Coaches talk about how tough the region is. They mention two-time defending state 3A-4A champion Broadneck and Arundel as clear favorites. Then they tick off the names of Annapolis, North County, Severna Park and Chesapeake.
"There are maybe seven teams with a shot at the four playoff spots in the region," said Severna Park's Ed Ulrich."
Said Arundel's Clint Gosnell, "The southern region is so competitive, a team probably needs nine wins to make the playoffs. Eight may not be enough anymore."
The MSA A Conference, in which county private schools St. Mary's and Severn once competed, is defunct, but they will play the same demanding schedules laced with the same strong lacrosse schools.
"I tell my kids it's like the ACC in basketball," said Severn's Mike Burnett. "Any given week, any team can beat any other."
MA Said St. Mary's Jim Moorhead, "It'll be another wild season."
Annapolis Panthers Coach Dan Hart can cite several reasons why this year's team has the potential to be my best" in his six seasons at Annapolis.
History, for one, is on his side. In last year's regional semifinals, the Panthers lost by one goal to Broadneck, which went on to capture the state 3A-4A championship. In the past five years, Annapolis has gained the playoffs four times.
Another reason is that Hart has 22 returnees from the team that went 8-4. Although he thinks the Panthers "didn't play well in two scrimmages" this month, they held their own for a half against Gilman, "which may be the best high school team in the country."
Still another is Dave Winegrad, a senior who was all-county last year and voted the top defenseman in the county by the coaches. Joining him on defense is four-year starter Jack Copus. In the goal, sophomore Tobin Poole has the edge over junior Ryan Little.
Annapolis' attack figures to be strong. Junior Eric Morgan, first-team all-county with 26 goals and 24 assists, and senior Taylor Boone (20, 28), a three-year starter, will provide much of the firepower. Chris Harris, Byran Jefferson and Shawn McFadden are fighting for the third starting job.
Four of the top six midfielders are back, notably Scott Regina, Josh Morgan, Jon Brianas and Travis Scholtz. Geoff Mears, Ryan Sears, Brian Rentch and Brian McNew are competing for the remaining spots on the first two midfields.
Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers If all goes according to coach Dave Kraft's plan, Anthony Mattera will head for Delaware next fall as the leading scorer in Archbishop Spalding history.
"This is his fourth year on the varsity and he has a shot to leave as the all-time top scorer," said Kraft, pointing out that Mattera figures to lead the offense this season. "Attack should be our strength."
Kraft also expects to get production from Andy Scarborough, Steve Shaffer, Paul Menges, Jason Duffy and Steve Odenwald, a transfer from Severn.
Last year, in Kraft's second season as head coach, Spalding played well early, losing to chief rivals Friends by a goal and to Park by two, but then tailed off and was soundly beaten in the rematches. The Cavaliers finished 8-8.
"We lost 12 seniors, so this is a rebuilding year." Kraft said. "Still, we should be able to compete with most of our opponents."
Spalding received a major blow when last year's starting goalie, Steve Windsor, slipped on the ice during the winter and will miss the season with a broken leg. As a result, defensemen Keith Prandy and Charles Canter will play in front of a sophomore goalie, John Edwards.
Coach Clint Gosnell puts it simply: "We're on our way back."
In the 1980s, Arundel won three state championships and finished runner-up twice, but slipped as the 1990s dawned. The Wildcats finished 8-4 last season, missing the playoffs by one game.
"We're looking great," Gosnell said. "Talent runs in cycles. We didn't have the kids in the early 1990s that we did in the 1980s."
On a team of three seniors, 16 juniors and one sophomore, the key player is senior midfielder Chris Turner. A punter, kicker and all-county defensive end on the football team. Turner has 4.6-second speed for 40 yards and can shoot with either hand.
"We're hoping he doesn't get hurt," Gosnell said. "He's a football player and likes to hit people."
Supporting roles will be played by midfielders Mike Haertel, Ryan Farr and St. Mary's transfer Mark Jenkins, attackmen Josh Tidwell and Keith Sharp and goalie Tom Newberry, a backup last year who, in Gosnell's opinion, "will be outstanding."
"Eight-and-four used to be good enough to make the playoffs," Gosnell said. "But in this competitive southern region, you seem to need nine wins. There are a lot of teams that can come up and swat at you."
