A state finalist.
Outlook: The Gladiators will be led by senior hitter Casey Schmidt, who may be the best player in Howard County. The team should be better than last year, but the move up in class from 1A to 2A could be a challenge.
14. Bryn Mawr
Coach: Tim Dunbar. Last season: 10-7, unranked. Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist.
Outlook: The Mawrtians, led by 6-foot-1 sophomore hitter Susannah Matthai, should push Mount de Sales and Archbishop Spalding in the tough A Conference. Bryn Mawr's lack of upperclassmen could be a concern.
Coach: Cary Lyon. Last season: 11-3,No. 14. Postseason: Class 4A North finalist.
Outlook: The Lions were hit hard by graduation, returning only four players. Still, Lyon will get the most out of players up from a strong junior varsity team, and the Lions will be buoyed by a large turnout at tryouts.
OTHERS CONSIDERED: Bel Air (5-10, unranked), Catonsville (13-4, No. 12), Notre Dame Prep (15-1, No. 13), Perry Hall (13-3, unranked), St. Paul's (18-2, No. 8), South River (10-5, unranked)