A few new challengers could prevent Baltimore County's top private and public school girls lacrosse races from remaining in the hands of the perennial powers.
Maryvale might shake up the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference while Hereford seems ready to rise to the top of Baltimore County's Division I. Still, the opposition won't make it easy for either of them.
In the IAAM, defending A Conference champion Bryn Mawr as well as Roland Park and Notre Dame Prep stand in Maryvale's way; while in the county, Dulaney and Catonsville could give Hereford a run.
Maryvale, 9-5-1 last season, brings back a solid contingent that is made stronger by the addition of several transfers, including junior midfielder Katie Chrest from Mercy.
The Lions also have a stellar goalie in junior Megan Huether as well as senior leaders in defender Molly Urlock and midfielder Ally Juras.
New coach Meghan McLaughlin, a Maryvale alum, is being cautiously optimistic, especially after losing 10 seniors to graduation. She is looking for consistency and more confidence when facing the perennial powers.
Hereford coach Anne Ensor is similarly cautious. The Bulls (14-3) graduated seven, but fill one key gap with transfer Kit Turnbaugh, a junior goalie from North Carroll.
Turnbaugh's arrival is especially welcome because most of the graduated players were on defense. She and veteran Gina Allen, who has signed with North Carolina, should help the defense bounce back quickly.
The Bulls also return a lot of their scoring, especially in sophomore midfielders Jessica Allen and Mollie Reese.
In the IAAM, Notre Dame Prep should be back near the top with a cast of terrific attackmen, including seniors Cary Chasney, Katie Laschinger and Hollis Pica, and sophomore Coco Stanwick.
Coach Mary Bartel's Blazers (10-6) have some rebuilding to do on defense, where the top returnee is defensive midfielder Rachel Wallick, but with that attack, the line defenders should have time to gel.
Mount de Sales (17-4) could be right in the IAAM mix if the Sailors can make up for graduating 80 percent of their scoring. Last year's All-City/County Coach of the Year Mary Gagnon has a young but experienced team led by senior goalie Rachel Sybor, senior midfielder Bridget Eder and sophomore attacker Monica Buck.
At St. Paul's, Heather Castle faces a rebuilding season after graduation took a toll on a team that finished 6-7-2 a year ago. Still, the Gators have a talented, young group that is hungry to move back toward the top, including senior midfielder Brin Blucher (Ohio State), senior midfielder Lauren Whitty, junior defender Molly Ahearn and junior attackman Allison Schindler.
Garrison Forest coach Traci Davis will field a team with 10 underclassmen after graduating eight players. Junior goalie Maggie Fava will be key, along with senior defender Jody Mayer and sophomore midfielder Alexandra Ewing.
Another promising young team is emerging at McDonogh (4-9), where 12 players return and coach Margaret Bitz may start eight sophomores. Junior midfielder Lexi Poklemba and sophomore defenders Lee Thompson and Erin Nagle should give the Eagles an improved transition game.
In the county's Division I, Dulaney (13-3) will try to hold onto its title with six returning starters, including a powerful attack led by senior Lauren Wittelsberger.
The Lions also have a strong line defense, led by senior Kathryn Kozlakowski (bound for Ohio State) and junior goalie Olivia King. Senior midfielders Tracy Mullaney and Julia Hughey (Cornell) also return.
Jill Altshuler leaves Towson after three successful year to coach her alma mater, Catonsville. She inherits a veteran team led by three seniors: midfielder Annie Davis (UMBC), goalie Jenn Wheeler and defender Kristen Brown, as well as sophomore attackman Becky Clipp. With experience and scoring potential, the Comets could contend if they use their speed and athleticism to their advantage.
New Towson coach Bruce Mangels is implementing a lot of changes for the Generals (8-6), who finished second in the county last season. With a lot of speed and a lot of finishers, the Generals are led by junior midfielder Lucy Poole, junior attackman Michelle Clarke and senior midfielder Katie Hohn.
Nancy Gross' Parkville squad (11-6) faces a rebuilding year after graduation cleaned it out through the middle from goalie to first home. They return a solid nucleus in three midfielders -- seniors Kristen Habicht and Carie Reider and sophomore Kim Vaughan.
A veteran Perry Hall team looks to move up in the division behind new coach Jenny Matz. Much of the strength is in the middle of the field in three seniors, Jill Baran, Katie McCartey and Molly McCafferty.
New coach Meg Heubeck returns a lot of depth at Loch Raven, and has a lot of strength in the midfield with junior center Christin Krecjik and senior attack wing Gina Ruocco. Senior Katie Fox leads the defense.
Franklin (8-6) suffered a big loss, graduating six starters and losing two others to transfer. Junior midfielder Betsey Priest, sophomore midfielder Meghan Higgins and sophomore attackman Kendall Thrift will lead the Indians through a building year.
In the county's Division II, Pikesville (12-1) dropped down from Division I last spring and ran off with the title. With a host of veterans, the Panthers are favored to repeat, despite the up-and-comers nipping at their heels.
