So what if the Severna Park field hockey team lost 10 players from last season?

"We do every year," Coach Lil Shelton said casually.

And every year, the Falcons make another run at a state championship. They've picked up five of them, along with 10 regional titles and 13 straight county championships.

What's to prevent Severna Parkfrom adding to those figures this season? How about Broadneck, Chesapeake, Annapolis and Old Mill, for starters?

"There's going to be good competition this year. It's going to be tough. It always is," said 15-year Chesapeake coach Jerry Raab, whose Cougars lost to Broadneck, 5-2, in last year's Class 4A Region IV semifinals.

Broadneck fell to Severna Park, 2-0, in the regional final, and the Falcons reached the 4A state final before Bethesda-Chevy Chase played the spoilerwith a 2-1 victory.

The loss was Severna Park's first in 16 games.

This season, the Falcons appear strongest on defense, where junior keeper Rachel Kidwell and seniors Chris Flack, Suzanne Leavitt, Sally Morgan and Julie Wissman all return. So does defensive coordinator Sue Behringer.

But they'll have a tough act to follow. Led by center-back Katie Woodcock -- the Anne Arundel County Sun Player of theYear -- and fellow defenders Hillary Kuker and Jessie Kasmir, the Falcons only allowed five goals during the regular season.

All have since departed, along with leading scorer Tricia Gately -- who nettedSeverna Park's only goal against Bethesda-Chevy Chase -- attackers Amy Dolan and Petra Smeehuyzen, and midfielders Shannon Fitzgerald andKelly Fennessey.

Still, Shelton doesn't sound worried. She's seen, and survived, such losses before.

"I think this team's capable of doing the same thing the teams of the past have done," she said. "Idon't like to make comparisons to older teams, though. They'll set their own pace and do their own thing."

She expects plenty of scoring from a committee that includes seniors Jen Stone, Carolyn Plant, Lisa Hettrick and Andreya Valabek and junior Gabrielle Cormier. Plant and Cormier are up from the junior varsity.

"We don't look for oneperson to score," Shelton said. "We have six up there who can score,and they'll be given the green light to do it whenever the opportunity arises."

Broadneck is coming off its own superlative year, which included seven shutouts in its first nine games, and 10 overall.

The Bruins went 11-2-1, including two losses to Severna Park and a scoreless tie with Chesapeake. But duplicating or exceeding that win total will prove difficult.

Graduation took three first-team All-County choices -- attacker Krissy Borradaile, midfielder Laura Gerrior and defender Tricia Frary. And three of the Bruins' five second-teamers -- attacker Michelle Leonard, defender Kristan Reichhardt and goalie Amy Foster -- also departed.

On the flip side, midfielder Rebecca Fink -- the Bruins' leading returning scorer -- and defender Jen Chapman are back after making second-team All-County last season.

"I'm optimistic, as always," said Broadneck coach Phoebe Kelly, whose team opens at Severna Park on Sept. 17. "We'll give everybody a run for their money."

The Bruins may have struck gold on the defensive end, where Chapman, senior fullbacks Rachel Smith, Paige Bowman and Sara Bannat and senior goalie Rachel Fassi should limit the opposition's scoring.

Raab would like to see more scoring from her Chesapeake team, which struggled for goals most of the season in going 6-4-3.

Nine players have graduated, including All-County performers Stacey Matcuk (goalie) and Michele Julian (defender). Second-teamers Leigh-Ann Green (attack) and Paula Scheerer (defender), and midfielder Marlene Pyles also are gone.

Raab would rather concentrate on the sixreturning players -- seniors Kara Smith (forward), Carrie Williar and Marsha Brown (both defenders) and juniors Monica Gibson (forward), Jennie Light and Jenny Ragan (both midfielders).

She also is keeping a close eye on junior Ellie Beziat, last year's JV keeper.

"They're a young team, and they're dedicated. They want to do well," Raabsaid. "We'll be competitive. We'll take it one day at a time and work toward making them better and correcting their mistakes. We'll be competitive and go at least .500."

