Oakland Mills won its first state title in girls soccer last fall, but much has changed in a year.
The Scorpions graduated nine seniors from a team that finished 14-1-1 and No. 2 behind Centennial in The Baltimore Sun's Top 15 final poll. After going 5-1-1 in Howard County, the Scorpions finished third in the county race behind co-champs Centennial and Hammond.
In addition to the new faces on the roster, the Scorpions also have a new head coach. Steve Matters, a former football coach who has club coaching experience, takes over for Nancy Shea.
This young group certainly would like to defend its Class 1A-2A title, but Matters doesn't expect the players to feel a lot of pressure to repeat.
"Following a state championship team, if we had more seniors, I think there would be a whole lot more pressure," said Matters. "There's some pressure, but not a whole lot because they're a young team. They just want to play soccer the best they can."
The Scorpions do return three strong players in striker Tricia Witte, halfback Ginny Dye and All-County goalkeeper Lauren McHargue.
Witte, a senior, and Dye, a sophomore who played at times on the line last season, provided the combination that put the state-title plaque on the school wall. Witte fed Dye for the game winner in sudden-death overtime for a 1-0 victory over Loch Raven.
McHargue, a junior whose fantastic goal play helped the Scorpions improve from a 9-5 team in 1991, will move to stopper this season. At an intimidating 6 feet 2, she could be as big a factor on the field as she was in the goal.
Joining Witte on the line will be junior Tamara Holmes or sophomore Antoinette Bwayla. Junior Melissa York and senior Jessica Carson will start at halfback.
The rest of the defense includes sophomore Terri Hayman, junior Maureen Brudzinski and senior Mandi Holtschulte at fullback. Matters hasn't decided who will play sweeper back yet.
Freshman Ni Ford will take over in the goal. Matters could move McHargue back if necessary, but he said Ford should emerge as a strong force.
The Scorpions will have to pick up their scoring if they hope to make a run at the county and state titles. Last season, their tremendous defense held off opponents enough to win a handful of 1-0 games, including the regional final over Hammond in a shootout.
Matters will know more about his team after a slate of non-league games that includes tough opponents Fallston, Towson and North Hagerstown. Those games should give him a better idea of how the Scorpions will fare against the tough Howard County teams.
"The biggest difference is the experience level," said Matters. "[Last year], we had all those seniors who had played together as juniors and some as sophomores. They were definitely seasoned players. Now we have some good players, but not the overall seasoned team like last year. It's hard to tell what we can do in the beginning."
Without the depth of last year's team, the Scorpions could be in trouble if any starters fall to injury.