If all goes well for St. Paul's this spring, the Crusaders could create a new sports term: "double-three-peat."
During the 1990-91 season St. Paul's won Maryland Scholastic Association titles in football, basketball and lacrosse. The Crusaders have repeated as champions in football and basketball in 1991-92 and the lacrosse team is favored to win the A Conference again.
It won't be easy for the Crusaders, who will have to survive in the tougher of two A Conference divisions, with stiff competition from Severn, Loyola and Gilman.
"We're going to be very good," said coach Mitch Whiteley, "but the competition is going to be very good, too."
There are several changes in the MSA this year. John Carroll and McDonogh have moved from the BB to the A Conference. Poly has moved from the B Conference to the BB Conference. Forest Park, Patterson and Lake Clifton have moved from the C Conference to the B Conference.
In Baltimore County, Dulaney is still the team to beat, though Loch Raven and Towson will be close behind. Severna Park and Annapolis should battle it out in Anne Arundel County. C. Milton Wright is the favorite in Harford County, but Fallston and North Harford should offer stiff competition. Mount Hebron could run away with the Howard County title, but Glenelg should challenge. South Carroll and Liberty are the favorites among the Carroll County schools.
Here is a look at The Baltimore Sun's preseason top 15:
1. ST. PAUL'S
Last year, the youthful Crusaders (12-4) got better as the season progressed and ended with playoff victories over Loyola and St. Mary's to capture the MSA A Conference title. With seven starters returning, including four with All-Metro recognition, St. Paul's appears ready for a strong repeat bid in a talent-rich A Conference field. What could be one of the most explosive attack units in recent years is topped by four-year starters Tim Whiteley (the leading scorer in the MSA) and Rob Bouse and three-year starter Michael Watson, a junior. A midfield which includes 11 returnees among 14 players is led by senior Joe Gelbard. The defense is anchored by senior goalie Tommy Keratzes, with juniors Mac McCulloch and Steve Karvounis back on close defense joining with transfer Patrick Doyle (Loyola).
The Dons were last year's favorite, but as coach Joe McFadden put it, "we got dinged up along the way" finishing at 7-4 and being ousted in the opening playoff round by eventual A Conference champion St. Paul's. This year McFadden is worried that a lack of proven depth could be troublesome, especially on defense where the Dons need a lot of work according to the veteran coach. Seniors Chris Ginter and Colin Brune along with sophomore Karl Zeller will start on defense, and the goaltending spot is still a battle between returning seniors Jason Johnson and Paul Speargas and junior Greg Zorella, up from the JV championship team. Three-year starter Brad Hoag leads the starting senior midfield unit that also includes Bobby Vaughn and Greg Foti, while senior Pat McGuire heads the second trio. Attack is probably the strongest area for the Dons with junior Bill Evans, four-year veteran Mike Boyle and leading point man Mike Gately all returning. "In our division one real good team isn't going to make the playoffs," said McFadden. "Right now our goal is to get one of those two playoff spots."
After spending the past 10 months in Fort Bragg, N.C., with his Special Forces unit in support of Operation Desert Storm, Severn boys lacrosse coach Rob White is back and looking to improve on last season, when his team's went 4-6 in the MSA A Conference under the direction of interim coach Peter Trau. The Admirals return 15 seniors, including their goalie, 6-1, 170-pound Court Durling. Milford Marchant (27 goals, 19 assists), Todd Muendell and Duncan Slidell return to the midfield. Jason Wade (44 goals, 28 assists) and Dudley Dixon anchor the attack. Most impressive is Severn's senior-laden close defense, which includes Ben Andrew, Graydon Ripley, Brian Kight, Andrew Webb and Doug Shafer.
