In Howard County girls lacrosse, the rich just seem to get richer.
That's good news for Mount Hebron and bad news for everyone else.
The Vikings, coming off a 16-2 year in which they swept state, regional and county titles, have four of the seven returning All-County first-team players. They also have some great incentive to finish off one of their strongest seasons ever -- coach P.J. Kesmodel will retire from coaching at the end of the season.
Kesmodel, who plans to go back to school, has compiled an impressive record as the Vikings' only head coach winning three state, six county and seven regional titles. His overall record stands at 98-11 and the Vikings have lost just one of 50 games against Howard County foes.
No one expects that domination to change.
"I see Mount Hebron being very, very strong," said Centennial coach Gail Purcell, whose team suffered its only two losses last year to the Vikings. "This year, that whole team is coming together as seniors. They should go undefeated and waltz through states."
Purcell's squad, which is loaded with strong athletes, figures to finish second in the county again. The Eagles have a lot of potential, but they only return one All-County pick in midfielder Emily Ward, also the top returning scorer with 13 goals and seven assists.
Even though the Eagles don't have as much skill or experience as the Vikings, Kesmodel is wary of their athleticism. "If they catch us on a bad day, you never know what might happen," said Kesmodel.
But it is unlikely the Vikings will have a bad day. Kesmodel said they are stronger than last year at 11 of 12 positions. The only place they haven't improved is at one attack position where they lost Cathy Nelson, the All-Metro Player of the Year now at Maryland.
Although the Vikings probably can make up for most of Nelson's 78 goals and 43 assists, they will have trouble replacing her creativity. Still, the Vikings have a powerhouse attack returning.
Leading the way are two All-Metro second-team players, Dani Vissers and Erin McGinnis. At 6-feet, senior home Vissers is almost impossible for the opposition to contain and she brings back 73 goals and 34 assists. Center McGinnis controls the transition game and added 52 goals and 13 assists last season. Also back are two All-County picks, midfielder Lynette Chastant (35 goals, five assists) and defender Julie Kickham.
After the top two, most coaches said third place is up for grabs, but Howard seems to have the inside edge. The Lions made a big leap last year under new coach Pat Becker, going from winless in 1993 to 7-5. They should continue to improve with some strong returning players, including All-County midfielder Laura Foerster (33 goals, 17 assists).
Hammond, Glenelg, Atholton and Oakland Mills all return most of their starters, so they could battle it out for fourth. With only a few returnees, Wilde Lake might drop off the pace. But the Wildecats have some athletic first-year players who, if they develop quickly, could put them right back in the middle of the pack.
At Glenelg Country School, the Dragons have high hopes for continuing a sensational year in the Association of Independent Schools B Division.
This already has been the best year in the history of the school's girls sports program. The Dragons won regular-season championships in field hockey and basketball and finished runners-up in both B Division tournaments.
This spring, the Dragons would like to finally take that tournament title. They face an uphill battle against powerful defending champ Park and last year's runner-up Mercy, both of which lost only a few players. But the Dragons bring back a pretty solid slate of talent, led by All-County attack wing Robin Zimmerly (51 goals, five assists) and center Carrie Everett (22, six).
"This year, they really have the motivation and that carries over from hockey and basketball," said coach Barbara Brummett, who also coached the basketball team. "Their willingness to work hard has been the key for us the whole year."