Two defenders, senior Hannah Wolf and junior Suzanne Edwards, and senior goalie Kourtney Black, a Times second-team all-county pick last year, headline Francis Scott Key's list of returnees. The Eagles' defense pitched eight shutouts last year and allowed only 11 goals.
Black had an .814 save percentage and made 48 saves. She's poised for an even better season.
"She has a lot done training on her own," said Lori Knights, FSK's fourth-year coach and a former standout player for the Eagles. "She's done private lessons and done many camps. She's very agile and as well conditioned as many of our players on the field."
Francis Scott Key graduated second-team all-county selection Heather Rohwein. But the Eagles return another second-team all-county performer in Makayla Black, Kourtney Black's cousin.
Black led the team in scoring last year with 10 goals and finished seventh in the county. She's set to start on the front line with seniors Madi Herring and sophomore Faith Haines.
"We have put a little pressure on her this year," Knights said. "We are running a new formation this year. It will definitely give her the opportunity to put more goals in."
Francis Scott Key senior defender Hannah Wolf said five players promoted from last year's junior varsity have made the Eagles deeper and more talented.
"They are showing they can become starters," Wolf said. "They are meshing and working with the team well."
Over at Liberty, coach Brenda Strohmer will face some challenges. One could be the Lions moving back up to Class 2A.
"Once you get to states, your are going up against Hereford, Glenelg and Kent Island," said Strohmer, who is in her seventh year as coach. "They are powerhouses in field hockey. All three should make it to states. I think we can compete with them, but we have to work hard."
Two offensive standouts departed from last year's team — Times Player of the Year Ashley Caldwell (five goals, 20 assists) and first-team all-county performer Hannah Miller. Strohmer will turn to seniors Brooke Heffler and Lauren Turner, and sophomores Caroline Evans and Riley Pardoe, for offense.
Heffler had nine goals last year and scored a goal in the 1A state final against Queen Anne's.
"Scoring is where we are going to struggle," Strohmer said. "We are working on it and trying to figure it out."
Strohmer may have some concerns about her team, but defense isn't one of them.
The Lions bring back seniors Fallon Spittel and Erin Risch, and sophomore Christine Goetz, to protect junior goalie Grace Fenner, a first-team all-county selection last year who recorded nine shutouts and saved 87 percent of the shots she faced. Goetz was a first-team all-county pick in 2016.
"They do a good job of communicating," Strohmer said of her defense.
Class 3A state runner-up Westminster, last year's county champion, has the talent — the Owls return seven starters — to make another deep playoff run. They boast first-team all-county pick Haleigh Moore and second-team all county performers Veronica Maring and Chloe Sankovich.
Moore had 12 goals and 14 assists last fall, and her 38 points tied for the highest in Carroll. Maring chipped in with six goals and six assists for Westminster, which has 26 regional titles and nine state crowns on its resume.
"I would love to see us make it to the state tournament another year," Owls coach Katie McDonald said via email.