4. BOYS' LATIN
With the A Conference schedule increased from 10 to 13 games this spring, depth should be a vital factor and that's a point that Lakers coach Bob Shriver isn't sure about. "We have 10 kids back from last season [13-3] with plenty of experience," he said. "But after that we have so many question marks." Boys' Latin lost All-Metro stars Stan Ross (defense) and Kevin Lutz (attack), who are now at Loyola College, and six of the top 10 midfielders are gone. But senior Steve Bassford returns in goal and seniors Matt Ryan and Bart Roskovich return at close defense with Jim Walls and Todd Quenzer battling for the third defensive spot. Senior Dave Pollock and junior Andy Sharretts are returning starters in the midfield, where junior Matt Proutt and senior Scott Bednaz will also see a lot of duty. The attack returns a pair of two-year starters in Kevin Bryan and Matt LaVreghetta and senior Gene Lower should fill out that starting unit. The Lakers are grouped with St. Mary's, Calvert Hall, Mount St. Joseph and John Carroll and must be rated among the top pair in that group. "I would say if the other kids get better during the year and do the job, we could have a nice year," said Shriver.
5. ST. MARY'S
St. Mary's was hit hard by graduation, but the Saints still have enough returnees from last year's MSA A Conference runner-up squad to make another run for the title. Gone are blue-chippers Rob Chomo (Maryland), David Jones (Virginia) and goalie Chris Brown (North Carolina). Sophomore Jim Brown will take over in goal where his brother, Chris, left off. Back are senior midfielders Eamon McCormick and Kevin Reichardt. The Saints attack is new and unproven but has shown in preseason scrimmages the ability to put the ball in the net. The Saints' midfield is intact with seniors J.D Gattie, Francis McAndrews and Rob Tobin.
Youth is still being served at Gilman where coach John Tucker's Greyhounds went 8-7 last season but picked up some necessary experience. "We're young and I like what I see, especially in the attitude and effort," said Tucker. "But we might still be a year or two away." The Greyhounds lost their entire defense from last season but junior Bryan Smith and sophomore Mike Allan are back on attack and will be joined by the leading JV scorer, sophomore Dylan Schlott. Junior Lou Kousouris is back in goal and will need help at close defense from seniors James Guyton and Eric Walser. Junior Peter McGill and sophomores Mark Cornes and Stewart Kesmodel are key middies.
7. CALVERT HALL
The losses through graduation were quite heavy for the Cardinals (10-6). Gone are eight starters, including the entire first defense and first midfield. The key part of that first midfield was the MSA Player of the Year, Tony Nugent, now at Virginia. "Experience-wise we're in trouble," said coach Mike Thomas. "Right now I don't think we're even a top 10 team. But I feel we will be there by the end of the year, if we can hold it together through the early part of the schedule." The Cardinals attack is led by junior Peter Hilgartner and senior Sean Ryan with juniors Tim Kearnay and Augie Black seeking the other spot. Seniors Larry Rohleder, Brian Hubbard and Marty Kane top the midfielders and seniors Ed Grant, Loyd Shifflett and Eric Branger make up the close defense. Seniors Brian Lippa and Wyatt Shifflett are battling over the goaltending slot.
After graduating all of their defense and most of their attack, the two-time defending Class 4A-3A champion Lions are counting on a core of outstanding midfielders to lead them to another big year. Dulaney, 12-0 last year and winners of 36 straight, features midfielder Brad Berzins and midfielder Mason Ray, both of whom have already committed to play Division I lacrosse in college. Completing the talented trio is junior Tim Speno. With the graduation of most of last year's team, however, other positions will be a question mark. Moving from midfield to fill the void at attack is senior Greg Ponzoli, and the team also features an entirely new group of defensemen. Senior Scott Gobell, who played the second half of most games last season, will add some stability in goal. Dulaney's one glaring weakness could be its lack of depth, where it has few players with any varsity experience.
9. MOUNT HEBRON
Outstanding strength at midfield should be enough to give Mount Hebron a shot to repeat as Class 2A-1A state champions. Leading the way will be a pair of seniors who have committed to play next year in Division I college programs -- Jason Vettori (Duke) and Carl Bachau (Navy). Both possess tremendous athletic ability and could be the strongest players on the team. Other seniors include defenseman Matt Stronberg, attackman Tom Huppman and goalie Chris Parandian. Overall, the Vikings have good depth but seem to lack a dominating player. Their strength at midfield should once again make them an excellent transition team. Coach Warren Michaels says his midfield is the deepest it's ever been. The one weakness in preseason scrimmages has been an inability to clear the ball, but Michaels feels that will improve with time.
