The 2013 girls lacrosse season is like a game of hide-and-seek: ready or not, here it comes.
Unpredictable weather swings, including a record amount of snow, has made for difficult going. Practices have taken place in the gym, the parking lot, the cafeteria and rented facilities, including turf fields.
"I think we've had four days of practice," said Mt. Hebron coach Trish Derwart. That's "real" practice, not patching together something for Plan B.
For the public schools, regular season games start March 21. The teams will be ready, one way or another, but with the choppy preseason, expect everyone to get off to a slow start and grow as the season progresses.
Even with Zoe Stukenberg (three-time Player of the Year) and talented defender Alex McKay having taken their games to the NCAA Division I level, Marriotts Ridge, the defending Class 3A/2A state champion, is favored to repeat as county champion.
Although the Mustangs have won three of the last four titles, they aren't overlooking anyone.
"We never take anyone lightly," said Amanda Brady, the team's first-year coach. "Any given day …."
Archrival Mt. Hebron is one squad that the Mustangs will keep a keen eye on. Tradition favors the Vikings, who have won eight of the last 12 county titles, but this year's team is young and still developing its chemistry.
Glenelg and River Hill will factor heavily in who wins the county title. Competition is so tight that a single loss can knock a team out of championship contention.
Centennial, Howard and Atholton occasionally flirt with joining the above four teams in the top tier, but in reality don't be surprised if everyone just ends up chasing Marriotts Ridge.
Wilde Lake, Long Reach, Reservoir, Oakland Mills and Hammond have their own little rivalry going on.
Wilde Lake's Grayson Corbett is the county's top returning scorer. She scored 86 goals last spring, more than anyone else, and has signed to play collegiate lacrosse at Hofstra University.
Among the private schools, Glenelg Country plays in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference where Park and Friends are expected to have strong teams again.
Chapelgate, competes in the IAAM C Conference. The Yellowjackets lost to Indian Creek in last year's championship game. St. Timothy's and Catholic are also contenders.
"I would say six of the eight teams in our league are going to be extremely difficult and close games," said Chapelgate coach Colleen Norton.
A rule change this year should clean up congestion around the circle on the draw. Instead of a maximum of five players from each team allowed between the restraining lines for the draw, now it's a maximum of three players from each team. However, once the whistle blows, additional players can enter the midfield area.
"I think it is something that should have happened long before," said Centennial coach Rachel Burton. "It will cut down on fouls off the draw and give more emphasis on the technical aspects of the draw."
"I think it is brilliant," said Wilde Lake coach Davia Procida. "Now we are depending on our players to make plays, rather than referees to look for empty stick checks, fouls and other calls during a draw control."
"I love the rule and think that it will lead to a faster paced game and more clean draw controls," said Atholton's Crystal Shelley.
Glenelg's Ginger Kincaid also loves the rule. "I just wish that all fields had the correct distance between circle and restraining line."
In girls lacrosse, the goal lines can be 90 to 100 yards apart. The restraining line is measured 30 feet from the goal line. Therefore, on shorter fields, the restraining lines are closer to the center circle, so a swarm of players can quickly form after the draw is taken.
Howard coach Alleesha Davidson is taking a wait-and-see approach on the new rule. "I'm not sure how this will change the game," she said. "As soon as the ball goes up girls will be running full speed to the ball. I think it will take some time for the girls to adapt to this."
"We have conflicted thoughts," said Marriotts Ridge coach Amanda Brady. "It has cleared some space, but we noticed (during a play day) how much we relied on the girls behind the restraining line to come up with the ball. It's not necessarily easier, or even cleaner, to come up with the ball."
To cut down on travel expenses, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has subdivided each playoff region into two sections. The result of this is that some sectionals are so stacked that the sectional champion will have survived a series of dogfights.
For example, the Class 3A/2A South Section I consists of Century (6 state titles), Winters Mill (4), Centennial (0), Glenelg (2), Marriotts Ridge (2) and Mt. Hebron (15). Among them they have a combined 29 state titles.
Northeast (AA), Atholton, Hammond, Long Reach, River Hill and Wilde Lake are in 3A/2A South Section II. Hammond is the only team to have ever reached the state semifinals.
Of all of the other 3A/2A schools, only Hereford (3), Towson and C.M. Wright have won state titles in the history of the tournament. All three of those schools are in 3A/2A North.
The Howard County season gets underway March 21 with the first round of league games. Glenelg Country School (0-1) and Chapelgate (2-0) began their seasons earlier this month.
Here's how the teams look in the early going.
Coach: Crystal Shelley (fourth year)
2013 record: 6-5 county, 10-6 overall
Top players: Seniors Stacie Powell (D) and Audrey Liberati (D); sophomore Meghan Quinn (MF).