Broadneck Bruins A lot will be expected from captain and defenseman Brian Dobson and attackmen Bob Hanna and John Lengyel as Broadneck seeks its third straight state 3A-4A title.
"They're the only three starters back," said coach Clay White, whose Bruins were 16-2 last year. "They've been through the battles and know what to expect. We'll be looking for leadership from them, especially the seniors, Dobson and Hanna."
Broadneck got out of the region and into the final four last year with narrow victories over Annapolis and Severna Park, then defeated first Centennial and then Perry Hall for the championship. It was the school's third state title in White's eight years, but nailing down another this season will be difficult.
"Losing those seven starters was a major loss," White said. "Eleven of the 30 on our roster now are freshmen and sophomores. We're young and inexperienced."
Broadneck's main strength is defense, which is anchored by Dobson and also features Lucas Blaser, Chris Gable, Renardo Walker and freshman Jon Svec. Matt Lyttle and Matt Coy are competing for the goalie job.
The attack, too, is strong. Dave Frederick joins Hanna and Lengyel as starters. The midfielders are seniors Keith Doyle, Mike Treacy, Chris Fullam and Alfonzo Munoz, plus underclassmen Chris Martin, Tyler Bennett and Gerry Case, a St. Mary's transfer.
Chesapeake Cougars Breaking .500 may be next for Chesapeake. In four years under Bob Connor, the Cougars have climbed from 3-9 to 4-8 to 6-8 to 7-7.
"Our quality of play keeps improving," said Connor. "We're in the middle of the pack, around five or six. To make the playoffs, we have to break into the top four."
Chesapeake's defense is solid. The goalies are Eric Distin and Brandon Holmes, a Mount St. Joe transfer, and "whoever's hot," Connor said, "will play." The star defenseman is senior Joe Lee, a lineman on the football team.
"He's one of the premier defensemen in the county," Connor said. "He can throw all the different kinds of checks, nine or 10 of them."
Jeff Snow and Larry Dixon or Zack Burke are the other defensive starters. Connor rates his midfielders "as good as any in the county." The top four, Jamie Hall, Dan Gerben, Erik Dahlen and Blake Moore, are soccer players, too. Kevin Bonk and Mike Sommerfield will help fill the midfield units.
Attack could be a problem, since only Jason Emory (13, 13) is back. He's joined by Mike Zeruto, Matt Whiteside, Brian Smith and Matt Fordyce, another transfer from Mount St. Joe.
Glen Burnie Gophers Hank Schorreck, 56, a retired National Security Agency historian, was looking for a new challenge. At Glen Burnie, which went 1-11 last year, he may have found it.
After 10 years as coach of Severn's freshman-sophomore team, Schorreck wanted the opportunity to work with a varsity. At that level, more players can do more things.
"I don't know the opposing talent or the league," Schorreck said. "Our aim is to improve the skill level the best we can. If that proves good enough to win, fine. We're learning a lot of things; I hope we can execute."
A sophomore midfielder, John Riley, may be the Gophers' best player. He's 6-feet-1 and can shoot with either hand. All elbows and knees, he appears to be going one way when he's actually going the other. By the time a foe determines the direction, Riley is by him.
Glen Burnie's other top middies are Brian Bauer and Brendan Spilker. Also expected to contribute are attackmen Seth Murphy and Keith Moore, defensemen Jason Chapman, Mike Sponheimer, Jeremy Fisher and Scott Ledbetter, a 6-9 reserve basketball center in his second year of lacrosse.
Meade Mustangs The departure of Mike Ogden, who led the team in scoring and ground balls for four years, doesn't mean all is lost at Meade.
Noting that the Mustangs were 7-7 last year and failed to make the playoffs, coach Lou Norbeck said, "We've just been a notch behind. We need a little more intensity and to be a little sharper -- and not to make quite as many mistakes."
Some of Meade's losses were close, to a few local teams that did reach the playoffs and to Cape Henlopen of Lewes, Del., which reached the championship game in that state.
"The close losses were disappointing, but we were always competitive," Norbeck said. "We were two goals away from the playoffs last year and one the year before."
Norbeck liked what he saw the other week in a scrimmage on grass at Lewes, Del. Meade beat Cape Henlopen, 5-4.
