On paper, it's hard not to predict another banner season for the Annapolis girls lacrosse team.
The 11-4 regional finalist returns the county's leading scorer along with a host of All-County-caliber talent all over the field.
Cristi Samaras (first-team All-County attack) returns after a sensational sophomore year (74 goals, best in the county). Annapolis' second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-leading scorers return seniors Shannon Cordell, Lauren Feinstein, Nicole Deschamps and Heather Knutsen. Other offensive players are juniors Tammie Phipps and Katie Colegrove. Sophomores include Karen Hunt, Erika Knutsen and Laura Zimmerman.
Senior All-County performers Cory Samaras and Emily Chones, along with Inga Fredland, will anchor the Panthers' defense with their experience. Joining them on defense will be juniors Kara Zimmerman, Courtney Hackett and Christina Muir, and freshman Ali Krieger.
"The good thing about these girls is that a lot of them have been playing since they were as tall as lacrosse sticks," said first year coach Dave Gehrdes, who replaces three-year veteran Sue Chittim.
"Overall, I'd say we have a good blend of experience and youth, and we have an excellent corps of sophomores and freshmen."
Senior goalkeeper Kate Brew, who split time with the now-graduated second-team All-County performer Carrie Lewis, gives Gehrdes plenty of confidence to face the county's toughest offensive teams.
"We brought Kate off of the bench last year. We let Carrie play the first half of every game, then let Kate finish them. I think it gave her the experience she needs," said Gehrdes, who also coaches wrestling and boys soccer at the school.
The Panthers will be tested early, as they open with defending state champion Severna Park.
"Playing Severna Park in the first game of the season is a good way to find out what you have and what the best competition is like," Gehrdes said. "It's hard to say what we'll look like. Who knows how ready either team will be?"
Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers
The Cavaliers' program doesn't get much respect.
Much respect can't be expected after going 21-36 the past five seasons, including 6-11 last year. Spalding allowed an average of more than 10 goals, but lost four contests by one goal.
But fifth-year coach Mary Pat Bozel believes this could be the year teams start taking Spalding seriously because it has 10 returning starters.
"I don't think we have earned it [respect]," Bozel said. "The main goal is to gain respect back for the program. It's the first year we can go into some games without introducing new players in the lineup. I would like to give the kids an experience of winning."
Midfield and attack return an abundance of players. Midfield starters include seniors Megan O'Brien (23 goals, 15 assists), Lori Grimes, Suzanne Harris and junior Courtney Markowski. Newcomer Cara Tracey, a sophomore midfielder, is a potential starter.
Alice Matos (28 goals, nine assists) keys the attack. The senior will be relied upon heavily with the graduation of All-County performer Marie Jamison (57 goals, 22 assists). Juniors Katie O'Brien, Jennifer Sparks and Emily McManus bolster the midfield. Depth is provided by sophomore newcomer Jami Duffy, a potential starter.
"We have more balance in our scoring ability and our transition game will be smoother this year because of a strong midfield," Bozel said.
Christine Fellona, who takes over for Sue Licameli as coach, was a member of the 1988 4A-3A state championship Broadneck squad and played at Frostburg State.
"We [the coaching staff] try to do a lot of teaching here. I think this year's team is very receptive toward learning. There all very coachable, and they're very intense -- very easy to work with," said Fellona, who will have former Broadneck teammate Kim Kemmer as an assistant.
The Wildcats return several veterans from last year's 5-9 contingent, including seniors Kathy Brady (goalkeeper), Kathy Aucock (defense), Tee Holmes (defense), Julie Benoit (attack), Cecelia Beach (defense), Julie Harmon (attack) and Heather Sinclair (midfield).
Arundel also features three returning juniors (Leslie Knowles, Katie Hamberger and Barb Muller) and two sophomores (Tara Surlis and Nicole Roth). The attack and midfield figure to be a crucial part of the Wildcats' rebuilding process.
"I'm not sure what they were used to, but this year we're trying to get them to think more in terms of setting up plays," said Fellona. "We don't just want to run straight down the field. We'd rather run a ball-control offense and get everyone involved. I wouldn't say that defense is our weak point, but we definitely have to take more time to set up the offense."
Two new sophomores who will see a good bit of playing time are attack Michelle Hanie and defender Kristen Wolff.
"I think a lot of schools will be in for a shock this year. We had a good turnout and I see a lot of good skilled players out there," Fellona said. "The challenge is putting the right players in the right places. That's the fun part."
Broadneck coach Leann Shuck gained the respect of her peers last season after guiding the Bruins to a 11-4 record and a berth in the 4A-3A playoffs in her first season as varsity coach.
But Shuck wants to lead her alma mater back to the postseason, and last year may be only the beginning for the Broadneck program. The Bruins return 10 players, including seven starters.
"Our main goal for this team is to make the playoffs like last season, and hope for the best from there," said Shuck, a member of the Bruins' 1987 state/region championship team. "I think the goal-scoring will be more diverse this year. We have more players that will step up and score."
Broadneck, which finished as the 11th-ranked team in the The Baltimore Sun's girls lacrosse poll last year, graduated two All-County players and All-Metro midfielder Becca Fink.
The Bruins hope to counter with four returning players at attack: seniors Karen Chesley, Melissa Montalto and Megan McEwen and junior Danielle Meyers. Sophomore newcomer Liz Goodrich bolsters the attack.
Midfield, anchored by junior Katy Kemerer, an All-County second-team selection last year, also features seniors Cheryl Carnes and Suzie Goodrich and juniors Suzannha Johnson and Jessica Schmidt.