The tweet: The Raiders return seven starters from a year ago, yet 14 members of the 25-player squad are freshmen or sophomores. It all adds up to a blend of experience and inexperience.
Quinn, Rachel Foster, Ashley Martin and Sami Belsky will lead the team in scoring.
"We're young, fast, energetic, fun and excited for a great season," said coach Crystal Shelley. She says her team's biggest asset is its cooperation, working together and perseverance.
Atholton will test itself in a non-league game by hosting 11-time state champion Severna Park April 7.
Coach: Rachel (Lenzo) Burton (second year)
2013 record: 5-6 county, 5-8 overall.
Top players: Seniors Kay Kelly (D), Sammy Albornoz (D) and Alicia Hsieh (A); juniors Dani Wilson (MF) and Martha Hutzell (MF).
The tweet: Nine starters are back from a team that finished in the middle of the pack last year and the Eagles want to build on that experience.
"We have a core group of girls who have now played together for a few years," said coach Rachel Burton. "They have enormous potential to be very successful this season."
Look to Hsieh, Wilson and Hutzell to lead the Eagles on offense.
Centennial is not in a spring break tournament but will play Arundel during that time period.
Coach: Ginger Kincaid (27th year)
2013 record: 8-3 county, 11-5 overall
Top players: Seniors Stephanie Asher (MF) and Morgan Philie (D); junior Megan Taylor (GK).
The tweet: With only two seniors, Glenelg has a young team that includes five freshmen. In spite of the youth, the Gladiators always seems to be in the hunt for the county title and this year will be no different, especially if the new players can gain enough experience before the team gets too deep into its schedule.
Glenelg's strength is its defense, which is anchored by Taylor in goal. Philie, Molly Milani and Kayla Renehan are other returning starters on defense.
Asher and Hannah Doughty will pace the offense. Asher had 38 goals last spring.
Because of damage to the school's football field, Glenelg's home games will be played at Western Regional Park.
Glenelg will play Winters Mill and Leonardtown in the Winters Mill Tournament April 12.
Coach: Bill Smith (fourth year)
2013 record: 1-9 county, 1-11 overall
Top players: Seniors Keara Miller (MF), Katie McClanahan (D), Jessica Pezzold (D) and Lexi Williamson (D); junior Brigid Mangan (A); sophomore Zoe Pekin (MF).
The tweet: Victories have been scarce for Hammond in recent years, but the team's 12 seniors have the ability to change that.
Coach Bill Smith said his squad's biggest asset is "work ethic and commitment to TEAM."
Mangan, Pekin and Miller will pace the Golden Bears' offense, and the team has more speed than in past seasons, which will be beneficial in the transition game.
Hammond is hosting Meade, Patapsco and Oakland Mills in the Gay Petrlik Memorial Tournament April 19. The tournament is named in honor of Hammond's first lacrosse coach, who led the Golden Bears for 12 years.
Coach: Alleesha Davidson (fourth year)
2013 record: 7-4 county, 12-6 overall
Top players: Seniors Abbey Groft (A) and Kati Maggio (D); junior Catherine Sims (MF) and Lauren Ferraro (GK); sophomore Katie Schluederberg (MF).
The tweet: Howard is coming off its best season ever. With eight returning starters, can the Lions continue to improve? Absolutely.
"We are a really focused group," said coach Alleesha Davidson. "They are all working hard every day. They are young, but they are tenacious. I think they are athletic, energetic and extremely coachable."
Groft, who scored 69 goals last year, and Schluederberg make for a solid foundation on offense.
Howard is hosting Wilde Lake, Reservoir and Worcester Prep at the Karl Wolf tournament April 19 at Rockburn Park.
Coach: Colleen Delaney (second year)
2013 record: 2-8 county, 2-9 overall
Top players: Seniors Imani Sanders (MF) and Patricia Anderson (D); junior Lillie Miller (MF).
The tweet: With only 16 on varsity, the Lightning team is a bit shy on numbers. But that means more playing time for everyone, which can be a good thing. There are six seniors and seven returning starters, so the leadership is there.
Sanders, Miller and Nicole Cote will be the team's biggest scoring threats.
"We have a great mix of girls that are all dedicated to the team and are working hard to get better," said coach Colleen Delaney. She also praised her team's work ethic.
Long Reach doesn't have a spring tournament on its schedule this year.
Coach: Amanda Brady (first).
2013 record: 11-0 county, 18-1 overall
Top players: Seniors Taylor Hensh (MF), Alexis Zadjura (MF), Jenna Kerr (A), Marissa Davey (A), Amanda Miller (D) and Rachel Ortell (GK).
The tweet: Marriotts Ridge has talent from goal circle to goal circle.
