The Severn and St. Mary's boys lacrosse teams entered their 1991 campaigns riddled with questions about their unproven defenses.
But for every defensive uncertainty lies an answer in the form of a potentattackman.
"We certainly have the people to put the ball in the cage, but the big question is can we stop them defensively?" said St. Mary's veteran coach Jim Moorhead, who lost all but one of the defenders from last year's 12-4 squad to graduation.
Severn interim coach Pete Traufaces similar defensive woes. But he is confident that his strong attack will provide the Admirals with the buoyancy to endure the harsh waters of the MSA A Conference.
"We're going to get a ton of goalsfrom our attackmen, but we have to stay healthy," said Trau, who already has seen players miss time because of a variety of injuries ranging from chickenpox to back problems. "We're young and not deep, so injuries could really hurt us."
The departure of Ryan Wade, last year's Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year, undoubtedly will impair the Admirals, but their pain will be eased with the return of several key players from last year's A Conference runner-up, as well as crop of talented newcomers.
Returning to Severn's lineup are senior tri-captains Matt "Spike" Long, midfielder Spencer Reckner and loneveteran defenseman Drew Bauer. Long, an attackman headed for the Naval Academy in the fall, netted 56 goals last season and is expected to emerge as one of the county's top scorers again this year.
Junior Jason Wade, Ryan's brother, and sophomore Dudley Dixon round out Severn's deadly attack while senior Matt Sarro and juniors Jason Moran, Milford Marchant, Todd Muendel and Duncan Slidell complete the Admirals' midfield.
Severn's offensive firepower is indeed more than adequate, but anyone familiar with the MSA A Conference knows that anything short of that could make for a long season.
Severn joins St. Paul's, Boys' Latin and Calvert Hall in one division while St. Mary's, Loyola, Mount St. Joseph and Gilman make up the other.
With only two teams from each conference heading to the postseason tournament, Trau said he doesn't see an easy route either way; however, he says his division has the rockier road.
"St. Paul's has the best team it's had in 10 years and Boys' Latin is the same way," said Trau, whose Admirals must face each team in its division twice and teams from the other division once. "Calvert Hall should be strong as well. I definitely think we have the tougher road to take."
Moorhead disagrees with Trau, who is filling in for Rob White after his recall to active duty last month for Operation Desert Storm.
"Loyola is always going to be the team to beat, but look for Gilman to be tough as well," said Moorhead, who returns University of Maryland-bound Rob Chomo, who had 42 goals and 21 assists last year as a junior.
"(Gilman coach) John Tucker won some big games in his first year last season, and they should be a better team this year and St. Joe never gets the respect they deserve.
"It's a heckuva fun league to play in and to watch but I don't know how fun it is to coach."
If Moorhead isquestioning how much fun it is to coach in the MSA A Conference, he may want to ponder some of the alternatives. Spalding first-year coach Terry Mangan inherits a Cavalier squad that finished 1-12 in the MSA B Conference.
The Cavaliers return only two seniors this season and Mangan is taking the right approach in hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
"We're not real worried about the wins and losses at this point, as long as we see improvement," said Mangan. "Our offense should get better as the season goes on, but for now, we just want them to learn the new system and prepare for next season."