1. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Leslee Brady
Last season: 17-4, No. 6
Postseason: IAAM A semifinalist
Outlook: Talent abounds for the Cavaliers, who return third-team All-American forward Margot Lawn (28 goals, five assists) and second-team All-Anne Arundel County midfielder Jenna Garden. Their biggest question, however, will be on defense, where several starters and their four-year starting goalie have graduated.
Coach: Nikki Trunzo
Last season: 16-1, No. 4
Postseason: Class 2A state semifinalist
Outlook: After a dominant regular season that perched them atop the rankings for much of last fall, the Gladiators are back for another try. Despite graduating 10 seniors, they return a trio of standouts in midfielders Paige Reese, Jenny Giampalmo and Maddy O'Brien, as well as several talented but less experienced underclassmen.
3. Severna Park
Coach: Ann Andrews
Last season: 10-5-2, ranked No. 12
Postseason: Class 4A East finalist
Outlook: After failing to reach the state finals for just the third time in 14 years, the Falcons should be right back in the championship conversation. Eleven seniors return, led by a pair of third-year starters in defender Mallory Sellars and forward Megan Brannen. The offense will need to play well for a team that scored one goal or fewer in 10 games.
Coach: Caitlin Duvall
Last season: 15-3, ranked No. 3
Postseason: Class 2A state champion
Outlook: Despite graduating eight seniors, expectations are again high for a team that has won three straight Class 2A state titles and advanced to the finals each year since 2012. The Bulls return a core group of six seniors, including All-Metro goalie Camryn Kelbaugh.
Coach: Denise Wolf
Last season: 15-5, No. 2
Postseason: IAAM A champion
Outlook: The defending conference champion lost 12 players to graduation, including six starters and three All-Metro selections. Nevertheless, the Eagles will have plenty of young talent, led by junior attack Katelyn Whittle and junior center midfielder Emma Shettig. Several players from a strong junior-varsity team also could help them advanced to their fifth straight A Conference final.
Coach: Jen Plack
Last season: 10-6, unranked
Postseason: Class 4A East semifinalist
Outlook: Three returning all-state players, midfielder Teresa Pelli, forward Megan Munley and defender Sophia Hartman, lead a team that seems ready to blossom. Most of the starting offense — including the top four scorers — and starting defense return, as well as the entire midfield.
7. South River
Coach: Megan Atkinson
Last season: 18-1-1, No. 1
Postseason: Class 4A state champion
Outlook: Despite graduating offensive catalyst Sarah King, the Seahawks again should be a force. Senior Madeline Cloyd returns to anchor the defense after spending most of last season injured, and junior midfielders Darcy Clement, Allison Corey and McKenzie Jamison will give the team an edge in the middle of the field.
8. Marriotts Ridge
Coach: Stacie Gado
Last season: 11-4-1, No. 11
Postseason: Class 2A East semifinalist
Outlook: Despite losing two of their top offensive weapons to graduation, the Mustangs return seven starters, including a standout defense led by second-team All-Howard County pick Emy Nelson, Emily Talentino, Bailey Christianson and goalie Katie Garman. Skill, speed and endurance should help this team go far into the postseason.
Coach: Kellie Fialcowitz
Last season: 13-5, No. 13
Postseason: Class 4A state semifinalist
Outlook: If any team can post a serious challenge to Hereford in Baltimore County, it's the Lions. They return eight starters, including Division I prospect Reece Spann (attack/midfield) and defensive leader Grace Jung, and feature a lineup brimming with speed and athleticism.
10. Notre Dame Prep
Coach: Katrina Ross
Last season: 14-5, No. 5
Postseason: IAAM A finalist
Outlook: A year after their surprising ascension toward the top of the A Conference standings, the Blazers will need to find replacements on the starting attack and in goal. Five starters return, including standout midfielders Rachel Borzymowski (committed to Boston University), Nathalie Friedman (Wake Forest) and Olivia Kenny (Penn), along with 11 up from a JV team that went 16-0-1.
Coach: Brenda Strohmer
Last season: 16-2, No. 10
Postseason: Class 1A state champion
Outlook: All but two starters are back for the Lions, led by three-year starting goalie Grace Fenner and midfielders Branin Ward and Heidi Ellis. The team should be the class of Carroll County, but will have a more difficult task in the postseason after moving up to Class 2A.
Coach: Joan Johnson
Last season: 13-5, No. 8
Postseason: Class 3A state champion
Outlook: The defending Class 3A state champions will face a more challenging schedule this season after moving up to Anne Arundel County's top tier, but that will only help the Cougars come playoff time. A core group returns, led by three Division I commits in forward Rachel Fleig (Appalachian State), midfielder Bridgette Tayman (Towson) and defender Logan Beal (American).
13. Garrison Forest
Coach: Traci Davis
Last season: 14-6, ranked No. 7
Postseason: IAAM A semifinalist
Outlook: Seniors Tessa Evarts, a goalie headed to Davidson, and Claire Jones, a midfielder headed to Cornell, lead a talented group that must rebuild its defense to compete for a conference title. The Grizzlies are searching for their first A Conference title since 2012, when they won their fifth in six years.
14. C. Milton Wright
Coach: Kelly Mattingly
Last season: 10-4-1, No. 15
Postseason: Class 3A North second round
Outlook: Most of the starting lineup, including a plethora of experienced juniors, returns for the Mustangs, who won nine of 10 to end last regular season, shutting out five opponents along the way. Forward Sam Aljets (eight goals, five assists) is back to lead the offense, while midfielders Georgia Beachley, Taylor Marchetti and Olivia Hennessey also will play key roles.
Coach: Shannon Zeidler
Last season: 12-3-1, unranked
Postseason: IAAM B finalist
Outlook: After falling in the conference finals each of the past four years, the Lions are ready to take the next step. Seven starters return, led by forward Ally Furnari, who leads an offense that outscored conference opponents by a combined 26-3, and defender Courtney Kelly, the backbone of the league's stingiest defense. Former assistant Shannon Zeidler takes the helm.
Other teams considered:
Arundel (9-7), Centennial (9-6), River Hill (12-5), Westminster (14-4)