"We have multiple threats offensively. Hands down any girl on the field can put the ball in the back of the net," said new coach Amanda Brady.
Brady may be in her first year as varsity coach but she is not new to the Mustangs' program. She was the JV coach in 2008 and moved up to varsity assistant before exchanging roles this spring with Natalie Gaieski, who is now the assistant.
Marriotts Ridge has toughened up its schedule. The Mustangs scrimmaged at the Cape Henlopen (Del.) Play Day, will face McDonogh, the No. 1 team in the nation, during the regular season and will host Mount de Sales, Conestoga (Pa.) and Century in a tournament.
That tough-game experience should pay benefits when it comes to playoff time.
"Our team is a really fun group of experienced and competitive players," Brady said. "We are fast and skilled. We have multiple threats on the offensive end and look strong defensively. Our real strength is our camaraderie."
Coach: Trish Derwart (fourth year)
2013 record: 10-1 county, 14-3 overall
Top players: Senior Tianna Wallpher (D); juniors Jen Giles (MF), Meghan Doherty (D) and Chachi Kelehan (A).
The tweet: After losing 11 seniors and nine starters, Mt. Hebron will be re-tooling this season.
"We're excited, but we have a lot of work to do," said coach Trish Derwart, who loves the challenge she's been presented with. "It's kind of wild to hit the reset button this year. …We're getting our offensive systems down and developing girls in new roles."
Wallpher, Giles, Doherty and Kelehan will be the core that the Vikings build around. They will also help set the hard-working tone for the team.
Seniors Lauren Schaaf, Amanda Steinmuller, Morgan Beale and Monica Linn will be assets in the leadership department.
"We're still working on (figuring out) our starters," Derwart said. "There are a lot of new faces this year."
There are three freshmen on the team — Jen Schaaf, Megan Pallozi and Lexi Arens.
Jen Schaaf and sophomore Ellie Mazzuka are the Vikings' goalies. The field defensive unit in front of them are all basketball players, whose defensive skills translate very well to lacrosse.
"We have a lot of good athletes that have been in the shadow of other girls and are ready to step it up," Derwart said.
Mt. Hebron will host McDonogh, North Harford and South River at the Fight for 5 tournament at Cedar Lane Park April 19.
Coach: Jamie Bowman (second year)
2013 record: 0-11 county, 0-12 overall
Top players: Seniors Jordan Kerr (MF), Kelsey Lamonthe (MF) and Yasmeen Saad (MR); juniors Sarah Farrall (A) and Christine Devine (MF).
The tweet: It's a challenging situation at Oakland Mills. There are only 13 players on varsity (five seniors, five juniors and three sophomores). That lack of sideline depth means that on a good day, there is just one substitute. It also means everyone needs to be in top condition.
There are six returning starters on the team, and the Scorpions' strength is in the midfield.
"We have strong leadership on the team this year and players who will really shine on the offensive end," said coach Jamie Bowman. "I hope to use this year to build upon our strengths and tighten up some weaknesses."
Kerr, Saad and Farrall are expected to be the team's top scorers.
Oakland Mills will play Hammond and Patapsco at Hammond's Gay Petrlik Memorial Tournament April 19.
Coach: Katie Lee (fourth year)
2013 record: 2-9 county, 3-12 overall
Top players: Senior Leah Monroe (A/MF); junior Darci Fehr (D); sophomores Megan Lieb (D) and Brianna Weinman (GK); freshman Haley Tiller (MF).
The tweet: "We are determined and hungry," said coach Katie Lee. "This is a promising group of girls who have the drive and the motivation to do what it takes. This team is a new breed of Reservoir lacrosse."
Monroe, Alexis Bartley (MF), Anna Janush (A) and Tiller — one of six freshmen on the team — will shoulder most of the Gators' offense.
"This group of girls plays off of each other's strengths very well," Lee said of her team. "They work together as if they have been playing together for years."
Reservoir is playing in Howard's Karl Wolf Tournament April 19.
Coach: Kelly (Berger) Rabil (second year)
2013 record: 9-2 county, 12-4 overall
Top players: Seniors Jenna Collins (MF), Julia Collins (MF) and Emily Marlatt (D); junior Emily Hamburger (A).
The tweet: Led by the Collins twins, River Hill's strength is its athleticism.
The team has eight starters back from 2013, when the Hawks finished third in the county. It's possible they can advance another rung on the ladder this year.
"Our team is a younger group with great experience at the top to lead and tremendous athleticism," said coach Kelly Rabil. "Although we do not have an abundance of seniors, they are a strong group with great leadership and skill. They know what it takes to win and are proud of their teammates. This group is a hard working bunch ready to improve everyday and grow the program each day stronger and stronger."
