North County Knights
Veteran coach Tom Taylor hopes his superstitions get the best of him this spring.
"I have a funny feeling about this team, the last time I coached a team that went to the state championship [Andover, 1988 Class B/C finalists], I had a group of young ladies that are very comparable to the ones I have now. They were a very young, athletic team, just like this year's group. We're looking pretty good, I'm really excited," said Taylor.
Senior leadership for the Knights (7-7 last year) will come from attack players Jen McGuire (29 goals, 17 assists) and Becky Webb (21 goals, 13 assists), and defender Brandi Slocum.
Juniors Karen Wick, April Hall, Jaime Dembeck and Stacey Mayo will split time between defense and attack.
"All four of those girls are strong in the legs, quick, and aggressive. I feel that they'll have to carry lots of weight as the year goes on," said Taylor.
Taylor speaks in glowing terms of junior goalkeeper Joy Farmer, who returns for her second season.
"We're extremely excited with her. The kids feel very confident in her," Taylor said. "With last season being her first time ever playing, you could tell that she felt a lot of weight on her shoulders, but this year I can't believe how confident she is."
Take a good look at the best athletic programs in the county, and they almost all have one good thing in common: a strong feeder system.
"When you look at the county as a whole [in girls high school lacrosse] there are some very, very strong programs. And the reason why they are so strong is because of the little league that they grow up playing in. Just look at teams like Annapolis, Severna Park and Southern, they got those girls with sticks in their hands at a very young age," said Northeast girls lacrosse coach Bob Manz.
"And now, for the first year, we're starting to see a lot of kids playing in the recreation leagues around here. I think it's an advantage when the kids already know what a [lacrosse] field looks like, and that's starting to happen here at Northeast."
Manz, in his sixth season, guided the Eagles to a 2-10 record in 1992.
Northeast boasts a squad with 14 seniors, with the majority spending four years on the varsity program. Leading the pack is last year's leading scorer Christina Williams. Other key upperclassmen are Heather Guy, Joy Collins, Karla Hornberger (goalkeeper), Mindy Pitt and Kelly Roy.
Collins will be the mainstay of the defense, while sophomore Jaime Pleyo brings her athleticism to the midfield along with Lisa Patraglia. Junior Erin Harry will give Collins help.
"We're very aggressive and we have some speed. I've been stressing all along that we have to be aggressive in going after loose balls. If we can keep hustling, I think we'll be competitive with lots of teams," he said.
Old Mill Patriots
Old Mill lost a star in Susan Martin (56 goals), but may have found someone to fill the void in junior midfielder Michelle Salmon (36 goals, five assists).
"She has excellent speed and good stickwork," said first-year Old Mill coach Bill Zaetz said. "And she's a very intense player."
Old Mill returns 10 players, including six seniors. But only Salmon and two others were starters on last season's 3-9 team.
"I think we should be competitive," said Zaetz. "We have a real young team with a lot of athletic ability and promise. I can see us continuing to improve, and I don't think a .500 season would be good."
Seniors Jen Tate and Cindy Botts return at attack.
Salmon will be joined at midfield by six returnees -- seniors Allison Rayburn, Courtney Cochran, Britt Morisson and Kristy Lundy, junior Sara Saghirian and sophomore Stephanie Rose. Two excellent freshmen -- Carina Sonberg and Kerri Tindall -- will start at midfield.
Aimee Swanheart is the standout defensive player back. Junior Marisol Geary and sophomore Jen Timony move up from the JV.
A troubled position is goaltending, with freshman Emily Setzler and sophomore Sandy Roullier vying for the starting role.
St. Mary's Saints
For St. Mary's, there are no titles to win because the Saints play an independent schedule.
But the Saints face the challenge of playing four schools considered to be among the metro-area best the last two years: Severna Park, Southern-AA, Mount Hebron and Seton Keough.
Despite losing to the big four, St. Mary's finished No. 7 in the final Baltimore Sun girls lacrosse poll last year with a 12-4 record.
So this season brings more tests for coach Tina Lewnes (42-20) and the Saints. St. Mary's returns 10 players, including nine starters.
"I think they [those four teams] are the highlight of the season, and to prepare for those four games is our season," Lewnes said. "I think the big goal is to win the four games we keep losing."
But one team stands out on the schedule -- Severna Park, winners of six consecutive state titles.
"Severna Park always has a lot of talent, and we have never beaten them in my five years here," Lewnes said. "That's something we always work for."
The Saints will work at limiting the penetration of the opponent's attack toward the goal. This problem hampered the Saints last year because they lacked a good transition game from attack to defense, Lewnes said.
"I am hoping for improvement there. We can stop a lot of goals if we can concentrate on double-teaming at midfield," Lewnes said. "In the four big games that will be a test because all those teams are quick. I do have most of my fastest players there [at midfield]."
The Saints' attack returns four veterans -- seniors Meghan Coakley, Merri Kennedy (20 goals, 10 assists) Krissy Zurflah and Renee Kretkowski.
Holdovers for the defense include seniors Missy Holmes, Anne Devlin and Mo McDonough, a two-time All-Metro soccer player.
Elizabeth Schaffrer (14 goals, eight assists) and Stephanie Fallon return at midfield, and senior Anedra Wiseman is back at goalkeeper.
