1. Notre Dame Prep
Coach: Katrina Ross
Last season: 18-0, ranked No. 1
Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion
Outlook: After a dream season, the Blazers will again cause nightmares for the rest of the Baltimore area. All but one starter returns to a team that outscored opponents 78-8, led by All-Metro Player of the Year Nathalie Friedman, a national-level midfielder headed to Wake Forest. But she’s far from the only weapon for Ross, who has seven players committed to Division I schools. They include first-team All-Metro defender Rachel Borzymowski (Boston University) and midfielders Olivia Kenny (Penn) and Meredith Medvetz (Wake Forest). With a more challenging nonconference schedule, another perfect season might be difficult, but the Blazers definitely look to again be the class of the A Conference. They begin the season ranked No. 11 nationally by MAX Field Hockey.
2. Severna Park
Coach: Shannon Garden
Last season: 14-2, ranked No. 2
Postseason: Class 4A East semifinalist
Outlook: Garden, a former assistant at Archbishop Spalding, takes over a program that many believe would’ve won a state title last season if not for a forfeit for off-the-field activities. Thirteen players return, including first-team All-Anne Arundel County forward Lila Slattery (15 goals, seven assists) and second-teamers Alex Miller (forward) and Hailey Blachly (midfielder). The addition of 10 newcomers from an undefeated junior varsity squad should help put the Falcons right back in the state title hunt, and they begin the season ranked No. 10 in the Mid-Atlantic region by MAX Field Hockey.
Coach: Joan Johnson
Last season: 15-4, ranked No. 3
Postseason: Class 3A state champion
Outlook: The two-time defending Class 3A state champion returns Rachel Fleig, the reigning Capital Gazette Player of the Year, as well as first-team All-Anne Arundel County goalie Eve Vickery and Eryn Beal, who has scored goals in each of the past two state title games. Standing in their way, however, will be one of the metro area’s most challenging schedules, which includes dates with Archbishop Spalding, Garrison Forest, Notre Dame Prep, Camden Catholic (N.J.) and Delmar (Del.). The Cougars begin the season ranked No. 14 in the Mid-Atlantic region by MAX Field Hockey.
4. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Leslee Brady
Last season: 11-6-1, ranked No. 10
Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist
Outlook: In her 21st year at the helm, Brady returns one of the top players on the East Coast in forward Margot Lawn, who finished with 28 goals and seven assists a year ago to earn third-team All-America honors. Seniors Olivia Malamphy (midfield) and Haley Urgo (defense) and sophomores Shelby Bumgarner (midfield) and Lily Grant (defense) also will be key players on a team that took unbeaten Notre Dame Prep to overtime in the playoffs. Defense will be key for a team that graduated eight seniors, and yet begins this season ranked No. 17 in the Mid-Atlantic region by MAX Field Hockey.
5. Garrison Forest
Coach: Traci Davis
Last season: 16-5, ranked No. 5
Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist
Outlook: The perennial power of the A Conference should again be in the mix this season. Seniors Leigh James (midfield) and Emma Nesbitt (defense) and junior Celia Donner (midfield) lead a team that averaged 3.5 goals per game a year ago. Despite the graduation of five starters, the Grizzlies always manage to reload, and begin this season ranked No. 19 in the Mid-Atlantic region by MAX Field Hockey.
6. South River
Coach: Megan Atkinson
Last season: 13-6, ranked No. 6
Postseason: Class 4A state champion
Outlook: With 20 of 23 players back from last season, the Seahawks should be even stronger than a year ago. A pair of three-year varsity starters, first-team All-Metro defender McKenzie Jamison (Salisbury) and second-team attacker-midfielder Darcy Clement (Boston College) anchor a squad that should be strong on both sides of the ball. Senior Allison Corey (Appalachian State) and sophomore Meagan Quick should play vital roles in the midfield.
7. C. Milton Wright
Coach: Kelly Mattingly
Last season: 17-2, ranked No. 7
Postseason: Class 3A state finalist
Outlook: Though the Mustangs lack some depth, they once again will pack a powerful punch. A pair of second-team All-Metro players, forward Sam Aljets (22 goals, 14 assists) and midfielder Georgia Beachley (14 goals, 12 assists), lead a squad that returns six starters and is hungry for a state title. Olivia Hennessey, Annie Keele and Taylor Marketti are expected to make key contributions at midfield, and Ellie Muffley will pace a defense that recorded 10 shutouts a year ago.
