Things returned to normal in high school girls lacrosse this spring,which is to say Mount Hebron assumed its position as the class of the league.
The Vikings, who conceded their two-time, county-champion status to Centennial last year, regained the league title with their strongest season in the four years the county has played girls lacrosse.
Hebron came into the season favored to win their third county championship. The Vikings responded with a 7-0 record -- their third undefeated county season in four years -- and were never seriously threatened.
The Vikings outscored their league competition by an average of 12 goals and advanced to the Class 2A semifinals. There, the Vikings lost to Loch Raven, which went on to win its fourth straight state title. That left Hebron with an 0-4 record in state playoffs.
Hebron's predictable drive to the league crown notwithstanding, the county season had a few interesting twists.
Oakland Mills, for instance, looked dead in the water after stumbling to an 0-3 start. But the Scorpions, who failed to make the 3A playoffs, regrouped to win sixconsecutive games and finished second in the county with a 6-1 county record.
Centennial fielded its youngest team in coach Gail Purcell's fourth year, and the Eagles showed their inexperience often -- especially on defense. Centennial still finished with a respectable 8-4 record, including a 5-2 mark, good for third place in the county.
The Strangest Season Award goes to Glenelg. The Gladiators, perennial contenders who had made the playoffs in each of the past three years, had their first losing season (3-4 county, 5-7 overall) under four-year coach Ginger Kincaid.
But at least Glenelg earned points for competitiveness. The Gladiators dropped six games either by one goal or in overtime. Has a team ever been so close to a great season, yet so far?
The Howard County Sun's All-County selections are largely a reflection of the standings. Hebron, not surprisingly, leads the pack with six first team selections. Oakland Mills is second with three first team players.
Here are the first team picks:
Besides Mount Hebron's Suzanne DeHaan (see Player of the Year story), Vikings junior Megan Drake packed a lot of offensive punch for Hebron. Despite missing two county games and parts of two others due to athigh injury, Drake was second on the team with 37 goals and 10 assists. She scored 22 goals and had three assists against the county.
"I think she is the best pure shooter ever to play in the county," said Hebron coach P.J. Kesmodel. "She has excellent stick skills and regularly shoots and scores with both hands. She has the same sort of offensive versatility that Suzanne DeHaan has."
Centennial's Kirsten Sadler had a tough job. "She was the glue. She carried the team, and she had to. She didn't have a choice," said Centennial coach Gail Purcell.
Indeed, Sadler had to carry the Eagles after they lost senior Megan McGowan to an ankle injury in the season's sixth game against Mount Hebron. And she responded with a superb season, scoring a team-high 59 goals. She also dished out six assists and came up with 166 ground balls.
Susanne Bozenski played the same role for OaklandMills. A three-year varsity player, Bozenski led the Scorpions with 48 goals, and was a key to Oakland Mills' late-season resurgence.
"She has had the ability all along, but she didn't stand out last year," said Oakland Mills coach Chris Marsiglia. "She's a great finesse player who helped out a lot on defense as well as lead our offense."
Howard's Emily Petrlik was a strong Player of the Yearcandidate, despite playing on a 1-11 team that failed to win a county game.
A first team selection last year, Petrlik led the county with 70 goals -- an astounding total, considering the number of double-, triple- and quadruple-teams she encountered. She accounted for 63 percent of the Lions' offense.
"And she really developed her defense this year," said Howard coach Jackie French, who played Petrlik atfive different positions. "She switched hands well, and she had an uncanny ability to find the net in a crowd of people."
Oakland Mills' Bridget Innerarity was an unheralded player who played lots of defense at the cover point position. She scored four goals, had two assists and 39 ground balls.
"I usually put her on the best scorer. She had the speed and the skills, and nobody on the team had better footwork," said Coach Marsiglia.
Mount Hebron's Andrea Cuzmanes and Lori Pasquantonio formed the league's outstanding midfield tandem.
Cuzmanes, a second team selection last year, controlled the middle asHebron's center. She was fourth on the team with 26 goals, led the Vikings with 17 assists and was second on the team in ground balls with 85. She was the catalyst for Hebron's potent transition game.
Cuzmanes also played in the United States Women's Lacrosse Association's national high school tournament. She was one of the 10 Baltimore area players selected to represent the South team.
Pasquantonio nearly made the same team, but that was no reflection on her outstanding play for the Vikings. An ambidextrous shooter, she was third on the team in scoring with 30 goals and eight assists. She also broke the school record with 88 ground balls. And she scored 11 points in the twocounty games Drake had to miss with her thigh injury.
Mount Hebron's Kate Mallon and Traci Eckstein were the heart of Hebron's line defense, which allowed an average of just 8.5 goals over theVikings' 14-game season.
Mallon was the quicker of the two. She used her fiery competitiveness to stifle numerous big scorers.
In the Vikings' 13-8 loss to Seton-Keough, Mallon held All-Metro attackerKim Wilson to one goal. In Hebron's 12-9 victo
ry over Severn, she dominated Emily Rohrback. In key county games, Mallon shut down Centennial's Kirsten Sadler in the first half, while the Vikings were taking a 14-2 halftime lead. And in the Vikings' 14-9 victory over Glenelg, she contained Kara Meissner in the second half, when Hebron tookcontrol.
Mallon also scored five goals and had six assists.
Eckstein, a first-team selection last year, played the critical point position and used excellent positioning and communication with goalie Beth Streagle to offset her lack of speed. She also battled neck and back problems for most of the season.
"She quarterbacked our defense. She's a very intelligent player," said Kesmodel. "She does an excellent job of clearing the ball, either by interchanging with the goalie, passing the ball upfield to a midfielder or by somehow running the ball out and eluding her faster pursuers."
Suzanne Willis had the same impact on Oakland Mills' defense. Always assigned to the opponents' top scorer, she was the unsung hero of the Scorpions' 6-1 county season. Willis led the team with 47 ground balls. She also scored two goals and had an assist.
"She played with so much heart. She'sone of those players you wish you had 12 of," said Marsiglia.
Glenelg's Dana Hoffman was a first-year varsity player who guarded the net like a veteran. An excellent clearer who was particularly good at drawing charges on crease roll maneuvers, Hoffman made 224 saves while playing in all 12 Glenelg games -- an average of 18.6.
She made 27 saves against Oakland Mills, 23 each against Mount Hebron and Hammond, and 20 against Centennial. She allowed 134 goals.