10. C. MILTON WRIGHT
The Mustangs, coming off a 13-2 season and an appearance in the Class 4A-3A state quarterfinals, look like the team to beat in Harford County. Coach Carl Greenberg's squad lost only to county champ North Harford during the season and to Annapolis in the state playoffs. Six starters return from the 1991 squad, along with a lot of depth. Attackmen Chris Lloyd, Brian Moen and Corey Lambroff, middies Scott Panowitz and Joe Milano and defensemen Ryan Arist and Chuck Heinze are among the best in the league. Also back is senior Andy Wishart, the county's most skilled and experienced goalie. Greenberg, in his 12th season, is worried about replacing the leadership he lost to graduation, but expects that should emerge with a few games.
With just seven seniors on their 27-man roster, Towson a Class 2A-1A state semifinalist last season, won't have experience on its side. It will, however, have possibly the top defense in Baltimore County. The Generals, 11-1 last season, feature four defensemen who saw plenty of action last year in juniors James Gohng and Victor Chen and seniors David Byerly and Michael Graebner. The Generals also boast one of the area's top goalies in senior Lance Buckley. Their problems, however, could be putting the ball in the goal. All three attackmen and the top three midfielders from last year have graduated. Michael Ford, a junior attackman, will try to pick up some of the slack, but the question will be how quickly the new players can contribute.
12. SEVERNA PARK
Severna Park missed the playoffs by one game last year, but the Falcons are widely regarded as Anne Arundel County's best public school team this year. Most of their starters are back, including senior attackman Mike Crawford (17 goals, 33 assists). Fellow attackmen Bob Evans and Scott deGraffenreid also are proven scorers, so opposing defenses can't key on just one or two players. The midfield is deep and experienced -- with four seniors and four juniors -- and the defense returns seniors Jay Gibbs, Nick Panagopoulos, Jason Campbell and Justin Perry, and junior keeper Matt Pugh. There don't appear to be any weaknesses on this team, but the Falcons will be tested early, opening the season against county powers Arundel, Broadneck, North County and Annapolis. "This should be our year," says sixth-year coach Ed Ulrich, whose team went 9-3 last spring.
Annapolis, which was defeated by state 4A-3A finalist North County in last year's playoffs, returns potent offensive threats in seniors Dan Flynn (37 goals and 14 assists) and Jon Songey (25 goals and 10 assists). Junior Mike Faioli is the third leading returning scorer with 11 goals and four assists during the 1991 campaign. Anne Arundel County coaches are leaning toward Annapolis as one of the potential 4A League frontrunners, along with Severna Park and Broadneck. Fourth-year Annapolis coach Dan Hart has a strong core of defensemen (including juniors Brendan Bellotte and Craig Harrison and senior Jim Reed) to help Annapolis continue its strong tradition as one of the best teams in the state.
14. LOCH RAVEN
With a solid midfield, an adequate defense and a rising young goalie, Class 2A-1A state semifinalist Loch Raven looks as though it won't allow too many goals. Scoring them, however, might prove to be a problem. Though the Raiders, 9-3 last year, return the entire attack, they lack a standout scorer. Midfielder Ryan Moore will try to pick up some of the slack using his 6-foot-3 frame and accurate shot. Senior Jeremy Lake will lead the defense and junior Andy King looked exceptional in goal during preseason scrimmages. If the Raiders can score goals, coach Pat Neary feels they can improve on last year's record.
Fallston lost in overtime, 7-6, to North Harford in the Class 2A-1A quarterfinals last year, and coach John Conley expects his squad to be even better this year. The Cougars lost seven starters, but have reloaded with a mix of veterans and newcomers. Top returnees include defensemen Nick Gesell, Brian Austin and Jason Alford, middies Dan Bowers, Joe Poling, Ryan Caldwell, Zack Karantonis and Pete Dixon and attackmen Ryan Wegeler and Brad Baker. Conley also expects a lot from freshman middie Todd Paradise and a host of players moving up from JV. In addition, Conley has brought in two new coaches, Towson State alums Lou Deligatti and John Hammond, to help boost the program. The only weakness seems to be in the goal, where Conley is trying out three untested players. Otherwise, the Cougars have the talent and the depth to make a run at the county title.