For a team that has been up-and-coming for the past few years, Mount Hebron might be ready to finally reach the top.
"We definitely don't want to finish second," said fourth-year coach Jeannette Ireland, after the Vikings ended up second behind Glenelg again last year.
A final-game tie, scoreless in overtime, with Atholton cost the Vikings a share of the county title.
The timing couldn't be better for the Vikings to make their move because most other teams are rebuilding. Still, Ireland expects the county-title race to be tough.
"I think it is wide open," said Ireland, running through at least six teams she thinks have a chance at winning the championship.
A county title certainly would top off a tremendous turnaround in this program. Since Ireland took over, the Vikings have rebounded from a 1-10 finish to going 9-3-1 a year ago. They have made back-to-back playoff appearances, falling last season Chopticon, 1-0.
The Vikings have moved up to Class 3A, but the new region is no kinder. Their Class 3A, North region includes perennial contender South Carroll, along with Centennial and Howard.
This year, the Vikings will rely on some young talent to pull them through. After graduating most of her starters, Ireland returns the most strength at midfield and goalkeeper. She'll be working on new combinations on the line and in the backfield.
Two senior links will be the hub of the team -- returning starters Nicole Dodson and Sara Cho. The most experienced of the Vikings, Dodson and Cho provide leadership and hustle in the midfield.
Sophomore Bridgette Goss, moving up from JV, probably will join them in the starting rotation.
Another returning starter, senior Janice Yoo, returns to the forward line. With excellent speed and stickwork, Yoo poses the biggest offensive threat for the Vikings.
Seniors Jennifer Stocker and Elena Ramos also come back to the line although neither saw a lot of playing time last year. Junior Katie Marks and sophomore Laura Prendergast move up from JV to battle for a fourth starting spot. Junior Amber Fanta also will see plenty of action on the line.
Defensively, Ireland still has some question marks. Returning senior Julie Choi could have a starting halfback spot as could junior Soo Kim, who moves up from JV.
Returning senior Amy Watkins battles returning junior Kara Lloyd and a sophomore up from JV, Krissy Hodges, for the starting sweeper spot. Junior newcomer Jenny Joyce also could see action at back or sweeper.
With such an inexperienced defense, the Vikings might need some strong performances from senior veteran Jen Brooks in the cage. Ireland has no doubt that Brooks, a third-year starter, can deliver.
"We have a strong goalie and we have strong midfielders and strong forwards. It's just a matter of solidifying the backfield, which hopefully won't cost us much," said Ireland.
"I think we're going to be good, it's just a matter of building the confidence they need and getting the experience."