Speaking of .500, Old Mill took a 6-6 record into the region playoffs, where the Patriots were bounced by Severna Park in the semifinals, 3-0.

Are the Patriots ready to go at least one step further? They'll get an inkling Sept. 13, whenthey open against Chesapeake.

Opponents won't receive any cheap goals, not with senior Kim Greenlee in the cage and defenders Karin Gleason and Jenny Atchison out front.

At South River, the going is much smoother than it was a year ago at this time, when a coach still hadn't been found and the program was about to crumble.

Along cameLaura Garner, who took the Seahawks to the Class 3A Region IV playoffs with a 6-6 record.

Garner was looking forward to making furtherprogress, but those hopes may have been --ed when half of her returning players elected not to come out.

"That puts us back to a rebuilding season," she said.

At least the second-year coach can bank on seniors like goalie Peggy Schreiber, midfielder/defender Cher Coleman and defenders Kim Ludwig and Anne Rephann. Also, junior Mary Searsis back at midfield.

A host of teams are trying to force their way into the playoffs after missing out last fall, including Annapolis,which went 5-6-1 in 1990.

Fifth-year coach Tammy Janoskie believes better times are ahead, despite losing 12 players.

"We're shooting for the playoffs, without a doubt," she said. "We don't have the depth and a large amount of players, but the kids we do have are very hard workers. I think they can get the job done."

Certainly, junior Shannon Cordell got the job done last year, leading the Panthers inscoring. She joins another junior forward, Nicole Deschamps.

Defensively, Annapolis boasts senior Laura Mueller and juniors Cory Samaras and Karen Lyninsky.

The Panthers open Sept. 13 against Severna Park, and Janoskie promises, "We're going to be ready."

Other playoff outsiders hoping to extend their seasons -- or at least make modest strides -- include Meade and Arundel.

The Mustangs were 6-6 last year under Patti Sinnen, who has been replaced by Kelly Holden. TheWildcats went 0-10-2 under first-year coach Clint Gosnell, but the defense, which returns seniors Megan Sharp, Beth Motzer and Amy Brown,was a bright spot.

Southern's offense floundered last season, andthe result was a disappointing 1-10-1 record. North County joins thevarsity ranks after one season of JV competition.

Over at Severn School, a strong showing in a recent scrimmage against Severna Park further added to new coach Cathy Schorreck's optimism.

Schorreck, a1985 graduate of Severn who replaces Cathy Carper, has nine seniors returning to a team that went 8-6-2 last season (including 3-4-1 in the Association of Independent Schools). Only two sophomores made the varsity.

When asked what her veteran squad was capable of accomplishing this fall, Schorreck simply answered, "Winning."

In order todo that, Schorreck needs junior Cristy Cole to make the transition from forward to goalie. She also needs production from the senior contingent of halfbacks Marisa Braun, Katie Burrows, Jacqui McDermott andHeather Snyder, forwards Cristina Brill, Jenny Duffy and Anne Schorreck and sweepers Carmen Fifer and Sarah Franey.

"We'd like to go all the way," Schorreck said. "We're aiming for the AIS championship, at least the West Division."

Because it competes as an independent, St. Mary's doesn't have a division title or postseason tournament for motivation. But that didn't prevent the Saints from enjoying theirbest season ever in 1990.

The Saints won 13 of 16 games under Coach Lisa Howe, who begins her fifth season with even more confidence than she felt at the start of last year.

One reason is the return of senior wing Melissa Wasowski, who led the county in scoring last season, with 16 goals and eight assists.

Howe thinks the best is yetto come from Wasowski. "She used to just enter the circle and shoot," she said. "Now she lifts the ball up when she enters the circle."

The Saints could use a lift on defense, where only Kirsten Bowman and Kirsten Gross return. But their offensive firepower -- including senior wing Kim Maiste -- should help cover any deficiencies.

Archbishop Spalding, also an independent, won four games and tied another last year behind a defense that returns junior Anne Marie Smith.

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