Girls lacrosse competition could turn into a rerun of las season in Baltimore County and the Association of Independent Schools -- that is, if the snow ever clears.
The top teams, Roland Park and Loch Raven, have most of last year's casts intact. They will be the teams to beat once again.
The Reds, who finished 13-0 and ranked No. 4 in The Baltimore Sun's top 15 girls lacrosse poll, have a blue-chip midfield that is unmatched. Wendy Kridel's squad, two-time defending AIS A Division champ, will face challenges especially from Friends and Notre Dame Prep in the AIS East.
In Baltimore County, Loch Raven, which won 69 games before losing to Mount Hebron in the Class 2A-1A state title game last year, should dominate its division. The Raiders (14-1 and No. 2 last year) also return some blue-chippers, including The Baltimore Sun's 1992 Player of the Year, Michele DeJuliis.
Although Roland Park lost two All-Metro first-team players, Melissa Bristow to graduation and Jeanne Lekin to a knee injury, the Reds have plenty of talent. "This is the same team," Kridel said. "We lost Melissa, but that's not a problem for me. The core of the team is back, and they have tons of potential."
The Reds' top returnees -- junior midfielders Brent McAllister, Melissa Cully, Peggy Boutilier and Catherine Passano -- can play outstanding offense and defense.
Their top competition could come from Friends, which is vastly improved from its 3-9 finish last year. The Quakers lost only one starter. With five top-notch returnees, including veteran goalie Heather Bohanon and defender Andrea Krumholz, they should have one of the league's top defenses.
Notre Dame Prep (7-4) lost some top talent to graduation, including two All-Metro picks, but the Pirates are known for bouncing back quickly. The bulk of experience, including Trish Cummings and Kira Nazelrod, is back on attack and in the midfield.
In the AIS West, Seton Keough and St. Paul's are the teams to watch, although Severn and Mount de Sales could come on quickly. Seton Keough (17-5) made it to the AIS title game before losing to Roland Park, 10-8, but the Gators lost a lot of talent to graduation. Still, the talent is there for a winning season. St. Paul's (9-4) returns All-Metro second-team keeper Tricia Burdt and attack Katie Lattik.
In the AIS B Division, expect a fight between Park and Oldfields. Defending champ John Carroll has moved up to the A Division, leaving runner-up Park and up-and-coming Oldfields to battle. Park lost two seniors and should have a strong scoring squad with returnees Jayme Gilden and Jenna Gladstone. Oldfields should have an equally potent attack with its two veteran stars, Nicole Brahim and Jody Cowan.
In Baltimore County, four teams reached the state semifinals last year, but none won a title. Besides Loch Raven, Perry Hall, Dulaney and Catonsville advanced in Class 4A-3A. Perry Hall reached the title game, losing, 19-9, to Severna Park.
Loch Raven remains the dominant force, having beaten Dulaney, 21-12, last spring for its 17th county championship in 20 years.
In addition to DeJuliis, the Raiders return attackers Robyn Disney and Shelly Klaes and top defender Christine Bhanos. Coach Wendy Galinn expects her squad to be even better this season with some talented youngsters giving the veterans a hand. Towson, which is rebuilding on attack, should finish second. The Generals (7-3) return top defenders in Sarah Weaver and keeper Edith Scouten.
In Class 4A-3A, Dulaney should face a battle from 1991 division champ Perry Hall.
The Gators lost seven players from a 12-1 squad, but return outstanding talent in midfielders Kerri Johnson and Erin Ward as well as defenders Amie Stone and Kathleen Fort.
Dulaney (10-1) has a promising new coaching staff in Towson State graduates Anita Noel and assistant Jen DeVos. "They're both young, and they come from Division I play. That could make a real difference," Dundalk coach Sandy Magsamen said.
The Lions return a strong attack with Marilee Bosley, Kara Lipski and Jennifer Bacon, and Aimee Vaughn could help from midfield.