For Severn to improve on last year's 6-9-1 record, the Admirals must receive outstanding play from senior attackmen Robin Quinton (23 goals, 23 assists) and Brenna Ryan (29 goals, 12 assists).
The duo gives fifth-year coach Cathy Carper (33-20-5) optimism.
The Admirals opened the season with a 9-6 win over Maryvale March 11, and Carper hopes Severn, which returns 10 veterans, including six starters, can revert to its winning ways of recent years.
"I have a strong attack because my second- and third-leading scorers are back," Carper said. "They work very well together. They have strong leadership qualities and are role models to the younger players."
The return of senior Kristen Bauer and juniors Heidi Hammes, Emily Franey and Sarah Long produces a strong midfield.
Holdovers from defense include seniors Christy Cole and Alissa Webb and junior Liz Duncan.
Sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Tuerk, who starts, is an upcoming player to watch, Carper said.
Severna Park Falcons
Severna Park coach Carin Peterson said players who compete in the Falcons' program seem to be given a lacrosse stick at birth.
The program, founded in 1981, has won six straight state titles since 1987 and nine overall.
"Our goal is to to win the county, region and states," said Peterson, whose team defeated Perry Hall, 19-9, last May to win a 4A-3A crown. "If you are going to beat us, we'll lose fighting."
Peterson, who won two state titles as a Falcons player in the early '80s, said Broadneck and Annapolis will be the teams to beat in the county. Other coaches maintain Severna Park owns the throne.
The only two losses in Peterson's head coaching career (46-2) at Severna Park came during the regular season the last two years. The Falcons lost to Annapolis by two goals last season and were defeated by Chesapeake in 1991.
"Eventually Severna Park will lose a state title game," Peterson said. "But we'll do it with dignity and class."
The Falcons return 17 players, including 10 starters. They boast three All-Metro and two All-County starters. Two of the All-Metro selections, midfielders Amy Carnaggio and Erin Wylde, also received All-American honors last season.
Three All-Metro players spearhead the team: seniors Carnaggio (39 goals, 13 assists) and Stephanie Roberts and junior Wylde (45 goals, five assists), called the best player in the state by Peterson.
Carnaggio, who led the Falcons in ground-ball pickups last season, served as initial cog in an extremely balanced offense while Wylde, the youngest All-Metro player last season, is a superb talent with outstanding stick skills and good speed.
All-County selections Erin McNeally, a three-year starter at defense, and senior attackman Elizabeth Warfield return.
The outstanding midfield includes seniors Elizebeth Wilson and Katie Kuch and juniors Kathy McCafferty and Colleen Gately. Juniors Tressa Campbell and Kelly Clark return at attack.
"We have the basic players back at every position," Peterson said. "It's a good balance of players. We've got a pretty good midfield with a lot of speed and talent. Opponents have to mark a lot of players."
Goaltending will be a strength with senior veteran Brandee Snyder.
An uncharacteristic 4-8 1991 season gave Southern the drive to put together a 10-5 record in 1992, good enough to carry it to the state 2A-1A semifinals, where it suffered a 17-8 loss to Howard County's Mount Hebron.
And now, with seventh-year coach Linda Kilpatrick announcing her last year of coaching lacrosse, coupled with their marked improvement last season, will the Bulldogs be able to attain greater heights?
"I would hope last year's performance will give them added incentive to do even better, and I'm sure it will," said Kilpatrick. "Any team I've ever had, they've always worked hard. We usually don't have the best skilled players, but they give 100 percent. And I think we have enough pure athletes to carry us through.
"We did lose a significant amount of scoring and defense. We lost a big senior class [seven starters graduated], but we're starting with a good goalie, so that's a good foundation. And I also had lots of girls come out for the team this year so it makes for good competition," said Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick is very high on senior goalkeeper Crystal Bennett, but also is impressed with the play of backup Sabrina Stockett, a freshman.
Senior Jennifer Jackson and juniors Laura Stockett and Sarah Madden return on defense, while first-year senior Tanya Caterton should see plenty of time.
Leading returning scorers, sophomore Becky Archambo and junior Kari Sherbert, will shoulder a lot of the scoring load. The Bulldogs also will need contributions from senior attacks Kate Chaney and Carolyn Neador, and junior Michelle Raley.
South River Seahawks
When the season ended last spring with a loss in the first round of the state playoffs to Annapolis, Seahawks coach Paula Tobin may have reached for a handkerchief.
After going 9-3 and being named the Anne Arundel County Sun Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year, Tobin waved goodbye to five seniors, four of whom were All-County performers.
South River returns only five starters and seven players.
Senior starters Jonie Jacobs, Carrie Hueber, Amy Voight and Crissy Burke highlight the strong defense.
Sophomore attackman Jaime Pyle (15 goals, two assists), junior midfielder Erica Lee (four goals, five assists) and sophomore attackman Meagan Riley spur the offense. Amy Davis returns at goal.
South River drops to class 2A-1A this season, but the Seahawks still must play county powers Severna Park, Broadneck and Annapolis to make the state playoffs.
Junior attackman Jen Ingram and Jessica Rice spearhead the class elevated from the JV. Newcomer Sandy Luchett provides depth at defense.
"I love this group because they are so coachable," Tobin said. "They want to learn as much as they can. They are eager and keep pressing to get a little better. They will develop into a strong team for next year."