The 2019 season was a good one for Howard County boys lacrosse programs.
Marriotts Ridge went undefeated in county play to win the league title. Glenelg won 10 straight games en route to the 2A state title. And Howard made an impressive postseason run to the 4A state championship game.
While a lot is still unknown about the upcoming shortened spring season, the county’s coaches believe this year could show the strength of lacrosse in Howard County once again.
The general consensus among coaches is that Glenelg, Marriotts Ridge and Howard will again be the top teams in the league this season, while Centennial, Mt. Hebron and River Hill will all have competitive squads.
The 12 public school teams have been divided up into two divisions. Division A includes Centennial, Glenelg, Howard, Marriotts Ridge, Mt. Hebron and River Hill, while Division B includes Atholton, Hammond, Long Reach, Reservoir, Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake.
For the first five games, each squad will play every other team in its division once. Each of the teams in Division A will be seeded Nos. 1-6 based on record, then the final two seeds in the eight-team county tournament will be the top two squads in Division B. The top team will get the seventh seed and the second-best team will be seeded eighth.
The bottom four teams in Division B after the first five games will participate in a four-team round robin.
For now, the quarterfinal round of the county tournament is scheduled for May 21 and the championship will be May 28.
Here’s a look at all 12 county teams ahead of the first play date of the season Friday:
Coach: Alex McCoy (fourth year)
2019 record: 3-6 county, 6-10 overall
Top players: Seniors Mason Meyerpeter (MF) and Garrett Walsh (GK); junior Daniel Gottwals (D); sophomore Spencer Krasnick (A).
Faceoff: The Raiders have only one returning starter from the 2019 season, and McCoy said the key for his team will be able to improve on the fly. What Atholton doesn’t have in experience, McCoy said, it has in its determination to succeed. The Raiders won a playoff game in 2019 but fell to Centennial in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Coach’s corner: “The biggest strength for our team is the drive and focus the boys have brought to the field. Walking back onto the turf on Day 1 was exciting for everyone, and the boys have channeled that focus into improving with every opportunity.” — coach Alex McCoy
Coach: Ken Senisi (second year)
2019 record: 7-2, 11-5
Top players: Seniors Alex Kaufman (GK), Andrew Hockersmith (MF), Jacob Ritter (A), Ryan Firebaugh (MF), Kevin Garroway (D) and Sam Bussink (MF).
Faceoff: The Eagles finished third in the county in 2019 with losses only to Marriotts Ridge and Glenelg. Ritter, one of Centennial’s top players this season, scored 13 goals and had three assists in 10 games as a sophomore two years ago. This year, Centennial has 13 seniors, with Kaufman, Hockersmith, Ritter, Firebaugh, Garroway and Bussink as the team’s leaders.
Coach’s corner: “We have great leadership. We have players that would have gained more experience last year and now this year they are expected to have bigger roles. … They are great teammates and want to get better each day.” — coach Ken Senisi
Coach: Josh Hatmaker (17th year)
2019 record: 6-1, 13-6 (2A state champion)
Top players: Seniors Kevin Doughty (A), Evan Whatley (A), Colin Buch (A), Wyatt Haney (MF) and Cam Sedlack (D).
Faceoff: Glenelg hopes to continue the success it had in 2019 when the Gladiators won the 2A state title. After starting the 2019 season 3-6, the Gladiators won 10 straight games, including five consecutive postseason triumphs with a goal differential of 65-26. Hatmaker expects his group of 13 seniors to lead the team this season. The Gladiators’ top returning starter is Kevin Doughty, who had 22 goals and 26 assists in 2019.
Coach’s corner: “We have a large group of seniors that have all played together for a very long time and are very close. These kids have a lot of experience that we will be relying upon. Many of them played or started on our state championship team in 2019. [We need to] take advantage of our limited practice time, making up for a lost season, and successfully integrate our younger guys into our system.” — coach Josh Hatmaker
Coach: Daniel Amacher (second year)
2019 record: 0-5, 1-10
Top players: Seniors Shiva Sharma (D/MF), Sebastian Reed (A) and Quinn O’Neil (MF).
