The third-ranked John Carroll girls soccer team has added motivation this season. The Patriots won the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship in 2004 and 2005 before coming up short last year, falling to eventual champion Archbishop Spalding - ranked No. 1 this season - in the semifinals.
John Carroll finished with a 16-3-1 record, but the loss left a bitter taste.
"It will just make you run a little faster, jump a little higher and work a little harder," coach Gary Lynch said. "But we just play one game at a time."
John Carroll lost six starters from last year's team, but Lynch likes his returning talent. The Patriots got off to a solid start last week, rolling to a 4-0 victory over Bel Air in the season opener.
Senior Grace Gaeng led the way with two goals and one assist, and junior teammates Jen Eikenberg and Kayla Curry each scored once. The Patriots also expect to get significant contributions from seniors Allyson Carey and Jenna Quaranta.
Lynch also is excited about having a number of players from last year's IAAM A Conference lacrosse champions.
"We have a lot of lacrosse players that did win it all last season," Lynch said. "They know what it's like, and they know what it feels like to be a winner - and they want to get back."
The Patriots will be tested on Tuesday when they host No. 2 McDonogh in an IAAM A Conference game. The teams tied last year in the regular season but didn't meet in the playoffs.
Trying for more
When North Harford broke a 30-year playoff drought in 2005, the school's football fans were ecstatic. The Hawks made it back to the playoffs last year, but lost in the first round for the second straight year.
Coach Ken Brinkman and his players want to do better this season, which is why they scheduled Annapolis for the season opener. Brinkman said he wanted to see how his team does against a high-quality opponent early in the season.
"They're in our region and this will tell us where we are at now," he said.
The Hawks lost several key players, but senior quarterback Dan Griffin returns, and he'll be a significant part of North Harford's efforts to take the next step. "We'll rely on him," Brinkman said of Griffin, who is in his third year as a starter. "He makes good decisions and will lead us."
North Harford went 7-3 overall last year, including the playoffs. The Hawks gave up a touchdown on the first series in the playoffs at River Hill and never recovered, losing 27-7 in the Class 3A first-round game.
North Harford had lost to Severna Park in the first game of the 2005 playoffs. Because both of his team's playoff losses came on the road, Brinkman said he would love to make the postseason and start with a home game this season.
"That would be the goal for this year," he said.
New school in mix
Patterson Mill High School has opened and will participate at the varsity level in cross country, track and swimming. It will play junior varsity in everything else.
The main reason for the mostly JV schedule is that only ninth- and 10th-graders will attend Patterson Mill until juniors are added next year and seniors the year after.
After that, Patterson Mill is expected to be a Class 2A or 1A school with 900 to 1,000 students.
The Huskies got off to an encouraging start with JV football, as about 55 boys came out.
The opening of the school led to some major redistricting in the county this fall for middle and high schools. Harford County has 19 middle and high schools, 17 of which were affected.
Patterson Mill is going to be a middle and high school for now, and its opening gave the county an opportunity to make changes, which also is going to affect athletic teams.
Students from C. Milton Wright and Southampton Middle were moved to North Harford. Some North Harford students and some Joppatowne students were sent to Fallston.
Then, a large number of Fallston students went to Bel Air, and some Aberdeen students shifted to Havre de Grace. A total of 2,300 middle and high school students were moved.
"We had to move students around to balance the enrollment, given that we had 1,600 secondary seats now available [at Patterson Mill]," said Don Morrison, director of public information for the Harford County public schools. "We've never had a county-wide redistricting before. It's the biggest thing we've ever had."
The fourth-ranked Fallston boys soccer team lost 14 seniors from last year's team, but the Cougars showed they still have plenty of talent by topping sixth-ranked Mount Hebron, the 2006 Class 3A state champion, 1-0, in overtime last week. Darren Twanmoh got the game-winning goal. ... Fallston also had success against Mount Hebron in field hockey, as the fourth-ranked Cougars rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Vikings last week. ... The Bel Air boys soccer team played a tough early season match at Class 3A state finalist North Carroll and gave the Panthers a good game before falling, 2-1.