With only three seniors -- defenseman Chad Morris, attackman Travis Burrel and midfielder Travis Edelman -- Meade is young.
Other leading players include attackmen D. J. Knott and Jeremy Clarke; midfielders Jamey Walker, David Hitaffer and Darren Burrel; and junior defensemen John Pozniak, Matt Haley, Bobby Borys and Donald Messinese. The goalies are James Sunoski and Harold Pittenger. "If there's a bright spot so far," Norbeck said, "it's the goalies."
North County Knights M;
Only three starters are back. Sixteen players are new,
from the JV or in their first year of lacrosse.
In short, coach Paul Shea said, "We're very green."
That doubtless will make it difficult for North County to duplicate its 1993 performance, a 15-2 record and a berth in the state
3A-4A semifinals. The lone defeats were to eventual state champion Broadneck in the regular season and Perry Hall in the states.
"We have the ability to become a good competitive team, but we're still a few weeks away," said Shea, whose three-year record is 41-10.
North County's leading players are junior attackman Ian Stevenson, who has 47 goals and 25 assists in two years, and junior defenseman Cris Lamy, who has started since he was a freshman.
"Ian is our go-to guy," Shea said. "Cris shows flashes of brilliance and is one of the best stick-handling defensemen around."
Attack will be a strength, featuring Stevenson, Matt Collins (16, 9) Tim Walker, Ryan Ross and Jon Menikheim. "We have a few kids who can put the ball in the goal," Shea said.
Other returnees include midfielders Ryan Seggerty, Justin Thompson, Jon Vance, Bristol Simmons, Mike Malone and Jay Harriot and defensemen Cory Fowler, Mike Mecurio, John Burgoon, Tim Valenta, Jim Clements and Kevin Bloomquist.
Goalies Jason Stiegler, Jason Boyer and Todd Schnieder "will rotate until someone gets hot," according to Shea.
Northeast Eagles Coach Kevin Buckley is thankful he had Joe Bender last year. Without the goalie, the worst of Buckley's 10 seasons at Northeast would have been even worse than 4-10.
"We had a decent defense and a good goalie, so we were losing like 9-3 and 8-4," Buckley said. Bender is back and so are defensemen Jason Liles, a three-year starter, Gene Zimmerman, Tim Scanlon and Scott Floyd.
The No. 2 scorer, Eric Walters (18, 4), is back, as are midfielders Jason Grunder and Kris Heck, but ace attackman Jeremiah David tore knee ligaments the other week and could miss the season.
Senior midfielder Steve Bull, however, is unexpectedly back after a near-fatal car accident last August. He suffered a severe head injury and was in a coma for a while, but is back on the first midfield, serving as an inspiration.
Old Mill Patriots In his first season, Chip Robertson isn't sure what to make of the team that went 2-10 last year.
"I just don't know yet," he said. "We'll be all right, but we have a lot of work to do. We'll take our lumps at first."
The previous three seasons, Robertson coached in the Green Hornets' program that feeds Severna Park High. Old Mill isn't blessed with a feeder.
One strength is a defense featuring Joe Venturella, Scott McKelvey, Ryan Robbins and goalies David Lumb and Mark Shaffery.
The midfield is led by Jake Wenz, bound for West Point, and Andrew Park. Attackman Mike Majoros is the Patriots' top
returning scorer. A good dodger who can shoot with either hand, Majoros is the quarterback of the offense.
St. Mary's Saints From the team that was 12-5, won the MSA A Conference championship and was ranked No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun's final poll, Jim Moorhead has the entire starting attack back in Matt Clune, Dan Collins and Kevin Gattie.
Key midfield losses are Kevin Reichardt (North Carolina) and Domenic Souza (Lehigh), but Moorhead will make do with Todd Vizcarrondo, Myles Conway, Ryan Hughes and Severn transfer Ryan Beard.
"We lost two of three defensive starters, so the jury is out on that," Moorhead said. He will rely on Joe Keenan, Thad Schmidt, Damon Rigot, Severn transfer Jon Cline and goalie Jim Brown.
"The only middie with any offensive experience is [three-year starter] Vizcarrondo," Moorhead said. "The other five have none. So there's another big question."