There's something on the schedule that always gets returning players excited: the thought of playing archrival Severna Park. The Bruins open at Severna Park tomorrow. Last season, the Falcons edged Broadneck, 7-6, during the regular season, but buried the Bruins, 16-4, in the first round of the state playoffs.
"They're rivals and they have always have been," Shuck said of Severna Park, which has won six consecutive state titles. "You get a little more pumped up to play Severna Park than a normal game."
Newcomers to the varsity who play defense are juniors Cathy McCully, Daria Cramer and Amy Lalekos. Sophomore Megan Branning, also a newcomer to the varsity, starts at defense.
Shuck converted Branning, Lalekos and sophomore Jessica Hull defenders because the Bruins lost three players to graduation.
After reaching the 1991 4A-3A regional playoffs, last year's Chesapeake squad saw its record drop to 6-5 -- suffering losses to St. Mary's and Severna Park in its last two games -- knocking it out of playoff contention.
"Last year we ended up on a sour note. Our seniors know that it shouldn't have been that way, so they'll have something to prove this year," said seventh-year coach Jim Buchan.
The Cougars' lineup will feature tri-captains Tracey Brown (21 goals, 10 assists), midfielder Denise Perrone, (17 goals, seven assists) and defender Nicole Merzendorf. Other returning seniors include April Barrett (defender-midfield), Amy Cunningham (attack-midfield), Jen Ragan (attack), Jen Light (defense-midfield), Rachel Harshbarger (defense) and Stephanie McBee (midfield-defense).
"I think we're starting off way ahead of last year. We scrimmaged Severn a week or so ago, and we were right with them, I think we gave a good account of ourselves," Buchan said.
A host of underclassmen will play a crucial role in attempting to lead Chesapeake back to postseason action. The list includes sophomores Sandra Norris, Stacey Norris, Stacey Marshall, Laura Hemmings, Tracy Gott and Stacy Thiele.
Juniors who should see plenty of action include attack midfielders Jaime Schlick and Lori Wlodarczyk, and defender Meagan Wemble. Starting in goal will be junior Amanda Vernon.
"We were surprised by her play [last year]. She had been a cheerleader who decided to come out for lacrosse last year. She was down on JV for awhile, but she did well when we pulled her up on the varsity," said Buchan.
"I think we have a shot at the playoffs. We have better team speed, and although we have just 19 players, we have a little more depth then last year. I think a big key will be to get the right blend. Right now we have everyone switching positions and trying different things."
Glen Burnie Gophers
When Susie Goetzke says that she thinks her Glen Burnie squad can win half of its games in their initial season, it isn't because she's boastful.
Goetzke, who also coaches the girls soccer team, is brimming with excitement because of what she has seen so far from her players.
"I just can't believe the amount of improvement I've seen with this group of girls. I am just so excited," she said. "I cringe when I look at the schedule that we'll be playing, but I still told the girls that I think we do have a chance at winning half of our games."
"They know all about the growing pains of a developing team, but they just don't care. They know that some teams will clobber us, but that's just part of starting new."
The Gophers (1-11 at the junior varsity level in 1992) have very few starters nailed down at this point, but those who are penciled in have not failed to impress.
Sophomore Kaleesha Jackson is slated to play the midfield, where she can use her speed to help out on both ends of the field.
"She's a dynamo. I don't know what she did over the summer, but now she can do everything. I think putting her at midfield would be the best thing to do," Goetzke said. Junior Tiffany Thibeault, another player with speed to burn, will join Jackson in the midfield.
Junior Christie Oldham looks to be a leading candidate at attack. Goetzke says that Oldham possesses a "good, hard, accurate shot." Sophomore Rose Bishop, who started in her freshman season on the junior varsity, will start this season as well.
Seniors Brandi Coward, Sally McDonald, Nicole Bibeault, Judy Roberts, Michelle Enge, Cara Beck and German exchange student Franzie Gude will fill in the remaining slots.
"We're not hard to please. We just want to have a decent showing in at least half of our games," Goetzke said. "Everyone is incredibly positive -- they're having a blast. And why not? There's no pressure on us. If we win, we're elated, if we don't win, then everyone expected us not to."
Meade shouldn't judge its season by its final record, but on the improvement it shows throughout the season.
The Mustangs suffered through one of their worst seasons ever in 1992, dropping all 12 of their games.
"We know that we're going to be tested early in the season by teams like Annapolis and Arundel, so we just have to keep our heads up and play hard," said Meade's second-year coach, Del Hughes.
The Mustangs will be led by letter-winning seniors Jen Bosking (attack), Jennifer Goss (attack), Angie Rupe (defense) and Sue Khamvongsa (attack). Juniors Kelly Vigilone (attack) and Colleen King (defense) also return.
Newcomers include Christine Merrell (attack), senior goalkeeper Denise Rothe and junior attack Becky Rafter.
"In the one scrimmage that we've had [against Glen Burnie], we looked to be pretty well organized, which is good when you consider the amount of youth that's on this team," said Hughes.
"I have a very good group of kids to work with, and all of the kids believe in each other. They are very resilient, and they won't let last year detour them in improving and striving even harder to be a better team."
Hughes added former Meade players Michelle Smith and Michelle Rodriguez-Smith as assistants to aid in his rebuilding efforts.
"I think we've really stabilized the coaching staff when we got both Michelles," said Hughes. "They are definitely devoted to lacrosse."