Coach: Denise Wolf
Last season: 11-6-1, ranked No. 13
Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinals
Outlook: The Eagles should get a major boost with the return of standout forward Katelyn Whittle, who had 15 goals and five assists as a sophomore before missing most of last season with a shattered jaw. The return of All-Metro midfielder Emma Schettig gives McDonogh one of the area’s top scoring tandems. The Eagles return Liv Geoghan in goal, Jillian Ansell on defense and Izzy Marsh at midfield after losing just two starters to graduation.
Coach: Jen Plack
Last season: 8-4-1, ranked No. 9
Postseason: Class 4A East Section II finalist
Outlook: Paced by Division I commits Megan Munley (Maryland), Sophia Hartman (Lehigh) and Emily Eckels (New Hampshire), the Bruins feature an abundance of talent, as well as a core group that has played together since elementary school. Munley, a first-team All-Metro forward, is a versatile player who finished with seven goals and eight assists, while Hartman, a second-team All-Metro defender, anchored a defensive unit that allowed one goal or none six times.
Coach: Nikki Trunzo
Last season: 12-4, ranked No. 4
Postseason: Class 2A state champion
Outlook: The Gladiators are short on experience in some spots, but otherwise fast, athletic and coachable. The team lost six starters to graduation, including first-team All-Metro midfielder Paige Reese and second-team defender Maddy O’Brien. Both were vocal leaders and will be difficult to replace. Junior Kathryn Hoffman and senior Jenny Giampalmo lead a strong group of midfielders on a squad that outscored opponents last season 44-10.
Coach: Laurie Moody Naill
Last season: 14-4, ranked No. 12
Postseason: Class 3A West finalist
Outlook: A trio of talented seniors should put the Owls in strong position for another postseason run. Veronica Maring (seven goals, 16 assists) was an All-Metro second-team midfielder, forward Haleigh Moore (23 goals, 18 assists) was one of the area’s top offensive threats and goalie Lauren Jenne allowed just 18 goals in as many games. Junior Kirby Henneman also should play a key role on what’s expected to be a powerful front line.
12. River Hill
Coach: Shelly Chamness
Last season: 11-4-1, ranked No. 11
Postseason: Class 2A East finalist
Outlook: Seven starters return from last year’s Howard County co-champion, including Quinn Kindbom, a three-year starter in the midfield. She finished with 10 goals and eight assists a year ago and played a masterful role in setting up the offense. Senior Caroline Kral returns as a four-year starter in goal, and senior Lexi Thielemann and sophomore Lindsey Miller will play key roles at midfield and forward, respectively.
Coach: Caitlin Duvall
Last season: 11-9, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A state finalist
Outlook: A strong core of returners along with the addition of some young talent should put the Bulls squarely in the mix for another title run. Senior Mackenzie McKillop leads the attack and seniors Cate O'Connor and Madison Hackett anchor the defense. Junior Anna Brandt also returns to the midfield after missing the majority of last season with an injury. Hereford has advanced to the state final every year since 2012, winning three championships.
Coach: Brenda Strohmer
Last season: 13-4, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A state semifinalist
Outlook: With fourth-year starting goalie Grace Fenner manning the cage, the Lions will have an advantage in every game. Last fall, Fenner had 127 saves while allowing just 11 goals for a .920 save percentage, and has led her team to a 29-6 record over the past two years. Add the return of a pair of first-team All-Carroll County players in midfielder Heidi Ellis and defender Christine Goetz, and Liberty should be tough to beat.
Coach: Carrie Vosburg
Last season: 10-5-1, unranked
Postseason: Class 4A East Section I finalist
Outlook: Look out for the Wildcats, who graduated just one senior and feature solid talent throughout their lineup. Senior forward Katie Keane (Fairfield) is back after recording 16 goals and nine assists a year ago, and junior Sara Pique was a second-team all-state defender. Add to that a pair of senior midfielders in Mikayla Borneman (New Hampshire) and Emma Jeffries (Salisbury), a veteran goalie in Tia Lysse and some new punch from four incoming freshmen, and Arundel could be hard to beat.
Others: Dulaney (18-2), Francis Scott Key (11-6), Marriotts Ridge (10-6), St. Paul’s (11-2)