Mother Nature has left a cloudy outlook on this season's county tennis picture, as cold and rain cut precious workout time and left many of the schools' coaches uncertain of their teams' potential at this point.
South Carroll's girls team looks to be head and shoulders above the rest, while Liberty appears to have the upper hand on the boys circuit.
Western Maryland women's coach Joan Weyers is hoping to reach the.500 mark this season with the addition of some promising new players.
Men's coach Alex Ober is hoping his squad can overcome a tough early schedule.
Here's a closer look at each team:
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY EAGLES
First-year boys coach Rob Pennington would love matchingthe season girls coach Donna Baker had in her rookie campaign a yearago.
All she did was take a team that finished 2-13 in 1989 and turn it completely around. The Eagles finished 14-2 in 1990 with an unblemished 12-0 mark in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League.
Unfortunately, Pennington doesn't have the senior experience on the boys side Baker enjoyed last year with the girls -- and now neither does Baker.
Both teams are going through rebuilding years.
Pennington inherits a 2-16 team from last year that is young and eager.
"We have a very young squad, and I am impressed with what I've seen, considering last year's team," Pennington said.
He will rely heavily on the lone senior, Joe Thacker, to provide leadership. Thacker will play at the No. 1 singles' position.
On the girls side, Coach Baker is looking to replace 12 seniors from last year's MVAL title team.
She has a number of newcomers, including five seniors who have just picked up the sport.
"Tennis has come alive at Key," Baker said. "The kids are working real hard, especially the seniors who have just picked up a racket for the first time."
Lions coach Bruce Demasio has a new cast of players on the boys side, but is looking for the same old results.
The girls will try to turn some of their close losses of a year ago into wins.
The senior-rich Liberty boys finished 11-3 last year, and Demasio is looking for some new players to step forward to achieve the same kind of success.
"We havea good, consistent program," Demasio said. "We're just reloading andthrowing some other people in the battle and let them get their licks in."
The girls are looking to improve on last year's 3-11 season. They have an even balance of returning players and promising newcomers.
"The girls lost some close matches last year, three by one point, and they are working hard as a team to change that," Demasio said.
Anchoring the girls team will be seniors Stacey Yingling and Tiffany Schnell.
NORTH CARROLL PANTHERS
North Carroll has added Elizabeth Foyle to coach the girls team, while 13-year coach John Lynam will concentrate on the boys program.
"We kept a smaller team this year and have Coach Foyle now to give the all the kids more instruction and supervised court play," Lynam said.
The boys finished 6-9 last year, with six losses by a score of 3-2.
"Sixty percent of thescoring comes from doubles, and we're looking to get more points from our doubles teams this year and turn those 3-2 losses around," he said.
The girls will try to rebound from a dismal 0-15 year and arestarting from scratch under their new coach.
"They are showing a positive attitude, and I'm just looking for them to improve and work hard as a team," Foyles said.
Lynam believes the key will be execution.
"Unforced errors is the key to high school tennis, and last year we had too many, so we're looking to cut down on their unforced errors," he said.
SOUTH CARROLL CAVALIERS
Jim Carnes enters his 13th season as head coach of the Cavs with almost everybody back from last year's 17-1 girls team and many unanswered questions on the boys side.
"We basically have the same team back from the last two years and are working on our doubles teams right now," Carnes said of hisgirls team.
The singles slots look set, led by last year's countychamp, senior Kristin Medvetz as the No. 1 seed.
Carnes doesn't know what to expect from his inexperienced boys team, which finished 10-8 a year ago.
"We have all new doubles teams, and it's too earlyto tell how well we'll do," he said. "We'll just try to improve as the year goes on."
Coming off successful seasons last year, both the boys and girls teams are looking to stay near the top of the county race again this year.
The boys team, under six-year coach Fran McCullin, will have a near-impossible task of matchinglast season's 17-0 mark.
Losing six out of his top eight players,McCullin is looking just to stay in the hunt with an inexperienced team.
"Being as inexperienced as we are, we don't expect to have asmuch success as last year," he said. "We have a large freshman classthat might be the same kind of class that graduated together last year.
"This year, we are just looking to improve as the season goes on."
With a number of key players returning and the addition of some players who can contribute immediately, girls coach Ken Shook believes he has the right nucleus to challenge for the county title.
"We have a good nucleus with some good depth," he said. "We have five returning starters, two nice transfers and other experienced players returning.
"South Carroll probably has the edge, and Liberty is always in the running, but we should be there as well."
WEST. MD. GREENTERRORS
Both Western Maryland programs will be looking to improveon last year's efforts, which saw them win a combined six matches.
Women's coach Joan Weyers is pleased with what she has seen so far and believes the depth she has added this year -- along with consistency -- will be the keys.
"We lost no seniors, and the new players are looking nice," Weyers said. "We must play with consistency this season."
Alex Ober is hoping his men's squad can be more competitive in the tough Middle Atlantic Conference Southwest section.
"The Southwest looks strong, with Franklin & Marshall, Dickinson, Gettysburg and Muhlenberg all having strong programs," he said.