Association of Independent Schools field hockey could be in for a big shake-up this season courtesy of its two newest members, St. Mary's and Spalding.
In fact, St. Mary's already appears to be the team to beat in the A Division. The Saints finished 13-2-2 last year with the No. 6 ranking and they return 13 seniors to a balanced team.
Spalding also should be right in the race after finishing 10-4 at No. 10 last season. Although they have some holes to fill, the Cavaliers return nine seniors.
Until this year, both had played independent schedules primarily in Anne Arundel County. St. Mary's now will play in the Applebee League along with two-time defending champ Garrison Forest, Bryn Mawr, Maryvale, Park and Severn. Spalding joins St. Paul's, McDonogh, Notre Dame Prep, Friends and Roland Park in the Homer League.
Neither the Saints nor the Cavaliers have played a lot of hockey against AIS teams, but the local coaches know both should make strong debuts.
"I think everybody in our league would welcome the competition," said Carol Samuels, Friends coach for 18 years. "If they're strong enough to win it, so be it. Some people join [the AIS] to get strong, but they've apparently outgrown the competition down there. They can still play Severna Park, and here they can get 10-12 good games a season."
Of course, the Saints and the Cavaliers will face a battle in the AIS. At least a half dozen other teams could make a run at the title. Bryn Mawr and St. Paul's appear to have an edge, but Garrison Forest, McDonogh, Severn and Notre Dame Prep also should challenge.
The Mawrtians (No. 5 last year) return a wealth of talent from a team that lost only to St. Paul's in the tournament semifinals. Among eight returning starters are Junior Olympian Kim Smith and top defender Gailor Large.
St. Paul's (No. 4) posted the turnaround performance of the season reaching the tournament title game without a loss. After falling 1-0 to Garrison Forest in the championship, the Gators are re-loading for another drive toward the title. They return probably the league's best player in All-Metro midfielder Sarah Oglesby.
In the B Division, defending champ Oldfields returns most of its lineup and appears to be the front-runner. John Carroll and St. Timothy's should also be there.
In Baltimore County's Heron Division, Dulaney should give defending county champ Towson a run for the title, while Loch Raven and Pikesville also could contend. All but one of Dulaney's losses came by a single goal.
Towson ran up an 11-game winning streak en route to a regional title but fell in the Class 2A state semifinals. Although the Generals have few starters back and a new coach, there appears to be plenty of talent to fill right in.
In the county's Mallard Division, defending champ Catonsville faces challenges from Patapsco and Overlea.
Pub Date: 8/29/96