With eight senior starters returning and the experience gained by reaching the Class 1A state semifinals last season, Glenelg has a solid chance to repeat as Howard County champion.
The Gladiators (13-5 overall, 7-2 league) and Long Reach (13-3-2, 6-1-2) tied for the county title last season. The Lightning, which lost in the Class 3A state final, will be competitive but has more holes to fill.
"We've started a tradition and we want to uphold it," Long Reach coach Kelly Snyder said. "We'll play as hard as we can and see what comes out of it."
Glenelg reached the state tournament last season for the first time since 1992, and has three first-team all-county players back in senior forwards Elizabeth Narron and Kelly O'Connor and senior defender Jessica Schmidt. Senior midfielders Kristina Schwarz, a second-team all-county selection, and Phoebe Kuesters add to the Gladiators' strength.
"We have the potential to do very well," Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid said. "We won't be sneaking up on anyone this season."
Centennial (10-5-1, 6-2-1) has five returning starters, led by seniors Nicole Simon (midfielder), Laura Angle (forward) and Laura Gaudio (defender). The Eagles have a new Bermuda grass field to play on, and coach Gail Purcell said the team is "much more focused" than a year ago.
Long Reach graduated seven starters, and seniors Brandi Franks (midfielder) and Lauren Vint (defender) and junior forward Sherry Epperson will be counted on for leadership. Junior goalie Jessica Robertson will be playing high school field hockey for the first time.
Seniors Grace Lee (forward) and Beth Haas (defender) and junior Cindy Nicolaus return as starters for Mount Hebron (11-6-2, 6-2-1), which reached the state final twice and state semifinal once in the past three seasons. Coach Jeannett Ireland, who is on crutches after recent surgery on her right knee after reinjuring a long-time tear, said her team of four seniors, nine juniors and four sophomores is "athletic and up to the challenge. It's just a matter how quickly they can learn."
Hammond (9-5-2, 5-2-2) will be led by return senior starters Megan Gallivan and Stacey Umberger at forward, midfielder Rachel Donahue and defender Lindsay Greer. The Class 2A South region finalist hopes to build depth as the season progresses.
Shelly Chamness takes over at River Hill (5-8-2, 4-3-2) after serving as the junior varsity coach for three seasons. The Hawks return five starters, led by seniors Tanya Rutner (midfielder), Shannon Hadley (goalie) and Jackie Sass (forward).
Wilde Lake (3-9-1, 3-5-1) looks to improve behind the leadership of seniors Diane Caporaletti (midfielder/forward), Kathleen Jackson (midfielder/forward) and Alayna Veneziano (defender).
Seniors Sophie Dress (forward), Bean Cisna (midfielder) and Shannon Tracy (defender) and junior forward Sabrina Ousler will lead Howard (4-7-2, 2-6-1), which played five overtime games last season.
After two seasons coaching the junior varsity, Jennifer Clements takes over at Oakland Mills (3-11, 1-8), which will be counting on senior defenders/midfielders Kate Daly and Veronica Burr.
Atholton (0-13, 0-9) has lost 27 straight games, 19 against county teams, but looks to get untracked behind senior defenders Megan Renold and Kelly Jones and senior forward Jenni Grishman.
Glenelg Country (7-3-3, 4-0-2 Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B division) is favored to win the B division, and returning senior conference all-stars Molly Walker (midfielder) and Christine Corkran (forward) as well as senior goalie Teresa Church will play a big part.