Garrison Forest's Dani Mendez, left, and teammate Macy Miller, right, surround NDP's Nicole Sann in the first half of the IAAM field hockey A Conference championship game.
Garrison Forest's Dani Mendez, left, and teammate Macy Miller, right, surround NDP's Nicole Sann in the first half of the IAAM field hockey A Conference championship game. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Top 15 poll

1. Garrison Forest

Coach: Malcolm Belin

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Last season: 16-3, ranked No. 3

Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist

Outlook: Belin, an assistant for the past two seasons, takes over for longtime head coach Traci Davis and inherits a team that should be as good as any in the metro area. The Grizzlies feature a senior-dominated midfield, led by Division I signees Riley Patro (Fairfield) — their top returning scorer with 17 goals and 11 assists — Ryleigh McComas (Holy Cross) and Macy Miller (Towson), as well as a defense, led by Celia Donner (Brown), that held opponents to 22 goals. A group of exceptionally strong freshmen and sophomores should keep this program near the top for years to come, and the addition of assistant coach Sarah Dawson, a former U.S. National Team member and current director of club powerhouse Freedom HKY, could have huge implications.

2. Notre Dame Prep

Coach: Katrina Ross

Last season: 20-1, No. 1

Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion

Outlook: Some might say the Blazers are rebuilding after losing 11 seniors to graduation, including two-time Player of the Year Nathalie Friedman, who’s now at Wake Forest. But for a team that’s won 38 of its past 39 games, including back-to-back A Conference championships, reloading might be a better word. The return of junior Pyper Friedman, a William & Mary commit who’s on the U.S. Women’s National Indoor Development Team, and senior Meredith Medvetz, a Wake Forest commit, gives Ross one of the area’s most talented midfields, with junior goalie Brooke Borzymowski and senior defender Jenna Klaers (St. Louis) anchoring a defense that allowed just 14 goals in 21 games.

3. South River

Coach: Megan Atkinson

Last season: 16-3, No. 4

Postseason: Class 4A state champion

Outlook: Though a wealth of talent is now gone, including a trio of all-state players, the three-time defending state champions are set to replenish their lineup with a mixture of veteran leadership and talented youth. Three-year starter Caitlin McGuirk returns to anchor the defense, while junior Meagan Quick (four defensive saves) and sophomore Kyleigh Thorne (two goals, eight assists) are back as starters on the midfield. Senior Tommi Bresnahan also will look to step up and lead a young offense.

4. Archbishop Spalding

Coach: Leslee Brady

Last season: 14-4, No. 6

Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist

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Outlook: Though two-time All-American Margot Lawn is now at Louisville, the Cavaliers appear in better shape than most in the A Conference. They return 10 seniors, led by second-team All-Metro defender Caitlin Koehler, who will again team with all-state defender Shelby Bumgarner. Sophomore Junior Olympians Becca Lawn (Miami Ohio) and Katie Fichtner will anchor the midfield and front line, respectively. Spalding has been remarkably consistent, finishing in The Sun’s final top 10 poll each of the past six years, and among the top six five times.

5. Arundel

Coach: Carrie Vosburg

Last season: 11-5, No. 10

Postseason: Class 4A East finalist

Outlook: There’s a lot to like with the young Wildcats, who last season became the only team in the past two years to beat two-time IAAM A Conference champion Notre Dame Prep. Returning to the mix are Junior Olympian Lana Hamilton, a midfielder who last year tallied seven goals and five assists as a freshman, and junior Nikki Seven, who led the team with 11 goals and four assists. The defense is led by senior Sara Pique, a former all-state selection. Arundel looked particularly strong in a preseason scrimmage against McDonogh, and is in search of its first trip to the state semifinals in 36 years.

6. McDonogh

Coach: Denise Wolf

Last season: 12-3, No. 5.

Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist

Outlook: Despite graduating nine seniors, the Eagles return strong veterans on every line, including all-state defender Jillian Ansell (Wesleyan), senior forwards Ally Pitts (Washington and Lee) and Blake Cunneen (Loyola Maryland lacrosse) and senior goalie Liv Geoghan (Stanford lacrosse). Sophomore Kori Edmondson leads a group of standout athletes who also play for McDonogh’s lacrosse team, which finished last season ranked No. 1 in the nation. Expect Wolf’s team to again be right in the thick of the A Conference race.

7. C. Milton Wright

Coach: Kelsey Lovelace

Last season: 17-1, No. 2

Postseason: Class 3A state champion

Outlook: Lovelace, the former head coach of Division II Converse in Spartanburg, South Carolina, takes over a program that outscored opponents 28-0 in last year’s playoffs, but now must replace seven starters. Look for senior midfielder Annie Keele (Towson) to play a more prominent all-around role, while the addition of former JV standout Reagan Cushman should help replace some of the production on offense. Senior defender Gaby Kohr and goalie Finley Moreland provide a strong presence on the back end.

