The "second season" starts for three county lacrosse teams Friday, though Carroll's spotty record in postseason play doesn't appear likely to change.

While North Carroll and Liberty each had outstanding seasons and finished first and second, respectively, in Class 3A/4A Region I, both will have difficult opponents when they open Friday.

As region champ, North Carroll will have the advantage of the home field Friday night. As the fourth-seeded region champion, North Carroll earns the dubious distinction of playing Severna Park.

The Falcons are four-time defending Class 3A/4A champions, but they likely will finish second in Region IV after losing to Chesapeake earlier this season. Still, Severna Park started the week at 10-1 and tied for second in the metro area in The Sun poll yesterday.

Offensively, the squad has been led by attacker Hillary Kuker, who had 30 goals and10 assists as of late last week against perhaps the toughest competition around. (Five of the 15 ranked teams in Tuesday's poll are from Anne Arundel.)

North Carroll, of course, has its own pair of talented scorers. Bridgette Harris has 45 goals and nine assists, while teammate Vicki Williams has 35 scores and six assists.

Though regioncoordinator Courtney Vaughn said the North Carroll-Severna Park match-up seemed a pretty sure bet as of late Monday (final pairings will be set this afternoon), she was unsure who her own Liberty squad would be facing.

The Lions appear headed for either the seventh or eighth seed in the eight-team tournament, and definitely will play on the road Friday.

If Liberty ends up as the seventh seed, the Lions likely will visit aforementioned Chesapeake -- the second seed in the tournament and ranked fourth by The Sun with an 11-0 record -- Fridaynight. If Liberty drops to eighth seed (based on results of yesterday's games), the Lions probably would visit top-seeded Dulaney of Baltimore County, ranked eighth by The Sun with an 11-0 mark, Friday afternoon.

Either way, it should be a strong challenge for the Lions, who did flirt with major success earlier this year by almost topping St. Mary's of Annapolis (Anne Arundel County) before losing by a goal. The Saints were ranked No. 3 in the metro area at the time.

Meanwhile, South Carroll's boys also will be at home Friday at 7:30 p.m.,and Coach Gene Brown likely won't know who his opponent is until this morning.

South Carroll, the Class 3A/4A Region I champ, is seeded fourth among the eight teams and will play the fifth-seeded team. That should be Catonsville of Baltimore County (9-1 and unranked at the start of the week), but if North County of Anne Arundel County lostto Chesapeake last night (after press time), the Knights would lose their region title and become the fifth seed.

In other sports thisweek:

* Westminster figures to defend its titles in both boys andgirls track during the county championships, beginning at 12:30 p.m.Friday at Western Maryland College.

How good are the Owls?

Well, two days after sweeping the Central Maryland Conference crowns last Thursday, the Owls sent a group of athletes to the Zimmerman Memorial Meet in Frederick County and swept boys and girls titles -- from Middletown, one of the best Class 2A programs in the state, and without their best athletes.

Westminster coach Bill Hill used the event as a tune-up for some of his less-experienced competitors and still copped a pair of titles, while keeping the top-flight performers healthy for the upcoming county, region and state meets.

Included in that group is Jeff LiBerge, who is rewriting the state pole vaulting record books while turning in strong performances in weight events and hurdles.

Also passing on the Zimmerman meet was a pair of standoutgirls -- distance runner Stephanie Morningstar (winner of three state titles a year ago) and jumper/hurdler Kenya Warfield.

Westminster's boys are poised to score well in perhaps every event except the high jump, while the girls' only potential weak spot seems to be the 800-meter relay.

On the boys side, Francis Scott Key should mount the strongest challenge. Hill said the Eagles could challenge for the crown, but Eagles coach John Seaman isn't biting.

"I don't think we have a realistic shot at taking the title from them," Seaman said. "What we set as a goal at the beginning of the year was to narrow thepoint spread (from last year's county meet, which the Owls won by 33points)."

Some of the better boys matchups between the Owls and Eagles should be in the sprints, horizontal jumps and weight events.

Key's Kirk Lindsay will be among the favorites in both hurdles events, and Key has several sprinters that should score well in both the open 200 and the 800 relay.

The girls competition had been relatively close for a few years, until the Owls won last year by nearly 50 points. And the margin could be even larger this year. North Carroll has improved a bit since then, but Liberty, South Carroll and Key allseem to be struggling compared to a year ago.

Still, the challengers do have a few bright spots. South Carroll has sprinter April Ludwig and jumper Denine Henderson. Liberty has sprinter/hurdler Julie Cox. And North Carroll has hurdler Ashlee Douglass.

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