1. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Bob Dieterle. Last season: 20-0-1, ranked No. 1.
Postseason: Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champion.
Outlook: Champions in three of the past four seasons — including the past two — the program has established an impressive standard in the area's most challenging league. With senior All-Metro players Maggie Morrison (forward) and Jocelyn McCoy (goalkeeper) returning and a talented cast around them, the Cavaliers are primed to maintain their lofty status.
Coach: Harry Canellakis. Last season: 13-2, No. 5.
Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist.
Outlook: There's not a lot of drop-off among the handful of elite teams in the talented IAAM, and the Eagles appear to be Spalding's toughest challenger. In addition to having the area's most talented player — two-time All-Metro junior forward Ashley Spivey — they have a capable mix of returning players and promising newcomers to make a strong push for the conference crown.
Coach: Doug Pryor. Last season: 12-5-3, No. 2.
Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist.
Outlook: The Magic made an inspired run to the title game last year with a hard-working group that played as one. With a good chunk of talent returning — led by forward Alexis Prior-Brown — and some promising newcomers in the fold, first-year coach Pryor is hoping for similar success in 2010.
4. Severna Park
Coach: Todd Clark. Last season: 13-4, No. 8.
Postseason: Class 4A East regional semifinalist.
Outlook: The Falcons took a significant hit when All-Metro midfielder Gabby Moreno was lost for the season with a knee injury. But they have enough talent — led by a strong senior class featuring Maryland-bound forward Marisa Kresge — to get the nod as the early favorite in the always-formidable Anne Arundel County league.
5. John Carroll
Coach: Gary Lynch. Last season: 12-6-2, No. 11.
Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist.
Outlook: Six seconds. That's how close John Carroll was to last year's IAAM championship game before two-time champ Spalding equalized in the semifinals. The Patriots don't have the star power some other top teams in the league have, but coach Gary Lynch has hard-working players that always come together to play as one.
Coach: Josh Sullivan. Last season: 15-3-1.
Postseason: Class 3A state finalist.
Outlook: The Howard County champs have experienced players returning everywhere on the field, but Sullivan is smiling most about his team's midfield, which has all four starters back. Hungry after last year's breakthrough run to the state title game, Gators are looking to take the next step and capture the program's first crown.
7. Winters Mill
Coach: Andy Hicks. Last season: 12-4-1, No. 9
Postseason: Class 2A state finalist.
Outlook: Skill and motivation is clearly not lacking with the Falcons, who return eight starters from last year's team that fell to Fallston on penalty kicks in the title game. With experienced players at every position and a deep bench, the Falcons can stay with any team in the state.
Coach: Nancy Ferguson. Last season: 14-3-1, No. 10.
Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist.
Outlook: The Bulls have some big shoes to fill with six starters lost to graduation from last year's state qualifier. Forwards Abby Noble and Kelsey Mattola and midfielder Brittani Genco provide a dynamic starting point, and Ferguson has been impressed with the team's work ethic and camaraderie.
Coach: Alyson Cammann. Last season: 14-6, No. 7.
Postseason: Class 2A state champion.
Outlook: Despite losing seven starters from last year's title team, the Cougars remain the team to beat in Harford County and are primed for another extended postseason run. Senior midfielders Kaylie Yapps and Sydney Blomquist stabilize the middle and a new cast of starters are eager to get their chance to shine.
C. Milton Wright
Coach: Paul Austin. Last season: 11-5-1, unranked.
Postseason: Class 3A North regional semifinalist.
Outlook: The Mustangs are fast up front and crafty in the midfield, which should provide fits for opposing defenses. With a largely new defense steadily improving, the Mustangs have the talent to challenge Fallston in Harford County and make a formidable postseason run.
Coach: John Sis. Last season: 15-3, No. 4
Postseason: Class 4A state semifinalist.
Outlook: The standards are high at South River and the Seahawks have proved to be a resilient bunch with a steady stream of talent continually coming into the program. Despite losing a number of quality players from last year's state semifinal team, there's plenty of returning talent to go with some new faces to get the job done.
Coach: Rick Testerman. Last season: 8-4-2, unranked.
Postseason: Class 4A North regional semifinalist.
Outlook: First-year coach Testerman, who coached the undefeated junior varsity team last season, is strongly emphasizing the importance of playing as a team. The Gators have nine seniors and a strong junior class led by the Quaranta twins — Alexa and Preslie.
Notre Dame Prep
Coach: Chris Lopez. Last season: 11-3-1, No. 14.
Postseason: IAAM A Conference quarterfinalist.
Outlook: Last season, the Blazers were a cohesive bunch that outworked opponents to find ways to win. With sophomore midfielder Casey Clarke the glue in the middle, they will look to use the same recipe to compete against the elite teams in the IAAM A Conference.
Coach: Robin Grey. Last season: 9-4-4, unranked.
Postseason: Class 2A South regional finalist.
Outlook: With 16 returning players — including eight starters — the Mustangs are deep, talented and primed for a breakthrough in Howard County. The addition of goalie Kristen Mumby, a transfer from St. Vincent Pallotti, will help offset the loss of graduated standout Samantha Olson.
Coach: Dean Sheridan. Last season: 13-4-1, No. 13.
Postseason: Class 2A state semifinalist.
Outlook: Plenty of motivation can be found at Glenelg, where the gritty Gladiators saw their string of three straight state titles snap with a semifinal finish last season. Brooke Carey is an anchor in the goal and Liz Ebeling will control the middle of the field.
OTHERS CONSIDERED: Arundel (14-4, No. 6), Bel Air (7-5-3, unranked), Broadneck (11-5, unranked), Centennial (8-4-3, unranked), Eastern Tech (9-4-3, unranked), Harford Tech (13-3-2, unranked), Loch Raven (15-4-1, No. 15), River Hill (12-4-1, unranked).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun