Anne Arundel County

It was an all-senior attack that played big in Broadneck's first Class 4A-3A state title last spring. This season, Bruins coach Karen Tengwall will count on an all-senior defense led by goalkeeper Melissa Puzak to buckle down while a new group up front comes together.

Familiar teams - county champ Severna Park, experienced South River and talented Annapolis - will be in the mix with the Bruins for county and playoff accolades.

With seven starters lost to graduation, the Falcons will work on blending in the new talent early. Coming off an 11-3 season with 15 varsity players returning, the Seahawks see a great opportunity this season in Edgewater.

Baltimore City

Poly enjoyed its best season ever in 2002, finishing with its first winning record, 7-6, and winning its first Baltimore City championship.

The Engineers, who finished 5-1 in the city league, return everyone from that squad. With 15 players back, a solid midfield and an improving defense, the Engineers are out to prove that last season's victory was no fluke.

City, however, may have something to say about whether the Engineers repeat. The Knights split their games with Poly last season and they return all but one player.

Both teams have the edge over Western and Patterson in experience. DuBois may also field a team if enough girls come out.

Baltimore County

Hereford ruled Baltimore County last season en route to its second straight state championship and the Bulls return the talent to give them the advantage once again.

Despite graduating eight starters, the Bulls still bring back three of the area's best players - Jessica Allen, Chrissy Rude and Mollie Reese. Most of the players who did not start saw significant action last season. and appear ready to assume starting duties.

However, the pack may be closing in the county's Division I - especially Catonsville (11-6), Dulaney (10-5-1) and Franklin (9-5).

In the county's Division II, defending champ Patapsco edged out Pikesville by one goal to finish on top.

Carroll County

In the fall, Kelly Kasper and Lauren Schwarzmann helped lead first-year Century to a state title in soccer. Now, the pair will team up again to try to lead the upstart Knights to the top of Carroll County lacrosse.

Liberty, which finished 15-2 last year, graduated eight players who are expected to play Division I lacrosse this spring, and saw 15-year coach Courtney Vaughn move to Winters Mill, where she will coach the JV this season.

The Lions, however, should continue to be one of the premier teams under new coach Nikki Jones.

South Carroll (11-3), which lost to Mount Hebron in last year's regional semifinals, returns eight seniors and four starting juniors.

Harford County

With the return of seven starters from a team that finished one goal short of the state title game, C. Milton Wright appears to have the inside track on its sixth straight county title.

Midfielders Tori Joel, Kadie Stamper and Val Bish should lead the way for the balanced Mustangs.

The biggest obstacle is Fallston, which returns all its starters from last year.

Nobody should look past Bel Air or North Harford either. Returning from the Bobcats, who lost just one county game to C. Milton Wright, is the high-scoring trio of Kelly Fahey, Gina Gessner and Colby Bugda.

Buoyed by a solid midfield, Harford Tech is looking to get its first playoff win.

Howard County

Like the New York Yankees, Mount Hebron reigns supreme as the team to beat in the county and the state.

The Vikings, winners of 14 of the past 15 county championships and six state titles in the past seven years, boast four All-County first-team members and two second-team selections.

Glenelg graduated just three starters from last season's 14-4 squad. The Gladiators are looking to add a fourth straight appearance in the Class 2A-1A state semifinals.

River Hill has a formidable defense to match a potent offense. A team to watch is Centennial, which graduated three starters, but returns experience at midfield and defense.

Private schools

One coach said the best way to predict the front-runner in this year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference race would be to put them all in a hat and pick one.

Notre Dame Prep seems to have a slight edge with Roland Park close behind. Still a lot of teams are right there - Severn, Bryn Mawr, Mount de Sales, St. Mary's, McDonogh, St. Paul's, John Carroll and defending champ Maryvale. Seton Keough, moving up after winning the B Conference, could be in the mix.

The B Conference appears to be a race among runner-up Archbishop Spalding, Friends and Park. In the C Conference, Glenelg Country School might dethrone Oldfields.

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