Just how tough will it be for a team to get out of the Class 4A East region in girls soccer this postseason?
Consider this: Defending Class 4A state champion South River, which brought back 10 starters including All-Metro Player of the Year Kacoe Longo, didn't even make the Anne Arundel County championship game.
And that's not saying the No. 8 Seahawks (11-3) underachieved during the regular season. It's just saying that Anne Arundel County -- which fills up most of the region bracket -- was absolutely loaded this fall.
No. 2 Broadneck (12-1-2) rattled off 12 straight wins before tying No. 3 Arundel (13-1-3) to stake claim to Anne Arundel's regular season title. But it was the Wildcats who came out with a 1-0 win over the Bruins in Tuesday's county championship game -- getting an early goal from All-Metro pick Clarissa Kirsch-Downs and then buckling down on defense.
Last year, Arundel enjoyed a perfect 14-0 regular season and then lost to South River in the county and regional championship games. Could the Wildcats take a similar path this year?
The regions are separated in two sectionals with the winners meeting in the region title game. Arundel earned the top seed in Section I and have No. 7 and second-seeded Severna Park (11-3) on its side of the bracket.
In Section II, Broadneck is the top seed with South River the second seed with potentially dangerous Leonardtown from St. Mary's County also in the mix.
Only Severna Park opens play today among Anne Arundel's top four teams -- playing host to Meade at 7 p.m. -- while the other three powerhouses earned first-round byes and will resume play on Tuesday.
Last season, Longo carried the Seahawks to the state championship with nine of her 29 goals coming in the postseason. Two of them forced overtime, including a late goal against Arundel in the Seahawks 3-2 double overtime win.
Who will be this year's hero?
Each team has candidates. Arundel has Kirsch-Downs, Emani Silva and a difference-making defender in sweeper Jenna Surdick.
Broadneck leans on All-Metro second-team pick Ellie McNulty, and freshman defender Haley Small is a valuable resource with her long throws and free kicks.
At South River, Longo is heating up at just the right time, scoring seven goals and adding an assist in two wins last week. Severna Park has returned to form as well, led by Sarah Gunn and Abby Thomas.