Mount Hebron Vikings
Sixth-year coach Warren Michael never has had a team this young. Michael will carry nine sophomores and three freshmen. Don't let that mislead you, though. The defending
county-champion Vikings (15-3 last year) lost in the state finals and have won four county titles under Michael, will make another run at the league championship.
"It's the youngest team I've had, but these youngsters are surprising me," Michael said. "I think we're pretty skilled, but we're not real big and strong on midfield or attack, and we're not real deep. We're inexperienced on defense. If we get any injuries on midfield or attack, it will be real rough on us."
The Vikings should have not have much trouble on offense. Senior attackmen Andrew Ballinger and Andrew Ward and senior midfielders Justin Gemmell and Clay Shifflett will give opposing defenses problems, despite their average size of 5-9, 145 pounds.
Ballinger had 30 goals and 22 assists last year. Ward (17 goals, three assists) moves from midfield. Gemmell, a part-time player last year, should blossom as a starter.
Shifflett (13 goals, three assists) might be the best player out of all of them. He's a terrific ground-ball man (99 last year, second on the team) with a shot that is faster and more accurate this year. Look for Shifflett to have a big season.
Then there's sophomore midfielder Scott Baughman, who excelled in a part-time role last spring and will be called upon to complement the offense as a starter.
Michael is depending on a second midfield that might be the quickest he's ever had -- senior returnee Greg Toney and freshmen Brent Wilhoite and Terrence Buckley.
Defense worries Michael. Except for returning senior starter Sammy Kang, the Vikings are untested. Seniors Robert Chung and Matt Kavney played sparingly last year, and the goalie position hasn't been decided yet. Senior Andrew Becker and junior Sean Buchanan are still vying for the starting job.
Oakland Mills Scorpions
First-year coach Phil Stevens, who took over for Gary Ahrens, has a mission.
"We're looking forward to a winning season this year, and more importantly, we're looking forward to rebuilding the Oakland Mills lacrosse reputation to the way it used to be," Stevens said. "We're going to live up to the expectations that this team has failed to live up to for the last four years. We're going all the way to the states."
That's quite a task for any team, especially one that has gone through two straight 2-5 seasons against the county. But the Scorpions have the talent to make a great turnaround story happen.
Seniors Matt LeBlanc (goalie), Shannon Hiteshew (attack/midfield) and Shawn Madison (midfield) all return from solid seasons. LeBlanc had a 73 percent save ratio. Hiteshew led Scorpions midfielders with 10 assists to go with 19 goals. Madison had 14 goals and six assists.
"Those guys [LeBlanc, Hiteshew and Madison] were great last summer in the [Howard County] Hero's [summer] league," said Hebron coach Warren Michael.
Senior defensemen Theron Grim, Geoff Henderson, Chris Sheldon are back, while senior Buzz Krohn should add depth to that unit. Juniors Jeff Wong and Chris Costantino return at attack, where Stevens is counting on incoming sophomore Iggy Levelev to spark the offense. Two-year starter Jeff Cartwright (senior midfield) rounds out the starting unit.
"We're fast, we have good stick skills, we have an offense with punch and a defense that can stop anything that's thrown at it. We probably have some of the best players the county has to offer," Stevens said.
Now all the Scorpions have to do is win.
Wilde Lake Wildecats
The struggle continues for fifth-year coach Mike Harrison.
The Wildecats haven't won a game since 1990. They once again are short on skills and depth. And Harrison sees no end in sight.
"I've really come up against a wall," Harrison said. "Trying to get new kids to come out is like pulling teeth. Lacrosse is dying at Wilde Lake."
What's more, for the 23 varsity players he has, the preseason has been doubly frustrating. With the persistent inclement weather in recent weeks, the Wildecats have not been able to work on the skills they need to address so badly.
"It [the weather] hurts me more than anything else, because we don't have an auxiliary gym," Harrison said. "The kids are tired of running stairs [in the school]. We'd have a good track team, I'll tell you that. We're in great shape. But, with the way things are going, we'll be lucky to win a game."
Five starters return from last year's 0-12 team. Senior midfielder/attackman Jon Taylor is probably the best. He scored 17 goals and added six assists last year. Seniors Tony Crawford and Mike Klingler -- a four-year player -- and three-year junior John Sherr round out the midfield.
Senior defenseman Eric Lach returns to start, as does junior goalie Mike Gardner, who saved 60 percent of the hundreds of shots that came his way last year.
Among the many inexperienced newcomers, junior Donovan Burns will start on defense, while sophomore twins Robin and Baubeck Yegnaeh are fighting for a defensive spot. Sophomores John Beakes and Ben Service are competing for a starting attack position, and juniors Mike Anderson (midfield), Scott Jefferson (attack), Mike Prout (midfield) and sophomore Tom Cheung (midfield) are vying for starting jobs.