A lot of soccer coaches may think this is the year Westminster will be vulnerable.
The Owls lost 11 seniors from a team that posted a 11-4-1 record and won its first county championship since 1998. And the biggest departures came on defense.
Westminster graduated its entire back line, including Times first-team all-county performers Ryan Mills, Sam Schoberg, and Ryan Walsh.
"We are a whole new team," said Owls coach Robert "Bird" Brown, whose squad lost in the Class 3A West Region playoffs to eventual state champion Urbana last year. "A lot of the players didn't even see the field last year or played limited roles. Now, they are being expected to play a major role."
The Owls won't be lacking impact players at the midfield.
Juniors Michael Mourelatos, Jonathan Moore, and second-team all-county pick Mitchell Clark have speed and experience.
"These are kids I have coached for 10, 11 years," Brown said of his midfielders. "We were with Westminster Wolves and Baltimore Bays together. A lot of leadership will come from those guys on the field."
The key for Westminster will be the defense spearheaded by seniors Chris Walsh and Mitchell Bowman and junior Isak Blonqist.
"We have a lot of work to do," Brown said. "W e lost four defenders, a goalie and defensive midfielder. It will take a little time to get them to the level we need them to be, but they are doing everything they can to get there."
If Westminster takes a step back, senior-laden South Carroll could be a team that takes advantage. The Cavaliers return 10 seniors and six starters from a team that went 10-4-3.
South Carroll is eager to make a run at the county championship and a return trip to the Class 2A West championship, where they lost to Middletown, 3-0, in Frederick County.
South Carroll coach Tim Novotny and his players understand the team possesses the talent and motivation to accomplish its goals.
"I like the sense of urgency and hunger this team has," said Novotny, who has had only one losing season in 10 years. "I think it's their all-around work ethic. There's just something about this team."
One of South Carroll's biggest strengths will likely be its midfield, led by seniors and returning starters Logan Baker and Stephen White. They're joining in the starting lineup by senior Alexander Seidel and junior Aidan Sporer, who was promoted from last year's junior varsity.
"I have really strong middies," Novotny said. "The new guys are really stepping up. They are going a really fantastic job, and they've got me excited."
"His worth ethic and soccer IQ are outstanding and he has great field vision," Novotny said. "When those type of players come a long, they are special."
Senior goalie Brayden Fugini, another returning starter, is also talented.
He can play like a vacuum cleaner in between the pipes.
"He really good shot stopper," Novotny said of Fugini, who is backed up by Mason Yeo. "He makes the hard saves when he needs to. He's played some really high level club teams, which allows him to direct his defenders and middies."