Faceoff: The Golden Bears bring back three starters from the 2019 team in Sharma, Reed and Hunter Wanless. Amacher said improving throughout the season will be key for his young squad, as the majority of his team members are first-year players. He is also excited about youngsters Niko Vasilev (freshman midfielder), Malik Johnson (sophomore attack/midfielder) and Angelos Diaz (sophomore attack/midfielder).
Coach’s corner: “Our biggest strength has to be the chemistry these guys have built in such a short time. From our first day of tryouts to our most recent practice, it is a night and day difference. These young men have come out to practice every day and have pushed themselves and each other to get better.” — coach Daniel Amacher
Coach: Jimmy Creighton (11th year)
2019 record: 4-3, 13-6 (4A state runner-up)
Top players: Seniors Aiden Larsen (A), Max Bruno (MF) and Braden Zehring (MF); juniors Will Stephanos (D) and Nathan Boone (A).
Faceoff: The last time the Lions took the field they were in the 4A state championship game after an impressive playoff run. Howard finished fourth in the county but then won four straight postseason games, including an upset of top-seeded Urbana. Creighton said he will be leaning on his senior captains — Larsen, Bruno and Stephanos. The Lions have two returning starters from the 2019 campaign, including Boone, who finished second on the team in 2019 with 27 goals and nine assists as a freshman.
Coach’s corner: “[We need to] come together as a group, being a cohesive team on offense and defense. Not having a real offseason with training and conditioning I think is a negative for every program in Howard County. [That] is something we have really taken pride in here, and we weren’t able to work on any of the speed/agility/conditioning aspects as a group.” — coach Jimmy Creighton
Coach: Frank Valenza (21st year)
2019 record: 1-4, 5-8
Top players: Seniors Elijah McNeil (A), Nick Roby (A) and Nick Simon (A); junior D.J. Belechto (GK); freshman Jakai Butler (MF).
Faceoff: The Lightning will rely on their seniors, McNeil, Roby and Simon. McNeil, Valenza said, is the team’s top leader, which he showed the past year by helping keep the team together during COVID. Long Reach has only one returning starter from the 2019 season, and Valenza is also expecting freshman Jakai Butler to be a key addition.
Coach’s corner: “Last season would have been one of Long Reaches strongest in a very long time. With only one returning starter, we are starting from ground zero.” — coach Frank Valenza
Coach: Thomas Minard (second year)
2019 record: 7-0, 14-2 (county champion)
Top players: Seniors John Miller (MF), Charlie Reynolds (A), Jack Slack (MF), Quinn Kelley (MF) and Jake Levey (A).
Faceoff: The Mustangs were the top regular season team in the county two years ago, but their season ended in the playoffs after a 6-5 loss to soon-to-be 2A state champion Glenelg. Marriotts Ridge has four starters back from that 2019 team — Miller (21 goals and 23 assists), Reynolds (34 goals and 17 assists), Levey (19 goals and two assists) and Kelley. Miller was a second-team All-County selection in 2019 — one of only two underclassmen in the county to earn the honor. Minard, who also coached for five years at both Mt. Hebron and Long Reach in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said the Mustangs will have two goalies splitting time — senior Thomas Coakley and junior Tyler Gladstone.
Coach’s corner: “We are fortunate to have the four returning starters, plus Avery Gloyd [senior midfielder] and Jack Bacon [senior midfielder] that were on varsity their sophomore year. Hopefully that experience will pay off in the shortened season. Our three starting attack would have started last year, and we have depth and experience at the midfield unit.” — coach Thomas Minard
Coach: Mike McCarthy (15th year)
2019 record: 2-5, 6-11
Top players: Seniors Cameron Stockenberg (MF) and Brendan Demek (MF); junior Gavin Fleck (MF).
