Wilde Lake finished just one game above .500 last year, but most county coaches predict the Wildecats will be in the hunt for this year's girls soccer title.
Based on overall talent and improved depth, the Wildecats could challenge preseason favorites Centennial and Hammond for the county title. They also could battle for a spot in the state Class 1A-2A final four.
After a 7-6 season, a fourth-place finish in the county and a first-round regional playoff loss, the Wildecats dropped just one player to graduation. Coming back almost fully loaded in the starting lineup as well as building the roster up to 19 girls should translate into at least a few more wins.
"For the first time ever since I've been coaching, we have depth," said Wildecats' coach Rick Wilson.
"Last year, we ran, at one point in the season, with 12 players. This year, we're not going to be physically exhausted. Some girls played the whole game last year. Now we can give them a rest. We'll have fresh legs the whole game, and that'll be the biggest difference for us."
The Wildecats return their only All-County pick, senior defender Carrie Chao. Playing stopper back last year, Chao shut down some of the county's top attackers, and she should pick up the tough assignments again this season.
Joining Chao in the back is junior Carrie Brelsford while the other starting spots are up for grabs.
Two talented midfielders also return, senior halfbacks Nat Froman and Renny Trellis. Both play great man-to-man defense, but also can push the ball up and make runs on offense. Also back is sophomore Katie Douglas, who can score, too. Junior Kristin Riismandel and senior Dana Tidgewell are battling for the other starting halfback spot.
On the line, junior Lindsay Waxler returns along with senior Micaela Finnegan. The top finisher on the team, Waxler could put up big numbers for the Wildecats although almost anyone on the line or in the midfield is capable of scoring.
The big question mark for the Wildecats is in the goal. Play in the nets has been a weakness in years past, but a talented freshman to push the upperclassmen could result in better play this season.
Senior Leah Angle and junior Rachel Gray split time there last season while newcomer Jamie Marcus could push them for the starting spot.
The Wildecats will have to pull their act together quickly because they can't afford many losses if they plan to win a regional playoff berth. With the newly realigned districts, the Wildecats move in with Atholton, Glenelg, Hammond and Oakland Mills as well as three Anne Arundel County teams -- Northeast, South River and Southern.
"It's going to be a battle just to make the playoffs," said Wilson.
"Three losses could mathematically eliminate us fropostseason play, so we're going to have to play every game like a playoff game."