Senior attackman Ivy Rosenthal, senior defensive midfielder Stacie Friedman and junior midfielder Sara Baris lead the returning contingent. Coach Danielle Custance has experience, good balance across the field, and talented youngsters to fill the holes.
Dundalk finisher Christie Trionfo is one of the reasons the Owls could knock the Panthers off their pedestal. The senior, who has signed with Duquesne, is nearing her 200th career point.
Trionfo (70 goals, 35 assists) may need to score even more early in the season as Owls coach Danielle Grzebien tries to shore up a few holes in the defense created by graduation. Two seniors -- defender Candace Johnson and midfielder Jamie Fisher -- will help.
Don't count Eastern Tech out of the Division II race. The Mavericks moved up from Division III last season and nearly won the title. Only one loss to Pikesville kept the Mavericks (7-4) down. Coach Wrae Wene has a young but experienced team led by three juniors: midfielder Laura Shearer, goalie Becky Knauff and defender Kristen Griffith.
Another team that should be in contention is Sparrows Point, which won the division in 1999. Coach Jennifer Zeigenfuse had little turnover and is trying to boost the level of play for a team with solid fundamental skills. The Pointers' strengths are defense and a transition game led by senior center Brandi Evans (George Mason).
At Patapsco, eight seniors are among 11 returning players, including midfielder Kelly Goodrich and defender Becca Kurtz. Junior Sarah Prince is one of several proven scorers who, along with a veteran defense, could boost coach Tammy Notaro's Patriots into contention.
With a host of returning players, Owings Mills could make a move up, led by three seniors: attackers Ashley Tuchman and Kallie Wasserman, and defender Jullien Dube. Coach Jennifer Carroll said scoring should be a strength.
New Kenwood coach Bob Russell, who came from Maryvale, will concentrate on building a foundation for his program. Fifty girls turned out, and he's keeping them all. Junior midfielder Rachael Bohns, midfielder Krista Kulczycki and senior goalie Kate Dranbauer are the top veterans.
Lansdowne coach Diana Waetzig looks for more consistency and confidence from a 1-11 team that has a proven scorer, junior center Mandy Marino, and an influx of talent from the county champion JV squad. Senior midfielder Debbie Catterton and junior defender Crystal Heddinger are key returnees.
At Overlea, where the Falcons were winless last season, new coach Samantha Ziehl faces some rebuilding but has some talented young players. Look for senior attackers Ericka Bolyard and Diana Kowalski and junior defender Danielle Rabuck to provide leadership.
Baltimore County's Division III is shaping up to be another Tech war. Defending champ Carver A&T; should face its toughest competition from Western Tech, with Woodlawn and Randallstown trying to catch up.
Carver A&T; blitzed through Division III with a 6-0 record and finished 9-1 overall. Eight starters, return for coach Denise Junkerman, making the Wildcats the favorite.
Junior center Stephanie Dunmire is one of the keys to a strong transition game. Senior Leah Dabrowski leads the defense.
A veteran squad with a team-oriented approach gives Western Tech a chance to knock off its mid-town rival.
Only three seniors graduated and Drew Daudelin's Wolverines (8-4) boast a solid, veteran defense led by senior Elizabeth Inserto. Junior Yeni Collins and senior Karyn Moran pace the attack.
At Woodlawn, coach Del Hughes wasn't expecting much of a turnover with no seniors on last year's 0-12 team, but six starters did not return. Still, 16 is his largest turnout in four years. The youngsters will look to senior midfielder Tavia Johnson, junior attacker Kamara Moir and sophomore midfielder Nikki Balderama.
In the IAAM B Conference, defending champion Park should make a strong run at repeating. Robin Cardin Lowe's Bruins (10-7-1) were young last year, but they are a veteran group now.
Junior attackman Eloise Grose is the top scorer while junior midfielder Kristin Hogan, senior midfielder Brandy Washington and senior defender Candace Maslan also play pivotal roles.
In the C Conference, Oldfields and Towson Catholic look to be the teams to beat while St. Timothy's and Mount Carmel could make up some ground.
Cozy Joseph takes over her alma mater, St. Timothy's, and has eight returning starters. A lot of experience in the midfield, including senior Mollie Wright and sophomore Alex Chatilovicz, should translate into a strong transition. Junior attackman Lucky Sinex is a proven finisher.
Ray Wojciechowski's Mount Carmel team returns 13 players. With that kind of experience and the league's top returning scorer, junior Kerry Weber, the Cougars could surprise some opponents. Senior attackman Alanna Simmons and junior defender Julie Taylorson also return.
Players to watch
(Notre Dame Prep, senior, midfield)
Versatile second-team All-Met player, headed for Virginia, scored 40 goals, 27 assists but also excels on defense
(Maryvale, junior, goalie)
Quick, athletic keeper helped put the Lions on the IAAM A Conference map a year ago
(Dulaney, senior, attack)
Second-team All-Metro finisher, also tough on transition, led Baltimore County champs with 61 goals, 21 assists