Howard showed plenty of promise for 1992 until injuries struck down its hopes. Instead of challenging for a playoff berth, the Lions ended up 5-7 and won only two games against Howard County foes.
"We may have had the best 5-7 team in the state," said coach Dave Vezzi, whose squad suffered five 2-1 losses, including two in overtime. "If we had stayed healthy, we could have played with everybody, but we lost our three captains for three games with injuries. We ended up playing some very defensive games and just hoping to win some 1-0."
Again, Vezzi has a small roster, with only 14 girls on his squad. Eight return to starting positions. In addition to losing three starters to graduation, Vezzi discovered at the first practice that two girls he had expected to put in the starting lineup opted not to play this year.
With such a small group, the Lions cannot afford injuries.
"If I have a couple of key injuries, we'd really be hurting because I have no depth," Vezzi said. "Most of them will be playing 70 minutes. Some may not get off the field, so we've got to stay healthy. That's the only way we can have a successful season."
The Lions look toughest up the middle with their top two returning field players, senior inside halfback Shannon Bagrosky and junior sweeper Rebecca Powell.
Bagrosky mostly played on the line last year, and Vezzi looks for her offensive push to be a huge factor in transition. Powell, who might be the best striker on the team, moved back to sweeper last fall when the Lions suffered their injuries. Again this year, Vezzi will need her skills on defense.
On the line, third-year veteran Amy Shourds returns while sophomore Tara McNeely, who moves up from junior varsity, leads the candidates for the other starting spot.
At midfield, a trio of sophomores will join Bagrosky. Meg Cronin, a second-year starter, has the most experience while Jen Chalfin and Karen Krupka also saw playing time last fall.
Another returning sophomore, Alyssa Gamaldo, will run at sweeper with three-year veteran junior Katie Kile at fullback. The other fullback spot remains a question mark, said Vezzi.
In the goal, sophomore Meg Boehm is back. She shared duties in the nets last year and also played on the field because of the injuries.
The Lions start off with a tough out-of-county schedule that includes Laurel, Chesapeake, C. Milton Wright and Liberty, which Vezzi hopes will tune his squad for a tough run through Howard County.