8. Liberty

Coach: Brenda Strohmer

Last season: 17-2, No. 7

Postseason: Class 2A state champion

Outlook: Liberty has been a beast the past three years, going a combined 46-8 with a pair of state titles, and Strohmer expects that dominance to continue. Senior Christine Goetz leads a defense that posted 11 shutouts last season, while junior Kayliegh Ward, the team’s top scorer, and sophomore Caitlynn Szarko are back to lead the offense. Though this will be the first time since 2014 the Lions will compete without All-Metro goalie Grace Fenner in the cage, expect them to battle it out with South Carroll and Century in Carroll County.

9. Severna Park

Coach: Shannon Garden

Last season: 10-5-1, No. 11

Postseason: Class 4A East semifinalist

Outlook: A plethora of young talent should help fill the void created by the graduation of 12 seniors. One veteran who should have a huge impact, however, is senior Lila Slattery (14 goals, eight assists), a first-team all-state and second-team All-Metro midfielder headed to Northwestern. Two other seniors, midfielder Sarah Adams and defender Lauren Aguilar also should play major roles for the Falcons, who have won a record 23 state titles, though none since 2015.

10. Broadneck

Coach: Shannon Hanratty

Last season: 11-4-2, No. 8

Postseason: Class 4A East semifinalist

Outlook: Hanratty takes over a program that will feature a plethora of talented young players following the graduation of 13 seniors. For many teams, that might mean disaster, but don’t expect Broadneck to drop too far, thanks to the return of stabilizing veterans such as seniors Alex Clough, Sammy Dupcak, Julia Harrison, Delaney McKnight, Reagan Nichols, Corrine Sage and Jessica Todaro. A year ago, the Bruins made their first trip to the county championship game since 2008, but also lost to South River three times. This year, they again should be in the conversation.

11. Hereford

Coach: Caitlin Duvall

Last season: 12-6, No. 13

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Postseason: Class 2A state finalist

Outlook: A strong senior class should again put the Bulls in the thick of the Baltimore County race. Forward Anna Brandt, who will attend Army West Point for lacrosse, leads a veteran offense that also includes senior Katie Martino, while seniors Sydney Powell, Grace Noone and Kelsey Knight will anchor the defense. Duvall expects several talented underclassmen to help improve the team’s depth. Hereford has advanced to the state finals each of the past seven years, winning three championships in that span.

12. Glenelg

Coach: Nikki Trunzo

Last season: 11-2-1, No. 9

Postseason: Class 2A state semifinalist

Outlook: Glenelg suffered a major blow when it lost senior midfielder Kathryn Hoffman (Delaware) to a season-ending ACL tear after watching 10 seniors graduate. But don’t count the Gladiators out just yet. Hoffman plans to help coach her young teammates from the bench, and several newcomers should help fill the void. Seniors Ashley O’Byrne (midfield) and Grace Meissner (defense), will join juniors Sarah Kang (midfield), Rachel Barker (goalie), Chloe Birckhead (midfield) and Caitlyn Baehr (forward) in the revamped lineup.

13. Marriotts Ridge

Coach: Stacie Gado

Last season: 8-6, unranked

Postseason: Class 2A East semifinalist

Outlook: An exceptionally fast offense and solid defense, along with the loss of just four seniors, should give the Mustangs a decent chance to regain the Howard County title. Second-team All-Metro forward Emma Gladstein (Delaware), who’s ranked as one of the top 50 seniors in the nation by MAX Field Hockey, and fellow senior Elle Clevenger (Maryland lacrosse) lead a potent front line, with senior Gracie Kennedy (Virginia Tech lacrosse) heading up the midfield. Marriotts Ridge will need to find a way to beat Glenelg, after failing to score against its county rival twice last season.

14. Chesapeake-AA

Coach: Joan Johnson

Last season: 13-7, No. 12

Postseason: Class 3A state finalist

Outlook: Though prolific scorer Rachel Fleig is gone, the Cougars get back All-Metro goalie Eve Vickery (Delaware), who last year was the lone underclassman from Maryland on the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s Mid-Atlantic all-region team. Also returning is senior Shelby Bennoit, a workhorse at the midfield who could take over as the team’s top scoring threat, as well as talented junior midfielder Madison Hoyer and senior defensive stalwart Caitlyn Johnson. Chesapeake has advanced to the state final each of the past three years, winning twice.

15. Dulaney

Coach: Lauren Iacoboni

Last season: 11-7, unranked

Postseason: Class 4A state finalist

Outlook: Fresh off their second straight trip to the state finals, changes are in the air for the Lions. Iacoboni, who led the school’s lacrosse team to state finals each of the past two seasons, takes over a field hockey program that graduated just two senior starters. Senior Sidney Snyder and junior Kate Proefrock return to pace the offense, while senior back Emma Chandler and junior goalie Allie Mercer lead a defense that allowed just three goals in five playoff games. To win Baltimore County, Dulaney will need to turn the tables on Hereford, which it fell to three times a year ago.

Others teams considered: Bel Air (8-3), Century (12-4), Mount Hebron (10-7), North Harford (13-3), South Carroll (12-8), St. Mary’s (9-2-1).

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