Faceoff: Despite a tough regular season due to injuries, the Vikings were the last 3A school from Howard County standing in 2019 after winning two playoff games. Mt. Hebron brings back only one starter from the 2019 team, but the Vikings do have a few players with varsity experience. Fleck had seven goals and 10 assists two years ago, while Demek tallied 10 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore. McCarthy said winning faceoffs and the “maturity” of his young defense and attack will be the key for the Vikes. He also said Hebron will lean on the leadership of its goalies — senior Alan Covert and junior Everett Armstead.
Coach’s corner: “Varsity experience will be a factor for everyone. The schools that have more kids involved in club will have a distinct advantage. … What we lack in experience we more than make up for in athleticism.” — coach Mike McCarthy
Coach: Skip Darden (sixth year)
2019 record: 2-3, 6-7
Top players: Seniors Tyler May (MF), Joe Thompson (A), Matt Hammond (A) and Alex Tiley (D).
Faceoff: The Scorpions are returning two players with significant varsity experience in Joe Thompson and Tyler May. Thompson was a second-team All-County selection in 2019 — one of only two underclassmen in the county to earn the honor. He finished tied for sixth in the county with 44 goals, while May added nine goals and seven assists off the bench.
Coach’s corner: “We’ve got six seniors. We’re going to rely on them a lot. This year is a rebuilding year. I see a lot of promise in our junior varsity program that will help us in future years. We want to be able to put a competitive team on the field this year, and we’re going to take it one quarter at a time. We’re just happy to be able to have a season this year.” — coach Skip Darden
Coach: Bryan Cole (17th year)
2019 record: 2-7, 4-11
Top players: Seniors Steven Musser (MF), Sean Maruschak (A), Jakota Parker (MF), Nickolas Hoover (G) and Mitchell Baer (A).
Faceoff: Cole said senior captains Musser and Maruschak, who are “hardworking leaders,” are key to the Gators’ success this season. Reservoir has four returning starters from 2019, including Maruschak, who was second on the team with 14 goals and nine assists two years ago. Cole is also excited about the prospects of youngsters Joseph Schinner (sophomore attackman) and Kevin Sisk (freshman defender).
Coach’s corner: “This season we will be a challenge to get our new players to the team and the game up to speed on the defensive side of the field. But our offense has experience, and these young men have been playing together for years.” — coach Bryan Cole
Coach: Keith Gonsouland (21st year)
2019 record: 5-4, 7-9
Top players: Seniors Jack Burns (A), Devin Campbell (MF), Kyle Henry (G) and Ben Margolis (FOGO); junior Ethan Varani (MF).
Faceoff: The Hawks were a middle-of-the-pack team in Howard County in 2019, going 5-4 in the regular season and winning one playoff game. This year, River Hill returns two starters in Burns and Henry and two other players with varsity experience in Campbell and Margolis. As a sophomore, Burns — a UMBC commit — was third on the team with 29 goals and five assists, while Henry posted a 57% save percentage two years ago. As the team’s faceoff specialist, Margolis is coming off a sophomore season in which he won 59% of his faceoffs.
Coach’s corner: “Our biggest strength is our team chemistry, goalie play and work ethic. In the short period of time we have been together, I have been pleased with how committed this team has worked to improve.” — coach Keith Gonsouland
Coach: Trevor Shea (third year)
2019 record: 3-2, 8-8
Top players: Senior Eric Knoernschild (MF); juniors Nate Jones (D) and Trey Jenkins (D); sophomores Rowley Jackson (A) and Henry Hilger (MF/A).
Faceoff: After going .500 in 2019, Shea is hoping his Wildecats can post another solid 2021 campaign. Shea said his team captains — Quinn Sutker, Knoernschild and Jones — will be crucial this season, as they “lead by example” and “hold everyone accountable.” Wilde Lake does have four returning starters from two seasons ago — Knoernschild, Jones, Jenkins and Michael Stralka.
Coach’s corner: “We have a lot of younger players who have playing experience from club but not at the varsity level yet. The freshman and sophomore classes both have a lot of talent, but we have to grow and mature into the team we can become for the future.” — coach Trevor Shea