The county's public-school coaches seem to agree that among their schools, Arundel and Meade clearly have the class teams and Severna Park has enough talent to possibly challenge.
Speed, size and depth separateArundel and Meade from the rest. The next question is what will separate those two. Arundel, the Class 4A state runner-up last season, goes into this one ranked fourth in the Baltimore area with Meade one slot behind at No. 5.
Head-to-head last winter, Meade came away with the regular-season win at Arundel, butthe Wildcats twice avenged the loss -- in the county championship game and again to win the Class 4A East.
A lot of standout players are back at both schools, with Angie Creek, Katie Netherton and Nicole Dailey leading the Mustangs, and Meagan Rollins and Shaunte Edmonds trying to return the Wildcats to the state tournament.
"They are very competitive, and so are we," said Arundel coach Lee Rogers. "The kids like to play against each other, but it's not just about Meade and Arundel. We have to attack [the season] one game at a time."
And Severna Park?
Under former coach Kevin McGrath, the Falcons improved as last season went on and upset Annapolis in the region playoffs before taking Meade to the limit in the region semifinals.
Meade coach Phil Popielski said the energy his Mustangs spent in getting past the Falcons may have played a role in their regional loss to Arundel.
The Falcons have nine players back and a new coach, Bill Giblin, who coached Lansdowne for three years before coaching last season at Essex Community College.
Giblin, who graduated from Providence the same year the Friars reached the NCAA Final Four under coach Rick Pitino, said he liked the "up-tempo style and the intensity [Pitino] brings. He never put a kid out on the floor who wasn't ready to play."
But look for the up-tempo style to be put on hold at Severna Park; the Falcons will be more of a half-court, slow-down team.
Catholic League teams
Just how loaded is the Catholic League once again this year?
Four teams are in the metro area's Top 10, with Anne Arundel County's St. Mary's at No. 3. Archbishop Spalding is at No. 11 to start the season.
St. Mary's, which went a perfect 14-0 against conference foes last season before losing to Mercy in the tournament semifinals, leads the way at No. 3 with its standout senior trio of Emily Lipton, Maria Smear and Terri Daniels.
"So far, so good. We're playing well, and everyone is focused. Our goal, as always, is to win the Catholic League championship, and anything else that comes our way is great," said Saints coach Harry Dobson.
Here's a look at what the Saints will be up against as they go after their second tournament title in three years:
No. 7 Seton Keough: The Gators are defending tournament champs and, despite losing four seniors, should be in the hunt again. Junior point guard Denise King earned second-team All-Metro status largely on the strength of a big tournament effort, when she averaged 19 points in four games. A newcomer to watch is senior transfer Itxaso Mallaviabarrena, a 6-1 guard who is the youngest player on the Spanish national women's team.
No. 8 Mercy: After upsetting St. Mary's in the last season's semifinals, the Magic fell victim to the Gators' slow-down game in the final. Coach Mary Ella Marion has her five starters back, led by two-time, first-team All-Metro center Jamie Vogtman, who averaged 17.4 points and 10 rebounds last season.
No. 9 John Carroll: The Patriots lost a big part of their inside game with Jen Westervelt's graduation but will again have a smooth transition game led by juniors Jenny Biscoe and Sarah Oktavec.
And don't forget about coach Deb Taylor's talented group at Spalding. The Cavaliers appear to have the quickness and depth to stay with the Catholic League's elite teams. Senior Amy Campion and junior Lauren Schaech lead the guard-oriented team.
"It's the same big guns -- Seton Keough, St. Mary's, Mercy and John Carroll. But I expect us to be there," said Taylor. "Our goal is to win the Catholic League championship."
Pub Date: 12/03/98