Expect both Collins girls and Hamburger to bury their shots in the back of the net. The Hawks will need to develop another scoring threat or two.
River Hill is playing in the Mount de Sales tournament during spring break.
Coach: Davia Procida (third year)
2013 record: 4-7 county, 7-9 overall
Top players: Seniors Grayson Corbett (MF) and Becca Riley (D); sophomore Kate Glaros (MF); freshman Jenna Oler (GK).
The tweet: Coach Davia Procida's enthusiasm for lacrosse is contagious. The Wildecats have the largest team (22 players) since she has been coaching there.
With five seniors, 10 juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen, the future looks good.
The Wildecats have eight returning starters, but 2013 goalie Lauren Hutchinson is moving out of the goal circle to play field defense.
Corbett is a prolific scorer. Last spring she tied Wilde Lake's record for goals in a game (12) and set the school record for goals in a season (86). To improve on those numbers and to help the team better its record, she is going to need help from her teammates because it's a given that she will draw special defensive attention.
"Although Grayson still manages to find ways to score, we will look for other players to contribute as well," Procida said.
"Our team this year is tenacious. We have gotten better each year and they want to keep that trend going. … We are already leaps and bounds ahead of where we were at this point last season."
Wilde Lake will play in Howard's Karl Wolf Tournament. The Wildecats will face Worcester Prep in their first game.
Glenelg Country School
Coach: Paige Walton (15th year)
2013 record: 4-10 IAAM B, 4-11 overall
Top players: Seniors Mallory Pappas (MF) and Cameron Baumgardner (GK); juniors Lizzie Rice (MF) and Julia O'Loughlin (D); freshmen Rachel Hooper (D), Julia Sheehan (A) and Alyssa Arnold (A).
The tweet: "I believe our biggest asset is that we are balanced from end to end," said coach Paige Walton. "We have good senior leadership. We have a deeper bench than last year, which is a tremendous strength."
The Dragons are carrying a 21-player squad that includes four seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen, three of which are expected to contribute immediately.
The team has three goalkeepers — Baumgardner and sophomores Sophia Kalaris and Kelly Layton.
In preseason games, Pappas, Rice and Arnold accounted for the bulk of the scoring.
"We are looking for every attack player to play roles this season," Walton said.
Coach: Colleen Norton (fifth year)
2013 record: 9-4 IAAM C, 12-5 overall
Top players: Seniors Christina VanWingerden (MF) and Hailee Winand (D); juniors Emma Rufolo (MF), Casey Garlic (D) and Julia delCarmen (A); sophomore Katherine Cameron (MF); freshman Abby Heffler (MF).
The tweet: Eight starters return, but the Yellowjackets are very young. There are four sophomores and seven freshmen on the team.
"We have a very talented freshman class," said coach Colleen Norton. Adding, "a lot of the players that are freshmen and sophomores are great athletes and have years of experience in regards to playing lacrosse."
The younger players are also blending well with the seasoned players both on and off the field.
"The whole team is working extremely well together and progressing quickly," Norton said.
Chapelgate has proven scorers in midfielders Rufolo, VanWingerden, delCarmen and Winand. Their efforts will be supplemented by Jenna Winand (A) and Heffler.
In spite of her team's offensive ability, Norton said the squad's biggest strength will be its defense. "Our defense will set the tone in regards to whether we win or lose a game."
Chapelgate will not be participating in a spring tournament.
The following contests are expected to be some of the more competitive games:
March 25: Atholton at Howard, 5:30 p.m.
March 28: Mt. Hebron vs. Glenelg at Western Regional Park, 7 p.m.
March 29: Marriotts Ridge tournament (Conestoga (Pa.), Mt. de Sales, Century and Marriotts Ridge).
April 1: Centennial at Howard, 5:30.
April 4: Glenelg at River Hill, 5:30.
April 7: Severna Park at Atholton, 5:30.
April 8: Hammond at Oakland Mills, 5:30.
April 9: Glenelg Country at Friends, 4 p.m.
April 10: River Hill at Mt. Hebron, 5:30; Wilde Lake at Reservoir, 5:30 and Long Reach at Oakland Mills, 5:30.
April 14: McDonogh at Marriotts Ridge, 3 p.m.; Indian Creek at Chapelgate, 4 p.m.
April 19: Fight for 5 tournament at Cedar Lane Park (McDonogh, North Harford, Mt. Hebron and South River) and the Karl Wolf tournament at Rockburn (Reservoir, Howard, Wilde Lake and Worcester Prep).
April 22: River Hill at Centennial, 5:30.
April 25: Marriotts Ridge at Mt. Hebron, 7 p.m.
April 29: Wilde Lake at Long Reach, 5:30; Marriotts Ridge vs. Glenelg at Western Regional, 5:30.